Portraying the Effects of War Remnants

The courtyard of the Hanoi Cinematheque was the venue for the Norwegian Embassy’s launch of the photo exhibition on the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The Convention became international humanitarian law when it entered into force on 1 August 2010. In light of that, the exhibition also highlights the need for immediate action in terms of implementing the Convention on the ground.

The courtyard setting at the Hanoi Cinemateque was the backdrop for the Norwegian Embassy’s opening of the exhibition on the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 5 October. The exhibition is organized together with Norwegian People’s Aid, and exhibits photos and short films by the photographer John Rodsted.

26 countries around the world are currently affected by cluster munitions. In Vietnam, cluster bombs still litter the soil of the beautiful country, and the photos in the exhibition tell the stories of the terrible legacy of formers wars in Vietnam. They tell the story of individuals who have had their lives changed forever because of these terrible war remnants. The convention prohibits all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions. Separate articles in the Convention especially concern assisting victims, clearing contaminated areas and destroying stockpiles.

“Cluster munitions create severe humanitarian and development problems, continuing to maim and kill civilians for many years following the end of a conflict. Some countries, such as Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, continue to experience these kinds of problems more than 30 years after cluster munitions were used in their territories,” the Norwegian Ambassador Ståle Risa said in his opening speech. “Cluster munitions cannot distinguish between soldiers and civilians, wartime or peace. Facts from the field show that children are at particular risk”, the Ambassador continued.

One of the short films in the exhibition shows how severely impacted Vietnam is. It tells the story of Mr. Pham Quy Thi from Hai Lang district in Quang Tri province. He was badly injured by a cluster bomb, and is now advocating a ban on these dreadful weapons through a personal perspective. Listening to his powerful voice and engaging story gave a compelling message to the audience at the exhibition launch. Meeting him at the opening even made a greater impact. Mr. Thi was invited by the Norwegian Embassy to attend the opening launch. “Mr. Pham Quy Thi is the most important person in this room today,” Ambassador Risa said. “We need the perspectives and competence from survivors to define the tasks and missions of the Convention.” He continued: “The Convention bans a weapon, but it is first and foremost about people. It is about preventing people becoming victims of cluster munitions. And it is about securing proper assistance to those who have already become victims of this indiscriminate weapon.”

Country Director of Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), Jonathan Guthrie added: “This is indeed about people. My organization is dependent on working with people on the ground to make sure that we can clear land and make villages, districts and provinces in Vietnam safe for all.”

Photojournalist John Rodsted has been a strong advocate for the ban on cluster munitions for many years, and highlighted that he sees the same problems for civilians caused by the use of these weapons all over the world. He hopes that his photos can help influence people, organizations and national authorities to take an active stand against cluster munitions. He emphasized: “The Convention needs more friends”.

Currently, 108 countries have signed and 42 states have ratified the Convention.

The Norwegian Government initiated the process towards an international ban on cluster munitions, through what is known as the Oslo process. The Oslo process came about as a response to the humanitarian problem caused by the use of cluster munitions. A real measure of the success of the Convention on Cluster Munitions will be, and should be, the actual difference on the ground in affected communities. By implementing its obligations to destroy stockpiles and to provide clearance and victim assistance, unnecessary human suffering will be prevented.

For this reason, Norway strongly encourages the signing and ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

The first meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions will take place in Vientiane, Laos on 9-12 November 2010.


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