Cluster Munitions

Types of Bombies

What are they?

Cluster bombs are designed as anti-personnel, anti-armor weapons, but the primary victims have been innocent civilians. Cluster bombs have a significant failure rate (up to 30% in Laos during the Vietnam War), which means that they often fail to explode upon hitting the ground but continue to pose a risk of detonation. In Laos, for instance, approximately 80 million of the cluster bombs dropped failed to detonate, leaving extensive contamination from unexploded ordnance (UXO). As a result, more than 98% of known cluster bomb victims are civilians and 40% are children, who are drawn to the small, toy-like metal objects.

Source: NRA Lao (2011)

Source: NRA Lao (2011)

How do they work?

Cluster bombs typically consist of a large outer canister that is designed to disperse hundreds of smaller bomblets.

The cluster bomb is dropped from a plane or launched from the ground into the air, where the casing automatically opens and releases hundreds of bomblets – the size of a soup can or orange – over wide areas, frequently missing intended military targets and killing nearby civilians. Commonly used cluster bomblets are designed to explode into hundreds of pieces of razor-sharp shrapnel that rip through bodies.

Anywhere from 2% to 20% of modern cluster munitions do not detonate upon impact (this rate rises to 30% for older bombs in used Southeast Asia) leaving a deadly hazard for years to come.

Bomblets being released from a cluster bomb

Source: Cluster Munition Coalition (2011)

What is the Convention on Cluster Munitions?

The Convention on Cluster Munitions is a groundbreaking agreement between 109 states to prohibit the use, production and stockpiling of cluster bombs. It was adopted on May 30, 2008 in Dublin and officially signed in Oslo on December 3 of the same year. The Convention has now been ratified by 70 of its 111 signatories. Laos ratified the Convention on March 18, 2009 and hosted the First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention in Vientiane from November 8-12, 2010. The Second Meeting of States Parties took place in Beirut, Lebanon, on September 12-16, 2011.

Click here to visit the Cluster Convention website

Source: Legacies of War

Where are they used?


36 countries and territories are known to be affected by cluster munitions from use in armed conflict:
Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Chad, Chechnya, Croatia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Falklands/ Malvinas, Georgia, Grenada, Iraq, Israel, Kosovo, Kuwait, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Montenegro, Morocco, Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Uganda, United Kingdom, Vietnam, Western Sahara, Yemen Zambia

16 countries have used cluster munitions:
Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Georgia, Israel, Libya, Morocco, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Former Yugoslavia (Serbia), Sudan, Syria United Kingdom, United States

34 countries have produced or are still producing cluster munitions:
Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, North Korea, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States

85 countries have stockpiled cluster munitions:
Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Libya, Mali, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, North Korea, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Zimbabwe

Source: Cluster Munition Coalition (2011)

UXO Detonation in a Village