Bonnie Docherty ’01 is a lecturer and clinical instructor in the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School and a senior researcher in the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch. She first studied the impact of cluster bombs in the war in Afghanistan, in 2001, for Human Rights Watch, and has been among activists working to achieve an international convention to ban the munitions. 

Docherty wrote the following post for Reuters’ “The Great Debate UK” blog, as the first international cluster bomb treaty entered into force.

ON AUGUST 1, the world moved a step closer to eliminating cluster munitions, large weapons that carry dozens or hundreds of smaller submunitions and are notorious for killing and maiming civilians, both during attacks and long afterward.

On that day, the Convention on Cluster Munitions “entered into force,” becoming binding international law on the countries that have joined it. The treaty seeks to eradicate these weapons, which have plagued the world for half a century.

It is a milestone to celebrate. But it is also a moment to reflect on the road ahead. To help the convention achieve its full potential, the international community needs to work toward three goals: complete universalization—that is, getting all countries to join, strong interpretation, and effective implementation.

As the treaty entered into force, the Cluster Munition Coalition, made up of about 350 non-governmental organizations, urged people around the globe to “beat the drum to ban cluster bombs.” It was not only an expression of celebration but also a call for further action.

While the world should pause to recognize the efforts that led to this groundbreaking humanitarian convention, it should remember that the drumming should not stop now. Much work remains to be done.