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, erin@minesactioncanada.org

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Mandate Letters Set a Promising Tone

Right before the holidays, the Prime Minister's Office published the mandate letters for all the Cabinet Ministers and from Mines Action Canada's perspective there are a couple very interesting items in these letters. With Parliament resuming in less than two weeks, let's dig into the mandate letters and see what we can find.

First is the big news, the mandate letter for Minister of Foreign Affairs, François-Philippe Champagne, includes instruction to "advance international efforts to ban the development and use of fully autonomous weapons systems". You read that right - Canada's Foreign Minister as to help a ban on the development and use of killer robots. That is pretty big news. Canada has been waffling on the issue of autonomous weapons for years now. In diplomatic talks at the United Nations, Canada would occasionally give a statement on the importance of international humanitarian law and the role of weapons reviews in preventing the use of indiscriminate weapons but no one would consider Canada a leader on this issue. Now Canada needs to join the likes of Austria, Chile, and Brazil in not only calling for a ban on autonomous weapons systems but actively working for one. This addition to the mandate letter has definitely been noticed internationally and states will be looking to see a change in Canada's position at the United Nations. We will be watching closely to see how Global Affairs implements this instruction from the mandate letter. We will be looking to see if Minister Champagne is working with his counterparts in National Defense, Innovation, Science, and Industry, Public Safety and Justice to formulate a strategy to bring Canada and the world towards a ban on autonomous weapons systems. Canadian diplomats will need to have the time and resources needed to make this ban a reality but with support and political will it can be done in the next two to three years.

Next up, both Minister Champagne and Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan, have instructions related to the women, peace and security agenda in their mandate letters. This is more great news for our work. Mines Action Canada knows that humanitarian disarmament and the women, peace and security agenda are closely linked. Better implementation of disarmament treaties like the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines protects girls and women in conflict affected areas while better implementation of the women, peace and security agenda increases women's participation in disarmament decision making resulting in better outcomes for us all. 

Finally, there is a strong focus on the Sustainable Development Goals and the effectiveness of international assistance in the mandate letter for Minister of International Development, Karina Gould. That is important because there are significant links between the Sustainable Development Goals and disarmament, whether it is nuclear disarmament or clearance of landmines, cluster munitions and explosive remnants of war. Landmine clearance alone is linked to progress on 12 Sustainable Development Goals. The focus on effective international assistance is welcome because we know that supporting mine action (clearance of contaminated land and victim assistance) provides exceptional value for money. Landmines, cluster munitions and explosive remnants of war are lethal barriers to development so support to mine action allows all other development work to happen. When land is cleared and survivors are assisted, communities can safely grow food, refugees and displaced persons can return home and trade can flow smoothly. A recent report showed that for every dollar invested into mine action in Lebanon resulted in an economic benefit of $4.15. If Canada is looking for development projects that promote the Sustainable Development Goals and exemplify effective international assistance, mine action is the way to go. Plus, we would be finishing what Canada started in 1997 with the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines. 

Based on these mandate letters, there is a lot of potential for Canada to resume its position as a champion of humanitarian disarmament and help make the world a safer place for us all. Let's hope the Ministers have the courage to see them though.

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Starting to Finish the Job

The 4th Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty has come to a close. During this Review Conference, Mines Action Canada hosted 32 young women from 18 countries for the Mine Action Fellows Forum. The Fellows completed training sessions, participated in advocacy activities including lobbying during the meeting and public engagement stunts, spoke at side events and delivered a joint statement to close the meeting.

         

The Mine Action Fellows Statement to the 4th Review Conference can be found here in English and as delivered in French, Arabic, Spanish and English

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Missing the Forest for the Trees at CCW

Mines Action Canada's Program Manager addressed the Convention on Conventional Weapons today. 

 

Statement of Mines Action Canada to CCW Meeting of High Contracting Parties

Thank you Chair. For more than two decades, Mines Action Canada has seen that CCW has the potential to create new international law but too often this body has lacked ambition and allowed a few states to hinder progress.

This week CCW will choose a path to the 2021 Review Conference. States need to ensure that this path is direct and efficient. We do not have the time to continue wandering aimlessly through the diplomatic woods unable to see the forest for the trees. CCW must live up to its potential and undertake real action to protect people from indiscriminate weapons. As this is the only time we will take the floor this week, I would like to speak to three topics.

We echo the calls by Human Rights Watch for high contracting parties to insist on dedicated time to discuss Protocol III in 2020. The ongoing use of incendiary weapons in Syria is abhorrent and must stop. The only possible response to the pain and suffering caused by these weapons is to strengthen the protocol and close the loopholes. We cannot stand idly by any longer.

Similarly on autonomous weapons systems, CCW is in danger of being caught standing still while technology advances in leaps and bounds. States need to focus on action not more discussion. 

As we are a member of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, we are pleased to see autonomous weapon systems gaining importance at the national level. During the Canadian election this fall, two of the political parties pledge to work for a ban on autonomous weapons in their election platforms including the Liberal party which will form the next government. We note with interest the Swedish foreign minister's recent comments in support of a ban on killer robots. This week the CCW needs to be as ambitious as our politicians. It is time to adopt a new CCW mandate to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit lethal autonomous weapons systems and ensure meaningful human control over the use of force.

Finally, we would like to remind states that there is a robust framework of international law that applies to improvised explosive devices when they fit the definition of mines under the Ottawa Treaty and CCW AP II. Discussion of IEDs must be grounded in the existing international law.

The choices you make here this week will set a course for the next two years. Will you take a direct route towards peace and disarmament or will you continue to aimlessly wander through the diplomatic woods?

 

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Meet Diane!

Meet our new Project Officer Diane Mukuka! Diane joined our office earlier this fall and we've been so happy to have her part of the team. So happy to welcome her that we decided to do a little Q&A. 

You bring experience working on gender equality and human rights issues for NGOs in Zambia, and doing community development work in Saskatchewan. Please tell us a bit about these experiences and the skills they have taught you which you bring to this job. 

My work experience in gender programing and human rights goes back to 2005, when I worked with Caritas Zambia as a community engagement officer in the gender program. I later worked at Plan Zambia, where I was coordinator for the Girls Economic Empowerment Project, a flagship project of the Because I’m a Girl global campaign aimed at fostering gender equality. The skills I acquired over nine years’ experience in Zambia, which I believe will be useful in my new job at MAC, include: youth skills development; project development and management (design and implementation, proposal writing and resource mobilization, monitoring and evaluation); and, engaging with communities and civic leaders on sensitive subjects.

Since moving to Canada in 2016, I have done community development work with two Saskatchewan-based organizations: International Women of Saskatoon, easing newcomers through their settlement process (e.g. client needs assessments, group workshops); and READ Saskatoon, as coordinator for the financial literacy program (developing and delivering workshops). Both these jobs also required monitoring and reporting functions.

My one big take from all these work experiences has been the ability to apply a gender lens to any kind of humanitarian and development programming.

How did you learn about Mines Action Canada’s work in humanitarian disarmament?

Through a friend initially. At first I was just curious, but the more I read, the more interested I became, and I started following MAC on social media.

What are you most looking forward to in your new job?

I look forward to learning more about disarmament and engaging in conversation about humanitarian disarmament. Most of all though, I look forward to working with young people from all over the world. I find great energy in working with youth.

What do you like doing in your spare time?

I like to read, bake and swim.

 

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Mines Action Canada congratulates 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Mines Action Canada is very pleased to see Nobel Peace Prize go to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali with recognition of stakeholders working for peace in Ethiopia & the region.

We welcome efforts to end the long standing conflict with Eritrea. Landmines and cluster munition remnants from that and other conflicts continue to threaten civilians in Ethiopia

This award recognizes that cooperation, international law and diplomacy work when leaders have the courage to try. African leadership has been crucially important to the bans on landmines, cluster munitions and nuclear weapons so we hope that this award provides Prime Minister Abiy with the platform to lead his country and the region towards a lasting and sustainable peace.

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Humanitarian Disarmament and the 2019 Election

As we have in previous elections, Mines Action Canada submitted surveys on humanitarian disarmament policy to the major political parties - the Conservative Party, the Green Party, the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party. We were unable to reach the People's Party of Canada via telephone or email and thus was unable to send a copy of the survey to them.

With assistance from international experts on each of these topics, we are pleased to provide you with a brief analysis of each response to assist you in making your decision for October 21st. MAC does not endorse any one party as each party's positions on humanitarian disarmament issues have strengths and weaknesses. Overall, we would have liked to see stronger commitments to fund disarmament work and more concrete examples of how policies would be put into practice. 

Before we get into any analysis of the parties' positions, here are the full answers as provided to Mines Action Canada in alphabetical order:

While Mines Action Canada is happy to provide this resource free of charge, please consider making a donation to support our work.

 

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1325 - a tool to reach 2025

The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda, based on UN Security Council Resolution 1325, and mine action are closely related, but too often the communities working on these two topics are distinct and separate. To achieve the goals of the WPS agenda, the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines, states and civil society need to keep both sectors in mind.

As the 2025 goal set by States Parties to the Ottawa Treaty fast approaches and the States Parties to the Convention Cluster Munitions strive to implement the treaty as effectively and efficiently as possible, it is crucially important to capitalize on all intersections between mine action and the WPS agenda. 

Read the short delegate briefing paper on the intersections between the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Women, Peace and Security agenda, released at the 9th Meeting of States Parties of the Convention on Cluster Munitions here.

The expanded paper covering both the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines and the Convention on Cluster Munitions is available here.

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