Germany planning to abstain on United Nations depleted uranium vote
In a surprising and puzzling move, Germany, which decided in the 1970s not to pursue DU weapons after taking part in joint trials with the US and UK, has said that it will abstain in the crucial UN vote on the issue later this week.
In moving to an abstention, Germany will join a dwindling number of states such as Romania, Russia and Ukraine who consistently refuse to back the texts. ICBUW representatives asked for clarification from the German delegation and were told that there had been ‘some debate on the potential health risks from DU in Berlin’.
But what does this mean in practice? Here’s a look at this year’s text and what Germany are refusing to support:
- They are refusing to back recommendations from the IAEA, UNEP and WHO that aim to reduce harm from DU contamination.
- They think that these organisations have undertaken sufficient research into DU – in spite of the fact that WHO has not studied the issue since 2001 and UNEP have been unable to undertake a full study in Iraq.
- They object to UNEP’s call for a precautionary approach to the use of DU, made because of ongoing uncertainties over the long-term environmental impact of its use.
- They do not believe that further research should be done into the health and environmental impact of DU use in conflict settings.
- They do not agree that DU has the potential to harm human health and the environment – though naturally they issue precautionary warnings to their military personnel so as to avoid exposure.
- They do not believe that the IAEA, UNEP and WHO should undertake further studies into the risks from DU, that affected states should help facilitate this work and that all member states should follow the outcomes of this research more closely.
- They do not believe that those states that have used DU should transfer, when asked by affected states, accurate targeting and usage data so as to help them assess the risks it may pose to their population.
- And finally, they do not think that states dealing with contamination, such as Iraq, should be able to seek assistance from the international community in identifying and managing contaminated sites. The purpose of which is to reduce the risk of civilian harm.
The fact is that two years ago Germany supported all of this, with the exception of points 4 and 8 – which have been added this year. So what they seem to be saying is that they do not support more research into the risks from DU in conflict settings. They also seem to be saying that they don’t think states struggling to deal with contamination, such as Iraq, should be provided with assistance from the international community.
Unsurprisingly, ICBUW Germany is shocked by the decision and will be taking it up with the foreign ministry and parliamentarians.