On the Motion before Dáil Eireann approving the terms of the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War, referred to as Protocol V, of the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects, 1980
Tuesday, October 10th 2006
I am pleased to appear before the Select Committee today and I would like to thank the committee for dealing with this matter in such a timely manner. On the 27 June 2006, the Government authorised the moving of a motion in Dáil Eireann to approve the terms of Protocol V. As Members will be aware, the motion to approve the terms of the Protocol was moved in Dáil Eireann on Wednesday 27 September 2006. It was agreed without debate to refer the terms of the Protocol for approval to this committee. Subject to the terms of the Protocol being approved, my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs will then be in a position to notify the Secretary General of the United Nations of the State’s consent to be bound by Protocol V.
The formal title is Protocol V of the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects. This Convention was opened for signature in Geneva on 10 April 1981. Ireland signed the Convention, subject to ratification, on that date. The Convention and its Protocols I, II and III annexed thereto entered into force on 2 December 1983. A fourth Protocol came into force in 1998.
The Convention seeks to protect civilians from the effects of weapons used in armed conflicts and to protect combatants from excessive suffering. Protocols one to four deal with fragmentation weapons, landmines and booby traps, incendiary weapons and blinding lasers respectively. Ireland is already bound by these. The new Protocol V deals with the explosive remnants of war, known as ERW. The definition of ERW includes explosive ordnance such as artillery shells, mortar shells, grenades, etc which were fired and failed to explode or munitions abandoned by combatants or unexploded ordnance left deliberately.
Protocol V requires each party to an armed conflict to:
ˇ Mark, clear, remove or destroy ERW in territory they control after a conflict;
ˇ Provide technical and financial assistance to facilitate the removal of ERW that result from its operations and which are located in areas it does not control;
ˇ Take all feasible precautions to protect civilians from the effects of ERW (which may include the fencing and monitoring of territory affected by ERW and the provision of warnings and risk education);
ˇ Record information on the explosive ordnance employed by its armed forces, and after the end of active hostilities, share that information with other parties to the conflict engaged in ERW clearance or programmes to warn civilians of the dangers of these devices.
ˇ Protect, as far as feasible, from the effects of ERW, humanitarian missions and organisations that are or will be operating in the area under the control of the party to the arms conflict
In addition to the obligations placed upon the parties to a conflict, all States party to the Protocol, who are in a position to do so, must provide assistance for the marking and clearance of ERW and risk education and assistance for the care, rehabilitation and socio-economic reintegration of ERW victims.
Ireland has long taken a leading role in arguing for such rules and actively participated at all meetings during which this Protocol was negotiated.
In April 2003 the Department of Foreign Affairs, in cooperation with Pax Christi Ireland, hosted a conference in Dublin on Explosive Remnants of War and development, which attracted a wide level of participation from representatives of Governments, non-governmental organisations and international organisations engaged in discussions on the draft Protocol.
In a post-conflict environment, ERW can hamper the rebuilding and recovery process and can inhibit the return of refugees and displaced persons. Long-term development is also seriously undermined when agricultural land and areas of economic value are rendered hazardous and unusable by the presence of ERW.
Protocol V, if widely adhered to and fully implemented, has the potential to significantly reduce the civilian casualties that regularly occur after the end of hostilities and to minimize the long-term socio-economic consequences that explosive remnants of war inflict on war-affected countries. Ireland has had a clear and long-standing policy of strongly supporting and contributing to the development of international controls to reduce the suffering caused by ERW.
Over recent months a number of governments have approved the Protocol. When the governments of Switzerland and Liechtenstein approved Protocol V they brought the total number of countries ratifying Protocol V up to twenty. This was a major milestone for Protocol V as, with twenty ascensions it becomes international law and is formally recognised as a Protocol to the ninety-four nation UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.
Protocol V will come into force on 12 November 2006 (six months after the date by which twenty States have notified their consent to be bound by it) during the Third Review Conference for the Convention of Certain Conventional Weapons, which will take place in Geneva from 7-17 November 2006.
The operation of Protocol V will involve a new charge on public funds as provision is made in Article 10 of the Protocol for States Parties to meet the costs of any conferences convened by them to, inter alia, review the status and operation of Protocols they participate in. Article 29.5.2 of the Constitution states that ‘The State shall not be bound by any international agreement involving a charge on public funds unless the terms of the agreement shall have been approved by Dáil Eireann’. Hence the necessity for the motion and the reason for our debate here today. It is however, estimated that any additional contribution that the State would be required to make when the Protocol enters force is not likely to be significant and can be addressed as part of the routine discussions on the 2007 estimates for the Department of Foreign Affairs. Indeed it is possible that such costs could be subsumed into the current Convention framework of scheduled meetings. The total contribution by the Department of Foreign Affairs in 2005 to the Convention was €4,585.59.
I commend the motion to the committee.
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