How is the Convention on Cluster Munitions related to the negotiations for a protocol on cluster munitions within the Convention of Conventional Weapons?

The failure of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW)'s 2011 Review Conference to adopt a draft protocol on cluster munitions means that the Convention on Cluster Munitions is the sole international instrument dedicated to ending the suffering caused by the weapons.


At a December 1999 CCW meeting, Human Rights Watch first called for a global moratorium on the use of all cluster munitions. From 2000–2003, CCW States Parties initially discussed and then negotiated on the issue of explosive remnants of war (ERW). 

On 28 November 2003, States Parties to the CCW adopted Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War. This protocol reinforced the principle that states bear a responsibility for the post-conflict harm caused by their weapons, but it was insufficient for tackling the specific challenges caused by cluster munitions both during and after attacks. 

From 2004–2006, the Cluster Munition Coalition continued to press for meaningful work specifically on cluster munitions in the CCW, but with only minimal progress. Israel’s extensive use of cluster munitions in Lebanon July and August 2006 provided a catalyst for diplomatic action. 

At the CCW’s Third Review Conference in November 2006, 26 nations supported a proposal for a mandate to negotiate a legally-binding instrument “that addresses the humanitarian concerns posed by cluster munitions.” After the proposal was rejected, 25 countries issued a joint declaration calling for an agreement that would prohibit the use of cluster munitions “within concentrations of civilians,” prohibit the use of cluster munitions that “pose serious humanitarian hazards because they are for example unreliable and/or inaccurate,” and require destruction of stockpiles of such cluster munitions. 

On 17 November 2006, the final day of the Review Conference, Norway announced that it would start an independent process outside the CCW to negotiate a cluster munition treaty and invited other governments to join, thus initiating what became known as the Oslo Process. 

The Oslo Process was concluded successfully with the opening for signature of the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 3 December 2008.

Concurrent with the Oslo Process, throughout 2007, the CCW Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) met to discuss explosive remnants of war, with particular focus on cluster munitions. At the November 2007 Meeting of States Parties to the CCW it was decided that the GGE would meet throughout 2008 to “negotiate a proposal to address urgently the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions, while striking a balance between military and humanitarian considerations.” The GGE met five times in 2008, however negotiations were unsuccessful. 

After the establishment of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in December 2008, the tone of the debate on cluster munitions in the CCW shifted markedly, as two-thirds of CCW states were now bound by the higher standards contained in the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Led by the US, a small number of non-signatories to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, aided by a few ban convention signatories and States Parties, nonetheless continued to pursue a CCW protocol aimed at regulating some cluster munitions. That effort ultimately failed at the CCW’s Fourth Review Conference in November 2011.

(Last updated September 2019)