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New United Nations depleted uranium resolution calls for states to help with clean-up

A fifth United Nations resolution has been tabled which calls for states to provide assistance to countries affected by contamination and for research into DU’s health and environmental effects.
17 October 2014 - ICBUW

The Non-Aligned Movement has submitted a fifth resolution on depleted uranium weapons (DU) at the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. As with previous years, new language has been added to the resolution. This year the wording includes a call for states to assist countries affected by the weapons.

Serbian clearance teams in 2007
Serbian DU clearance team in 2007 (Naomi Toyoda)

In a new operative paragraph, the text: ‘Encourages Member States in a position to do so to provide assistance to States affected by the use of arms and ammunition containing depleted uranium, in particular in identifying and managing contaminated sites and material’. Earlier this summer, Iraq called for help from the international community and UN agencies in dealing with contamination dating from 1991 and 2003. Two recent reports from the Dutch NGO PAX have documented the problems Iraq has faced in trying manage contaminated sites and material.

“We very much welcome the inclusion of this call for assistance,” said an ICBUW spokesperson. “However many will feel that this new text could, and should, have gone much further. This resolution will be non-binding and therefore no substitute for serious international efforts towards defining clear legal obligations on cooperation and assistance for dealing with DU after conflict – an area where there are currently no obligations whatsoever. This places civilians at unacceptable risk of exposure and places a huge financial and technical burden on affected states.

In addition, the new text also notes that: ‘...further research should be done to assess the health risks and environmental impact of the use of arms and ammunitions containing depleted uranium in conflict situations.’ Again ICBUW broadly welcomes this addition and urges states to focus funding on determining the extent to which civilians have been, and continue to be exposed to DU.

Overwhelming evidence from the peer-reviewed literature now indicates that DU is a carcinogen and can damage DNA. ICBUW argues that it is therefore imperative that those most at risk of harm, such as children living in proximity to contaminated sites, and those most at risk of exposure, such as scrap metal workers are assessed. To date the overwhelming majority of exposure studies have been on military personnel only.

Since 2010 the resolution has called for DU users to transfer targeting data to affected states when requested to do so. To date the US has refused to disclose targeting data to Iraq and its failure to do so is a major barrier to clearance and health research. Last month, the US Center for Constitutional Rights and Iraq Veterans Against the War submitted a FOIA request calling for the data to be released.  

The first successful resolution on the issue was passed in 2007 and since 2008 the resolutions have been biennial. The last in 2012 was supported by 155 states and opposed by just the UK, US, France and Israel. Voting on the text will take place on or around November 5th. The text will be voted on by the General Assembly a month later.

 

Full text of the resolution below:

Sixty-ninth session

First Committee Agenda item 96 (e)

General and complete disarmament: Effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium

                            Indonesia*: draft resolution

Effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium

           The General Assembly,

           Guided by the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the rules of international humanitarian law,

           Recalling its resolutions 62/30 of 5 December 2007, 63/54 of 2 December 2008  65/55 of 8 December 2010 and 67/36 of 3 December 2012,

           Determined to promote multilateralism as an essential means to carry forward negotiations on arms regulation and disarmament,

           Taking note of the opinions expressed by Member States and relevant international organizations on the effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium, as reflected in the reports submitted by the Secretary-General pursuant to resolutions 62/30, 63/54, 65/55 and 67/36,[1]

           Recognizing the importance of implementing, as appropriate, the recommendations of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Health Organization to mitigate potential hazards to human beings and the environment from the contamination of territories with depleted uranium residues,

* On behalf of the States Members of the United Nations that are members of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries

           Considering that studies conducted so far by relevant international organizations have not provided a detailed enough account of the magnitude of the potential long-term effects on human beings and the environment of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium,

           Recalling that the United Nations Environment Programme, in its report to the Secretary-General on the subject,[2] affirms that major scientific uncertainties persist regarding the long-term environmental impacts of depleted uranium, particularly with respect to long-term groundwater contamination, and calls for a precautionary approach to the use of depleted uranium,

           Convinced that, as humankind becomes more aware of the need to take immediate measures to protect the environment, any event that could jeopardize such efforts requires urgent attention to implement the required measures,

           Noting that further research should be done to assess the health risks and environmental impact of the use of arms and ammunitions containing depleted uranium in conflict situations,

           Taking into consideration the potential harmful effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium on human health and the environment,

           1.       Expresses its appreciation to the Member States and international organizations that submitted their views to the Secretary-General pursuant to resolution 67/36 and previous resolutions on the subject;

           2.       Invites Member States and relevant international organizations, particularly those that have not yet done so, to communicate to the Secretary-General their views on the effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium;

           3.       Requests the Secretary-General to request relevant international organizations to update and complete, as appropriate, their studies and research on the effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium on human health and the environment;

           4.       Encourages Member States, particularly the affected States, as necessary, to facilitate the studies and research referred to in paragraph 3 above;

           5.       Also encourages Member States to follow closely the development of the studies and research referred to in paragraph 3 above;

           6.       Invites Member States that have used armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium in armed conflicts to provide the relevant authorities of affected States, upon request, with information, as detailed as possible, about the location of the areas of use and the amounts used, with the objective of facilitating the assessment of such areas;

           7.       Encourages Member States in a position to do so to provide assistance to States affected by the use of arms and ammunition containing depleted uranium, in particular in identifying and managing contaminated sites and material; 

           8.       Requests the Secretary-General to submit an updated report on the subject to the General Assembly at its  seventy-first session, reflecting the information submitted by Member States and relevant international organizations, including the information submitted pursuant to paragraphs 2 and 3 above;

           9.       Decides to include in the provisional agenda of its seventy-first session, under the item entitled “General and complete disarmament”, the sub-item entitled “Effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium”.

 

[1] A/63/170 and Add.1, A/65/129 and Add.1 and A/67/177 and Add.1.

[2] A/65/129/Add.1, sect. III.

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