The international community has been trying since the 19th century to discipline the use of conventional weapons, limiting or banning the use of those excessively deadly or particularly inhumane.
The use of some types of weapons have been addressed in the context of international regulations since the St. Petersburg Declaration of 1868.
The Convention on Certain Weapons (CCW) was signed in 1980 and regards the use of conventional weapons that can be considered as being excessively injurious or having indiscriminate effects.
Stemming from a desire to ban or restrict the use of specific types of weapons capable of causing excessive injury to combatants or of having indiscriminate effects on civilian populations, the convention consists of a general text and five protocols:
- Protocol I on non-detectable fragments;
- Protocol II on prohibitions or restrictions on the use of mines booby-traps or other weapons;
- Protocol III on prohibitions or restrictions on the use of incendiary devices;
- Protocol IV on blinding laser weapons;
- Protocol V on explosive remnants of war.
Within the context of the debate on implementation of Protocol V the possibility was discussed of adding the definition of a special protocol dedicated to cluster bombs. On the insistence of the civil society and humanitarian organizations a process has also been launched, parallel to the efforts under way within the framework of the CCW, by a smaller number of States, Italy among them, to achieve this goal by the end of 2008.
The first stages of this process were the Conferences of Oslo on 22-23 February 2007 and of Lima in May of 2007. It is a complementary process that only reinforces the one currently under way in the context of the CCW.