Human Rights Watched called the treaty "the most significant arms control and humanitarian treaty in a decade." The document was supported by most member-nations of NATO, but opposed by Russia and the United States, among other nations.
"The cluster bomb treaty will save countless lives by stigmatizing a weapon that kills civilians even after the fighting ends," said Steve Goose, director of the Arms division at Human Rights Watch. "President-elect Barack Obama should make joining the cluster ban treaty a top priority."
The two-day Convention on Cluster Munitions opens for signature Wednesday, which is the anniversary of the 1997 signing of the treaty banning antipersonnel land mines.
The so-called "core group" that produced the treaty will be among the first signatories. They include Norway, Austria, the Vatican, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Zambia.
"We'd love to see Washington, Moscow, and the others sign the treaty, but we think the ban will so stigmatize cluster bombs that even those who don't join now will be deterred from using the weapon," Goose said. "But a U.S. decision to sign would certainly signal President Obama's commitment to multilateral action after the go-it-alone Bush era."