ICBUW statement on depleted uranium to United Nations First Committee
"Madam Chair, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to deliver this statement on depleted uranium weapons, on behalf of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons.
"We find it astonishing that, more than two decades after the 1991 Gulf War, there are still no, concrete obligations, for the post-conflict clearance of depleted uranium contamination. Perhaps more astonishing, is the apparent disinterest from the international community in studying the impact of the weapons, on the civilians forced to live, work and play, in proximity to contaminated sites. ICBUW therefore urges member states to collaborate with affected states, and civil society, in remedying both these omissions as a matter of urgency.
"Since 2010, these resolutions have called for greater transparency from depleted uranium users. The release of detailed, and accurate, targeting data, is a prerequisite for the call for meaningful research and assistance included in this year’s text. There are precedents for this. Both NATO, in the conflict in the Balkans, and the United Kingdom, in southern Iraq, made targeting data available. Data on the use of depleted uranium throughout Iraq is needed now. The United States’ ongoing refusal to release it, in full, is placing civilians at unnecessary risk of exposure.
ICBUW Coordinator Doug Weir delivering ICBUW's statement at the First Committee. Photo: Shant Alexander.
"The rush to develop, and deploy, depleted uranium weapons, far outpaced the scientific understanding of the risks they pose to civilians. This should serve as a warning to states, over how the safety of materials used in munitions is reviewed. While state practice on the screening of toxic weapons components has improved in recent years, much remains to be done, particularly in integrating civilian health risks into assessments. The body of scientific evidence on the carcinogenicity of depleted uranium, which has grown considerably during the last decade, underscores the need for precaution in munitions development, in the use of munitions and in post-conflict response.
"Few countries understand the burden that the use of depleted uranium places on states recovering from conflict as well as Iraq. ICBUW therefore welcomes Iraq’s recent call for a global treaty ban on the weapons, and we urge the international community, and UN agencies, to heed their request for assistance in managing the legacy of the more than 400,000kg of depleted uranium dispersed on their territory.
"It is clear from the overwhelming, and growing support for General Assembly resolutions on depleted uranium weapons, that substantive progress is now required on the issue. And ICBUW urges member states to support efforts to tackle the problem. As many concerns associated with the weapons are not unique to depleted uranium, this may be best achieved within the broader context of reducing civilian, and environmental harm, from conflict pollution and all toxic remnants of war."