Photo: Elaine Russell
8:00 – The morning starts with the Cluster Munitions Coalition’s daily briefing. The group reviews delegates’ discussions from the previous day and the schedule for the final day. Participants report on side meetings held with delegates, the positions of different countries on issues and the likelihood of additional countries signing onto the treaty.
9:30 – Cynthia Nguyen, Titus and Linda Peachey, Fred Branfman and I joined five other Americans who are attending the convention for a visit to the U.S. Embassy. We are from all over the country – West Virginia, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and California. We had a cordial meeting with the acting Ambassador and several staff members for a short discussion on the issues, the U.S. position on cluster munitions and the treaty that was set by the Department of Defense and our hopes for additional engagement by the U.S. Several of us also made a plea for additional U.S. funding for clearance and victim assistance in Laos.
Photo: Elaine Russell
10:30 – Legacies members took the Tapestry of Hope exhibit, displayed on our tuk tuk, for a spin through town. We drove past the most famous landmarks of Vientiane—Talat Sao (morning market), the Patuxai Monument (victory arch) and That Dam (stupa) near the American Embassy. We got many curious lookers as we drove down the street.
12:00 – I attended a side event presentation on the current status of U.S. policy on cluster munitions and funding for the UXO sector sponsored by the U.S. Coalition to Ban Land Mines. Brett Dakin of Legacies gave an update on U.S. funding for Laos.
1:30 – I caught the end of the presentation by Ban Advocates, a group of cluster munitions survivors who advocate for the Convention on Cluster Munitions treaty and victim assistance for those affected by UXO accidents, many of whom have lost limbs or been blinded. Members come from all over the world, including Serbia, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. We watched a wonderful film about the group that was funded by Handicap International.
2:45 – Just as Legacies’ members sat down to talk with the Ban Advocates, the call came for the Advocates to go to the general plenary session. The Ban Advocates and Youth for Peace members presented the delegates of the treaty with a signed copy of the Victim’s Declaration, which supports the treaty and assistance for victims of cluster munitions. It was a very moving moment as they gathered on stage and read the declaration to the assembly.
4:00 – The state parties began to wrap up the meeting, adopting each provision in the Vientiane Action Plan for implementing the treaty. The next meeting of the state parties to the treaty will be held in Lebanon in September 2011 while several smaller regional meetings will be held in the interim.
The 1MSP has concluded with great success. Now it is time to get to work!
Attending the meetings this week has been exhausting and emotionally draining, but I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. I met wonderful people from all over the world who share the common dream of a world free of cluster munitions and the terrible humanitarian toll they take. I head home with a renewed sense of purpose to achieve Legacies’ goals.