4.11.10

Convention on Cluster Munitions

Cluster munitionscluster bombs or sub-munitions are air-dropped or ground-launched explosive weapons that eject smaller submunitions: a cluster of bomblets.

The Royal Norwegian Embassy is located on the tenth floor of the Vincom City Tower office building, the entrance to the lobby being situated between the outdoor patio of Highlands Coffee and the steep downhill entrance to the parking garage. The interior of the building is quite nice; floors, walls and a mammoth black reception desk all constructed from marble and polished tile. Two men in oversize black jackets confirm the destination of a few Vietnamese guests who had just walked in, one with a guitar case strapped to his back. Being a foreigner, I am typically left to my own devices where security is involved, and so I walked by as if I knew exactly where I was going, double checking the directory out of the corner of my eye as I passed the miniature congregation  and headed towards the elevators. The embassy is not at all like the intimidating, colonial era, walled in, camera monitored complexes scattered throughout the downtown area. It is actually a quaint little office reminiscent of a dentist's waiting room, with soothing white walls, beach colored hardwood floors and a magazine rack. I approached the plexiglass window, and asked a mild mannered Vietnamese gentleman if I could take a few pictures.

"A man becomes a victim as a result of collecting scrap metal in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam.  The majority of unexploded ordnance related accidents in Vietnam occur to people involved in the scrap metal trade."

"Even the simplest task becomes a challenge when you're a victim in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam."
 The exhibit consists of two A4 size brochures and around a dozen photographs depicting two distinct themes, the first being Vietnamese farmers crippled by the active artillery littered throughout the remote region of Quang Tri province and the second concerning the Vietnamese-Norwegian-US relief effort, known as RENEW (Restoring the Environment and Neutralizing the Effects of War) assisting to clear areas that endanger countryside residents.

"A Project RENEW explosive ordnance technician prepares a charge for the disposal of a phosphorous filled unexploded ordnance located and removed from a village in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam."

"A scrap metal trader in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam."

It was not the the photographs that were the most significant aspect of this exhibit, but rather the overall awareness gained of the issue itself and the efforts being taken by government organizations to put an end to this kind of weaponry which continues to devastate developing countries long after a conflict has ended. Here the photos serve as the visual spokesperson for the efforts underway, as the ambassadors of a cause. Often an exhibit related to natural and/or man made catastrophes tells an incomplete story. It will show the effects that these misfortunes have on a people, but fail to lead us to a proactive solution, leaving the viewer with feelings of helplessness and eventually indifference to tragedy. I would like to praise this exhibit for not only educating but empowering its audience on the issue of cluster munitions, both in Vietnam and around the world.


"A victim in an athletic competition in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam."
[an excellent example of empowering the community]

US, Norway Support Landmine Victims-Asia News Network
Cluster Munition Coalition: beat the drum to ban cluster bombs

-Zac Herman

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