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United Nations considers new resolution calling for transparency from depleted uranium users

A resolution submitted to the United Nations First Committee will call on depleted uranium users to reveal quantitative and geographical data on their historical use of the weapons to affected states.
14 October 2010 - ICBUW

UN logo The resolution, the third on the issue since 2007, has been submitted on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. It has been inspired by ongoing concerns that at least 400,000kg of depleted uranium remain unaccounted for in Iraq, and worries over the use of the weapons in other conflicts. Previous texts in 2007and 2008 established that DU has the potential to damage human health and called on UN institutions to update their research on the matter.

Reports submitted to the UN Secretary General in response to 2008’s resolution and published last month (see PDF summary below) indicate that the World Health Organisation (WHO) is yet to complete its review of recent scientific research. Meanwhile a submission by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) called for a precautionary approach to the use of the weapons. This was their strongest statement to date. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) once again downplayed the risks from DU and claimed that simple countermeasures could deal with contaminated sites. This is at odds with the findings of ICBUW’s recent report on the Balkans A Question of Responsibility, which found that managing contaminated sites demands technical expertise and can be disproportionately expensive.

"The passage of this modest resolution would help send a message to DU users at a time when global concern about the long-term impact of these weapons is growing," said an ICBUW spokesperson. "That the UK has engaged with the UN on transparency and capacity building in Iraq following the 2003 conflict indicates that DU users can, and should, accept an obligation to the countries that they use these weapons in. We hope that this may be a first small step towards facilitating the monitoring, decontamination and research on civilian populations that is so urgently required."

Voting on the resolution in the First Committee will take place sometime between the 26th October and the 1st November. If passed, the text will then move to the General Assembly for a second round of voting at the end of November. The last resolution passed by a huge majority and was supported by 141 states with 36 abstentions. Only four states voted against – the US, UK, France and Israel.

The text represents a good opportunity for parliamentarians, groups and individuals to lobby their governments to build support for the draft. For help and advice on lobbying your government, please contact ICBUW.

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