Letter to the Committee Specialist from
the Parliamentary Relations and Devolution Team, Foreign and Commonwealth
Thank you for your letter of 5 July regarding
the target dates for cluster munition clearance in south Lebanon.
We believe the most likely explanation for the
differing dates for clearing unexploded cluster bombs in Lebanon
is that there are two separate deadlines: a December 2007 target
for making south Lebanon "impact free"; and a mid 2008
target for completely clearing mines from south Lebanon.
The UN Mine Action Co-ordination Centre South
Lebanon (UNMACCSL) plans to make south Lebanon "impact free"
of unexploded cluster bombs by December 2007. This entails clearing
cluster munitions from areas where they pose the greatest threat
to the civilian population, ie residential areas, roads, agricultural
land and access to natural resources. To achieve this by December
2007, UNMACCL estimated, at the time of the FAC visit, that they
would need an additional $1 .2million in funding. As far as we
understand, this timetable still stands.
However, it was always anticipated that it would
take longer to completely clear south Lebanon of cluster munitions.
So far IINMACCSL have taken slightly less than one year to oversee
the clearance of 120,000 of the estimated 1 million cluster bombs
dropped during the conflict in 2006. At the time Dr Howells wrote
to the FAC UNMACCSL gave us to believe that it would take until
mid-2008 to completely clear south Lebanon of cluster bombs. That
is the target that Dr Howells was referring to in his letter,
based on data provided by UNMACCSL.
I should also note that UNMACCSL's figures themselves
have been subject to fluctuation. In the absence of strike data
from the Governmnet of Israel, UNMACCSL is operating without exact
figures for the total number of cluster munitions fired during
the conflict in 2006. As new strike areas are discovered, the
timeframe gets revised. Other developments also affect the timetable
as demining staff from the Lebanese Army involved in clearing
south Lebanon get redeployed elsewhere, as they have done for
the current operations in Nahr Al-Bared. Our latest understanding,
which has been revised since Dr Howells wrote in May, is that
it will now take until December 2008 to complete the work.
I hope the Committee will therefore understand
the difficulty in giving an exact end date for completion of the
process given the absence of strike data and the unpredictability
of political developments.
12 July 2007