Statement marking ICBUW's 10th anniversary
The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons was launched in October 2003. A global coalition of grassroots organisations, ICBUW’s aim was, and still is, a global ban on the use of uranium weapons and monitoring, health care, compensation and environmental remediation for communities affected by their use.
Launched in October 2003 in Berlaar, Belgium, in response to the widespread use of DU weapons by US and UK forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, it was fitting that in 2009 Belgium became the first country in the world to ban uranium weapons. The use of depleted uranium (DU) in weapons has been viewed as highly controversial since the 1991 Gulf War because of the potential risks it poses to civilians. Belgium’s ban, and subsequent legislation passed in Costa Rica in 2011, were due to partnerships between parliamentarians and ICBUW members in those countries.
Since 2003, ICBUW has focused on research, outreach and advocacy and supporting its member organisations around the world. From Hiroshima to San José, Amman to New York and from Brussels to Geneva our workshops, seminars and conferences have provided a forum for information exchange and have inspired action on DU weapons.
Key to our work has been the documentation, publication and promotion of reliable information on DU. This approach has resulted in success at international fora such as the European Parliament, where in 2008 94% of MEPs called on EU and NATO member states to impose a moratorium on the weapons and to work towards a global ban. Similarly in 2012, 155 states supported a UN General Assembly resolution that recognised DU’s potential risks, called for states to reveal where the weapons have been used and adopt a precautionary approach to their post-conflict management. Just four states opposed the resolution, the US, UK, France and Israel.
While these victories are still short of a global ban, our work, and that of our members and partners, is influencing the practice of states, with users such as the UK and US accelerating efforts to find replacements for DU. It is also clear that the stigmatisation of DU is intensifying, as demonstrated by the rush to deny its use in recent conflicts, as was the case with Libya in 2011. More attention is also now being focused on the civilian and environmental harm from the substances in conventional munitions and the toxic legacy of conflict.
ICBUW’s research has provided a greater understanding of DU’s use, impact and legacy. It has also highlighted the lack of scrutiny into the health risks from munitions components and demonstrated considerable shortcomings in post-conflict environmental protection. We believe that efforts must be made to resolve these problems in order to improve the protection of civilians, both during and after conflict.
- The civilian and environmental health risks from toxic munitions components.
- The lack of state and NGO capacity for post-conflict environmental assessment, clearance and monitoring.
- The applicability of peacetime health and environmental norms and standards to the protection of civilians.
- State obligations for post-conflict environmental assistance.
ICBUW’s important work on DU will continue and accelerate. Through forging new partnerships we will increase our focus on supporting practical efforts to assist affected communities and gather the field data that is crucial for effective advocacy. The current #Act4Iraq campaign has demonstrated that the health and well being of civilians are still being sidelined in favour of political interests; it is critical that this tendency is opposed.
In marking 10 years of campaigning we would like to thank everyone who has helped us achieve so much; we are particularly grateful to the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation for their ongoing financial support. We also wish to offer our sincere thanks to all the individuals who have helped us over the last decade, the journalists, scientists and academics, the parliamentarians and lawyers, the diplomats and doctors and above all to the volunteers in dozens of countries who have contributed their time and resources to the campaign for a world without uranium weapons.