An opportunity for action: EWIPA and Canada's Feminist Foreign Policy

In 2017, Canada became the one of only five countries to commit to developing an explicitly feminist foreign policy. So far, this effort includes multiple specific directives, including the Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP), but an official outline of the feminist approach to Canada’s foreign policy has yet to be published. 

During this period, the world has seen continued conflict in multiple regions, with frequent use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA). The use of EWIPA poses specific humanitarian threats to civilians. In addition to immediate death and injury, EWIPA causes severe damage to critical infrastructure including roadways, electrical grids, schools, water and sanitation centres and hospitals. Many people are forced to flee from unlivable and dangerous conditions, including women and children.

The international community took notice of this humanitarian problem and has come together for negotiations of a political declaration to protect civilians in populated areas from explosive weapons. This declaration has the potential to set a benchmark for Canada’s feminist foreign policy. The text of the agreement adopts a non-partisan, rights-based, humanitarian centred approach to restricting the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The political declaration aims to be transformative to those living in conflict affected areas by having states commit to updating military policy to protect civilians in populated areas from explosive weapons.

The draft declaration also supports policy coherence for Canada by reinforcing not only several action areas in FIAP, but also Canada’s commitments to the Women, Peace and Security Agenda and meeting the Sustainable Development Goals generally known as the SDGs. Multiple SGDs are endangered by the use of EWIPA; specifically, goal 4 of good health and well-being and goal 16 of peace, justice and strong institutions. This declaration supports the achievement of these goals. The declaration also reinforces the government’s commitment to the Safe Schools Declaration, which aims to protect education in conflict by restricting schools as military targets. Due to infrastructure loss, education is often disrupted when explosive weapons are used in populated areas.      

The Feminist Foreign Policy Working Group, a team of individuals from multiple civil society and academic organizations, has recently published a set of suggested core policy principles, including adopting a rights-based approach and upholding policy coherence, for Canada’s feminist foreign policy and the text of this declaration is in alignment with those core principles. While being a feminist document, it also promotes feminist outcomes; specifically, non-violence and sustainable development. 

More and more people are moving to and living in populated areas, making them critical locations for sustainable development. The use of EWIPA is catastrophic to this ambition. Not only is infrastructure lost, but the economy grinds to a halt, the health of the population is endangered, and the next generation is forced out of school. This turns back the clock on the economic and social development strides that have been made in the last two decades; but this declaration allows for significant gains in development to be recovered and built upon.   

We know what a future free from the impacts of EWIPA can look like. From the incredible work of humanitarian mine clearance organizations and others, including the Canadian government for their leadership with the Ottawa Treaty, areas that were once uninhabitable from landmine contamination are now thriving cities. Including Huambo, Angola, where Princess Diana made her famous landmine walk in 1997. Fast forward to today and women, men and children are safe, can get an education, can contribute to the economy and can continue to develop in a sustainable way. What was done once with landmines can be done again with explosive weapons in population areas.

Combating humanitarian consequences of the use of EWIPA must be central to Canada’s feminist foreign policy. As a first step, Mines Action Canada calls on Canada to lend its support and leadership to the Draft Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences that can arise from the use of Explosive Weapons with Wide Area Effects in Populated Areas negotiations and to implement the Feminist Foreign Policy Working Groups core policy principles in the official policy. Mines Action Canada has specific suggestions on how Canada and other states can improve the Draft Political Declaration in line with a feminist foreign policy available here.

Blog post by MAC Research Associate, Madison Hitchcock who is a graduate student in globalization and international development at the University of Ottawa.

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Be Brave, Be Bold: Canada's Feminist Foreign Policy

The Government of Canada is drafting a new statement of their Feminist Foreign Policy. Mines Action Canada has joined Above Ground, Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, Amnesty International Canada, The Equality Fund, Equitas, Inter Pares, Oxfam Canada, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and Women, Peace and Security Network Canada to form the Feminist Foreign Policy Working Group. 

The Feminist Foreign Policy Working Group is pleased to release our submission to the Government of Canada containing specific recommendations for Canada's Feminist Foreign Policy. Each member of the Working Group was responsible for drafting their own section and recommendations to the government. Please read the submission here.

Additionally, the Working Group hosted a series of engagement sessions on the topic of a Canadian feminist foreign policy. The report from these engagement sessions is now available online here

For more on this work and the Feminist Foreign Policy Working Group please visit: www.amnesty.ca/ffp

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Nukes are banned!

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Enters into Force

(Ottawa, 22 January 2021) Today Canadians celebrate nuclear weapons finally being prohibited under international law. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), also referred to as the nuclear ban treaty, entered into force today; 90 days after Honduras became the 50th state to ratify the Treaty. The Treaty will become legally binding for the 51 countries which have so far ratified it, and represents a major step forward for nuclear disarmament.

Canada has not yet joined the nuclear ban so Canadians from coast to coast are calling on Parliament to consider joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The TPNW is the first international treaty that comprehensively prohibits nuclear weapons. It includes absolute prohibitions on developing, testing, producing, stockpiling, stationing, transferring, using, and/or threatening the use of nuclear weapons. The Treaty also addresses, for the first time, the impact nuclear weapons activities have had on indigenous communities. Inspired by the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines, this Treaty also includes positive obligations such as the provision of assistance to communities affected by nuclear weapons use and testing around the world. 

For the 51 countries now legally bound by the Treaty all these provisions came ‘into force’ today. As with other treaties, such as the Ottawa Treaty, more countries will become legally bound as they ratify the TPNW.

For governments which are yet to join the Treaty, like Canada, the power of the TPNW comes from the message it sends. Nuclear weapons are now prohibited. When weapons are prohibited, investment in their production declines, they become stigmatized and it becomes easier to eliminate them. 

The TPNW is the result of decades of work by dedicated activists and diplomats around the world. The International Campaign Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) worked tirelessly for this treaty and was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.

“Despite the global pandemic of 2020, 17 states finished their internal legal work to ratify the Treaty giving the world a shining example of what committed action for a better world, diplomacy and multilateralism can accomplish.

For years the nuclear armed states repeated endlessly that prohibiting nuclear weapons was impossible. Today proves that when we focus on the humanitarian impact of weapons and work collectively it is possible to change the world. 75 years of activism has paid off. Nuclear weapons have always been immoral, now they are illegal.” said Erin Hunt, Program Manager, Mines Action Canada and a member of ICAN’s negotiating team on the TPNW.

Canadians have taken a leadership role in ICAN throughout this process including Japanese Canadian hibakusha or Hiroshima survivor, Setsuko Thurlow who was one of two people to accept the Nobel Prize on behalf of ICAN. A dozen Canadian municipalities have endorsed the TPNW through ICAN’s City Appeal while 27 Members of Parliament and 19 Senators have signed ICAN’s Parliamentary Pledge joining the over 1,000 Canadians who have signed a parliamentary petition in support of the TPNW. Despite the leadership of Canadians, Canada has been slow to join or launch substantial discussion in Parliament regarding the Treaty. Parliament can no longer put off the TPNW.

To celebrate the entry into force, a photo collage of residents in British Columbia and Washington State publicly stating their opposition to further transit of nuclear weapons through the Salish Sea (Juan de Fuca Strait, Georgia Strait and Puget Sound) will be published. Mines Action Canada will also be hosting an Instagram Live with youth activists from British Columbia and Washington State to discuss their nuclear disarmament work.

“Public opinion polls show the public unambiguously supportive of global nuclear disarmament. We know it can be done because Canada led on the international convention which banned antipersonnel landmines. That was one of Canada’s foreign policy initiatives which has had the most significant impact on reducing suffering caused by that weapon on every continent. Prohibition of a weapon comes before its elimination!  Canada lost its opportunity to lead on banning Nuclear Weapons but the opportunity to strengthen this new international instrument is in our hands now. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons asks a question that Canada needs to answer: will Canada help end nuclear weapons or will Canada wait until nuclear weapons end us?” said Dr. Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan of Mines Action Canada.

To mark the entry into force of the TPNW, civil society organizations from across Canada have come together to call on Parliament to launch a study on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Canadians deserve a public debate about this groundbreaking treaty.

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Background

Negotiated in 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons legally prohibits, under any circumstances, the development, production, testing, acquisition, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. It also requires states party to the treaty to provide assistance to victims of the use and testing of nuclear weapons.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was negotiated and adopted by 122 nations in the United Nations General Assembly. It currently has 86 signatories and 51 ratifications. Canada boycotted the negotiations and remains outside the Treaty to this day. However, Canadian civil society, including Erin Hunt representing Mines Action Canada, played an important role in the negotiations.

Read our new document on myths and reality checks about the TPNW here: https://www.minesactioncanada.org/tpnwmythbusting 

The photo collage of residents in British Columbia and Washington State is available at: https://www.minesactioncanada.org/salishsea_photoaction 

Public opinion polling in six NATO countries shows widespread support for the TPWN: https://www.icanw.org/nato_poll_2021

A global list of Entry into Force activities can be found at: https://www.icanw.org/events.

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Giving Canadian Nuclear Ban Myths a Reality Check

The ground-breaking Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) enters into force on 22 January 2021. Canada remains outside the TPNW despite the risks nuclear weapons pose to Canadians. No country is equipped to respond to a nuclear detonation whether that detonation is intentional or accidental.

In the absence of a Parliamentary study of the TPNW, a number of myths about the TPNW have been circulating in Canada. These myths inhibit Canada’s ability to meet its stated goals as being a leader on nuclear disarmament and leave us behind as progress is being made towards a world without nuclear weapons.

These Canadian myths about the TPNW need a reality check.

Read the myths and reality checks here.

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Inclusiveness in 2021: the new and improved “normal”

The pandemic has made 2020 an unusual year, kept us physically far from each other but united more than ever to show that humanitarian disarmament is as relevant, and perhaps even more relevant, than before. In these first days of 2021, it is important to carry forward lessons learned from that challenging year. 

Since June, more than 250 civil society organizations have signed an open letter arguing that humanitarian disarmament can help lead the way to an improved post-pandemic normal. In a new video, Mahpekay, indiscriminate weapon survivor and orthotic specialist delivering rehabilitation services, Elkin, operator working in Colombian mine contaminated areas and Raluca, humanitarian disarmament advocate share how pandemic has affected their work. Images from Pakistan, India, Afghanistan Colombia, Belgium, France, New York, South Africa, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Turkey and Thailand show how this pandemic is a worldwide concern. MAC has been part of an informal working group on humanitarian disarmament and COVID-19 and we are pleased to share this video from Humanity and Inclusion highlighting some of the lessons learned in 2020:

To mark the new year, in the spirit of humanitarian disarmament and the Open Letter, we are calling the international community to prioritize human security, reallocate military spending to humanitarian causes, work to eliminate inequalities, ensure multilateral fora incorporate diverse voices, and bring a cooperative mind-set to problems of practice and policy. By being inclusive in 2021, we can reshape the security landscape for the future and help create a new—and improved— “normal.” 

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Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh shows danger of explosive weapons use

A Fall recap post by MAC Research Associate, Madison Hitchcock who is a graduate student in globalization and international development at the University of Ottawa.

On September 27th of this year, conflict broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. While it is a self-governing, democratic region that holds independent, free and fair elections, it is a heavily disputed territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan while being home to mostly ethnic Armenians.

There has been confirmed use of explosive weapons and sustained heavy shelling in cities such as Stepanakert and Ganja, as well as multiple other areas. After multiple brief cease fire agreements, a peace seems to be holding. On November 9th, 2020, the two parties reached an armistice after six weeks of bloody conflict; with Armenia conceding territory to Azerbaijan.

The humanitarian cost of this conflict is heavy. Currently, hundreds of civilians have been confirmed dead and thousands have been displaced from the conflict. The use of explosive weapons in populated areas cause high civilian casualties from their wide area blast effects in densely populated zones, as well as damaging critical infrastructure including hospitals, homes, schools, roadways, electrical grids and sanitation centres. These reverberating effects will cause further death and injury, as well as continued displacement of survivors in the future.

These weapons have been utilized by those on both sides of the conflict. Azerbaijan has refused to allow additional humanitarian aid other than the International Committee of the Red Cross to enter the region which is extending the suffering of many survivors who are unable to access support. This crisis is all happening in the context of COVID-19 which puts civilians at further risk.

Additionally, there have been credible reports of the use of cluster munitions which have been banned by international convention – to which neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan are signatories. These weapons are especially harmful to civilians as they have wide blast areas and it is estimated that between 5-20% of the munitions fail to explode leaving incredibly dangerous situations for civilians long after their initial use[1].    

Under international humanitarian law, Armenia and Azerbaijan have an obligation to minimize harm to civilians. Mines Action Canada strongly condemns the neglect of this duty and calls on all parties to uphold this obligation and refrain from using explosive weapons in populated areas and banned cluster munitions; as well as allowing further humanitarian aid organizations into the region. We also call on Armenia and Azerbaijan to immediately join the Convention on Cluster Munitions and support the draft Political Declaration on Strengthening Protections from Humanitarian Harm arising from the use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas. 

[1] Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/10/armenia-azerbaijan-civilians-must-be-protected-from-use-of-banned-cluster-bombs/

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Making History: TPNW hits 50 ratifications

The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) just reached the 50 ratifications needed for entry into force! On the 75th anniversary of the founding of the UN, Honduras ratified the treaty bringing about a historic milestone. In 90 days the TPNW will enter into force and become binding international law!

Mines Action Canada congratulates the 50 states and the dedicated campaigners of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons on making history. Those 50 states are on the right side of history and we hope that Canada will soon join them.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has provisions to mitigate the harm caused by nuclear weapons use and testing that will start being implemented immediately making it a very useful new addition to international law. Canada should support that work in line with our commitment to the SDGs, a Feminist Foreign Policy and the rules based international order and the join the Treaty without delay.

Congratulations to all 50 states for leading the way to a world free of nuclear weapons, and to everybody who was ever involved in making this happen!

 

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MAC Congratulates 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Winner!

Mines Action Canada congratulates the World Food Program (WFP) on being awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. We are very pleased that WFP's efforts to eradicate the use of hunger as a weapon and their lifesaving work around the world has been recognized by the Nobel Committee. The use of hunger as a weapon through instituting blockades and sieges is a war crime that we have unfortunately seen used too often in the past decade. We know that armed conflict also leads to hunger through the destruction of infrastructure, displacement, contamination of agricultural land with landmines, cluster munitions and explosive remnants of war, and economic devastation. This award celebrates the contributions of WFP staff and implementing partners who work in extremely difficult conditions to ensure people's most basic needs are met.
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CCW from a distance

Delivered to the Convention on Conventional Weapons' Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems by Executive Director, Paul Hannon, from our office in Ottawa via the online platform Interprefy.

Thank you Chair and thank you to Germany and the ODA for their support in permitting remote participation. I would like to acknowledge that I am speaking to you today from the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin people. Recognizing the indigenous nations upon whose land we are working is an excellent reminder of the need to ensure that these discussions are inclusive and grounded in humanity. 

As a member of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, Mines Action Canada encourages the high contracting parties to ensure that CCW continues to draw on the expertise from civil society and the private sector. Civil society and the private sector have made significant contributions to the discussion since the beginning and High Contracting Parties have frequently commented including today on the importance of contributions from civil society. Our role should be safeguarded in any future work streams to ensure that all these discussions are inclusive. 

To keep our conversations grounded in humanity, we recommend adding in a work stream on moral or ethical concerns. A technocratic debate is insufficient to deal with the challenges posed by autonomous weapons systems. We need to be able to answer questions like “how can one test the humanity of an algorithm?” or “what is the relationship between explainablity and ethics?” Explainablity should never be considered as a synonym for ethical. 

 We are pleased to hear many delegations express a desire to move on from a discussion of definitions and characteristics because we note that CCW Protocol IV does not have a definition of a blinding laser weapon. It prohibits “laser weapons specifically designed, as their sole combat function or as one of their combat functions, to cause permanent blindness to unenhanced vision, that is to the naked eye or to the eye with corrective eyesight devices.” and while there is a definition of permanent blindness in Article 4 there is no definition of laser weapon in the Protocol. That lack of a definition obviously did not prevent negotiations nor stop it from being an effective Protocol. 

We appreciate the robust debate this week and would like to direct specific attention to Austria’s comments outlining the needs to show that this GGE is not an isolated diplomatic silo. The work here must reflect the situation outside of CCW where scientists, experts and industry are calling for action, where the public wants to prohibit autonomous weapons, and where political leaders are stepping up. Ambitious guidance at the political level such as the mandate letter for Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs which instructs him to Advance international efforts to ban the development and use of fully autonomous weapons systems” are not being matched by ambition in the CCW 

New international law is needed to address the multitude of concerns with autonomous weapon systems. It is time to negotiate another legally binding instrument, either here or elsewhere. That instrument should include: 

  • A general obligation to maintain meaningful human control over the use of force;
  • Prohibitions on weapons systems that select and engage targets and by their nature pose fundamental moral or legal problems; and  
  • Specific positive obligations to help ensure that meaningful human control is maintained in the use of all other systems that select and engage targets. 

Mines Action Canada appreciates the guiding questions put forward by the chair in his non-paper and we would like to present some additional questions for delegates to consider today and in future meetings:  

  • Considering what you have heard about data bias, are these conversations inclusive? 
  • Do our statements reflect the public conscience and political will of our citizens? 
  • Are we being as ambitious as those inventing new technology? 
  • What or who is missing from these conversations? 
  • Will a future generation of diplomats need to negotiate a treaty to protect the rights, lives and livelihoods of civilian victims of autonomous weapons systems because this generation did not seize the chance to negotiate a pre-emptive ban?  

We do not want to be the people who let the world sleepwalk into another humanitarian crisis. It is time for ambition and for taking the next step.  

Thank you.  

 

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Ignominious Anniversary

 

To mark the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6 2020, Mines Action Canada Program Manager, Erin Hunt, spoke at Ethics in Tech's event called "Ignominious Anniversary: Remembering Hiroshima and Imagining a World Without Autonomous Killer Robots, Nuclear Weapons and Blanket Surveillance." You can watch the whole event online at the Ethics in Tech website or on YouTube: 

Read more for her full remarks.

Read more
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150+ Organizations Issue Global Call For "New Normal"

Humanitarian disarmament approach offers proven model for change

(July 2, 2020)—More than 150 organizations from around the world released a joint letter today stating that humanitarian disarmament can lead the way to an improved post-pandemic world.

Endorsed by global campaigns that have garnered two Nobel Peace Prizes and fostered the creation of four international treaties in the past 25 years, the letter argues that humanitarian disarmament's proven human-centered approach should guide current and future efforts in dealing with the pandemic and advancing human security.

“This year has shown that security is not just about military might. The COVID-19 pandemic, as well as locusts in East Africa and the wildfires in Australia, show that we need a dramatic shift in our understanding of what true security means” said Erin Hunt, Program Manager at Mines Action Canada. “Expertise from civil society and cooperation between states will be key to building a safer post-pandemic world and we encourage Canada to foster these partnerships at home and around the world.”

The letter’s signatories include local, national, regional, and international organizations from around the world. Disarmament, human rights, peace, faith, medical, student, development, and other groups have all endorsed the letter. The widespread support across campaigns underscores how seriously the humanitarian disarmament community views the letter’s call. 

Humanitarian disarmament seeks to reduce the human suffering and environmental damage inflicted by arms. To advance its goals of preventing and remediating harm, money invested in unacceptable weapons would be better spent on humanitarian purposes, the letter says. 

As COVID-19 exacerbates inequalities and presents new challenges for conflict survivors and other persons with disabilities, the letter also warns against entrenching marginalization. It calls for inclusive and non-discriminatory measures to bring affected communities into decision-making.

During the pandemic, international diplomacy has gone digital, creating the possibility for more meaningful and inclusive participation. The letter argues for seizing these opportunities while ensuring accessibility and inclusivity. It also stresses that cooperation—including the coordination, information exchange, and resource sharing that underlie humanitarian disarmament agreements—is essential to addressing global issues.

The letter concludes with a call to prioritize human security, allocate spending on humanitarian causes, work to eliminate inequalities, ensure multilateral fora incorporate diverse voices, and bring a cooperative mindset to problems of practice and policy.   

The original endorsers of the letter were leading humanitarian disarmament campaigns with hundreds of member organizations. They include the International Campaign to Ban Landmines–Cluster Munition Coalition and International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, winners, respectively, of the 1997 and 2017 Nobel Peace Prizes. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, Conflict and Environment Observatory, Control Arms, and the International Network on Explosive Weapons are also original endorsers.

Key humanitarian disarmament treaties include the Mine Ban Treaty (1997), Convention on Cluster Munitions (2008), Arms Trade Treaty (2013), and Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (2017).

The letter remains open for future signature by civil society organizations worldwide.

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Open Letter on COVID-19 and Humanitarian Disarmament

For more information, contact:

  • Bonnie Docherty, Harvard Law School’s Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative, [email protected], +1-617-669-1636
  • Erin Hunt, Program Manager, Mines Action Canada, [email protected] +1-613-302-3088
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Staying Safe & Documenting Abandoned or Mis-fired Riot Control Munitions

We’re seeing reports of people finding un-exploded stun grenades and more on the street after protests in the US.

Don’t touch these items, they could still be dangerous! 

Based on our experience with landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war, we have put together this hand-out on how to stay safe and document what has been #usedonprotests.

Full colour version.

Limited colour version.

Feel free to share widely.

 

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In Mine Action Every Day Should Be International Women's Day

Mine action is and should be everybody’s concern – and for very obvious reasons. The effects of landmines are felt by men, women and children in different ways, but all are affected and so the solutions to end this problem should be sought and supported by all. Unfortunately, women remain under represented in this field of work. Discussions on the subject are normally dominated by men with little representation from women (unless it’s a discussion about women’s involvement or gender equality but that’s a discussion for another day); when it comes to women’s involvement, a lot still needs to be done to ensure that they, like men, are permitted to add a meaningful voice to inform policy, actions and decisions.

Mines Action Canada has worked since 1998 to train, mentor and empower youth to address the impacts of inhumane and indiscriminate weapons. The Mine Action Fellows Program, started by MAC in 2018, has 45 youth from 25 countries enrolled so far. These are young people who are interested in or are already involved with civil society organizations working in mine action. The 2018 and 2019 cohorts focused on young women and deliberately so, to increase female involvement in mine action. This program brings to life a famous slogan, “Nothing about us without us” originally coined in Latin as; nihil de nobis, sine nobis. Each year the Mine Action Fellows have an in-person assembly at a forum organized to run alongside a global diplomatic meeting that brings together various stakeholders in mine action, including governments and civil society organizations. During the forum the youth undergo various training in topics relevant to their role as youth leaders; they also witness the major international diplomatic meeting in action; as well as meet and learn from fellow campaigners from around the world.

Last year the Mine Action Fellow’s Forum that was held from November 24 to November 29 in Oslo, Norway was attended by 32 female youth from 13 different countries. Among them were three landmine survivors and 22 were from landmine affected countries. Having survivors at this forum was important for us because they hold the lived experience of the harmful effects of landmines and their stories are such a powerful force to compliment all the statistics and data collected and shared to inform policy and decisions. Landmine survivors are truly experts in landmines. The forum took place alongside the 4th Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty. The Review Conference is a formal diplomatic meeting of all states parties to the Mine Ban Treaty that reviews progress made in achieving the treaty obligations and set an action plan for the next five years. These young women were exposed to formal plenary discussions and after some basic training in lobbying, they also got an opportunity to speak with governments that had not yet submitted their annual Article 7 transparency reports and encouraged them to do so. It was interesting to see these young women confidently and in certain instances persistently take on governments and ask them to account for their Article 7 reports. The assertive manner with which they did this could not go unnoticed – they sure did make MAC proud. What I saw in these youth was the future of Mine Action in good hands.

 

During this time the youth also drafted and presented a statement to the conference delegates, in which they called for increased resources, political will and concrete support by all states parties to finish the job by 2025. They were very clear about having the job done by 2025, and in their call to get this done they stated very boldly; “Our generation is ready to help finish the job on landmines, but in many of our countries we still need your support. We cannot wait forever so we are giving you only 5 (more) years”.  The youth statement was the highlight of the Forum and for many, the Review Conference as well. The conference ended on a high with this powerful statement which was read out by four of the young women, each taking a part in one of the UN languages, namely English, French, Arabic and Spanish.

From this unforgettable experience for those involved, MAC sent a strong message to the world; that you cannot leave out such an important group when you discuss something that affects the communities they live in. Young women should be involved at every level of mine action because just as the problem affects them, they should also be part of the solution. And because this year’s theme for International women’s day, Each for Equal is about collective individualism, we believe that each of the young women who represented their community at the conference went back to add their voice and effort to the field for a bigger impact as they clearly put it in their statement:

“Each of us present here is proof that if there is a strong commitment to a better world, whatever language you speak, whatever country you come from, by uniting your strengths you will be able to achieve your goals”

Diane Mukuka is Mines Action Canada's Project Officer

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New research project: How many women work in mine action?

Today, Mines Action Canada released a new paper on women's employment in mine action. 

"Gender and Employment in Mine Action by the Numbers" contains the results of a pilot study on employment of women by non-governmental organizations in landmine clearance and related fields. A short survey was carried out in the first quarter of 2019 by a graduate student Research Associate and the collected data was analyzed by Mines Action Canada staff later in the year. 

MAC is sharing the results of this survey as the international community meets in Geneva for the National Mine Action Directors' Meeting. 

In addition to providing some limited answers to questions like how many women work in mine action, Mines Action Canada hopes to shed some light on the success of gender mainstreaming in mine action and highlight areas of improvement for the sector. 

The paper is available here and at the National Mine Action Directors' Meeting. An A4 version of the paper is also available for those printing copies internationally.

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Trump Administration’s Landmine Policy is a Dangerous Step Backwards

Mines Action Canada is shocked and deeply concerned by the United States’ new policy on anti-personnel landmines, a weapon so horrific that 164 countries have joined the Ottawa Treaty banning them.

The White House announced today that the Trump administration’s new policy on anti-personnel landmines will reverse an Obama era position that prohibited the United States from using landmines outside of the Korean Peninsula. This shocking change of policy allows planning for and use of anti-personnel landmines in future potential conflicts and states that the American combat commanders can use advanced non-persistent landmines.

“We know that at least 71% of the 6,897 recorded landmine casualties were civilians in 2018 including 1,714 children. Landmines are cruel weapons that are more likely to take the limb of a farmer or the life of a child than they are to have a military benefit.” said Paul Hannon, Executive Director of Mines Action Canada. “Around the world, landmines are lethal barriers to development, threatening the lives and limbs of 60 million people.”

The United States should be working to end these lethal barriers to development instead of creating new ones. 164 countries including Canada and every other NATO member have banned landmines through the Ottawa Treaty because the risk they pose to civilians and friendly militaries far outweighs any perceived benefit. Similarly, most of the countries that haven't joined the Ottawa Treaty do not see landmines as useful and have stopped using them.

It is concerning that the United States wants to align itself with recent users of landmines which include Syria, Myanmar and North Korea plus non-state actors like ISIS and the Taliban. By publicly stating they want the option of using landmines, the United States is providing cover to these states and armed groups’ continued use of these horrific weapons. 

“The myth of advanced non-persistent landmines reducing casualties is just that a myth. The problem with landmines is their indiscriminate nature whether they are indiscriminate for a month or a decade is not important,” added Erin Hunt, Program Manager at Mines Action Canada.

In response to the Trump Administration’s new policy, Canada must redouble its efforts in support of the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines. The Ottawa Treaty is Canada’s most successful contribution to global peace and security in the past 25 years. Since the Ottawa Treaty came into force landmine casualties have decreased significantly and 31 states have cleared all landmines from their territory. The shift in American policy is very concerning but it should not undo the progress the rest of the international community has made.

Hunt added, “The Ottawa Treaty is a success in progress. The Trump administration’s policy is a step backwards but Canada has an opportunity to take two steps forward and finish the job we started in 1997.”

*** ENDS ***

Media Contact: Erin Hunt, Program Manager, +1 613 302-3088, [email protected]

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