A cluster of good news

It seems as though the government of Burkina Faso has been the bearer of good news twice in the last 10 days or so.

It’s not often we say that about any country’s government. But their decision to ratify the international cluster munitions treaty means that a major piece of legislation which should have a significant impact on the lives of innocent men, women and children living in conflict zones will come into operation later this year.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions – which bans the production, stockpiling, use and export of cluster bombs – marks a landmark victory for civil society campaigners.

Cluster bombs were once a preferred weapon in many wars for the fact that it can be dropped from afar and little munitions – or bomblets – are scattered wide and far and so can have devastating impact across a huge area.  

Hundreds of NGOs, including Amnesty have supported the worldwide campaign to abolish the use of this weapon.  In December 2008, 92 countries agreed to sign up to the Treaty but it couldn’t be effective until at least 30 states had ratified it.

Thanks to Burkina Faso and Moldova – this treaty will soon become effective, and hopefully this will significantly reduce the number of deaths and devastating injuries that occur in conflict zones as a result of unexploded munitions from these weapons.

That is good news but there’s certainly still more work to be done in this area – specifically concerning an industry that’s not too far from home actually – your local bank.  

According to a report published by the Cluster Munitions Coalition, it’s likely that your local bank is investing in cluster bomb producers.  The report found that Barclays, HSBC and the Royal Bank of Scotland provide loans and investments to the tune of some £800 million between them.

Most of the banks will categorically state that they don’t fund the trade of cluster bombs. Given that they’re not allowed to do so under UK law, that should come as no surprise. However we’ve received nothing to convince us that they are not involved in provision of loans or investments. Needless to say, we are concerned about this. For more information, and to find out how you can get involved, click here.  

Before I sign off, the other delightful news from the Burkina Faso government last week was that they have agreed to make available emergency obstetric care to the poorest in the country by lifting financial barriers – a key call for Amnesty as part of its work on maternal health.  

It’s great to be able to report the good human rights measures taken by governments around the world. I hope that Burkina’s bag of goodies will herald a new dawn for states around the world… Or would that be wishful thinking taken too far?

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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