Women Foreign Ministers’ Meeting a First in Two Ways

Feminist activists share issues and priorities with the first-ever meeting of Women Foreign Ministers

(Ottawa, September 26, 2018) A coalition of Canadian civil society organizations welcomes the successful conclusion of a fruitful exchange between participants in the first-ever women Foreign Ministers meeting and women’s rights activists.

The exchange was held during a working breakfast that was part of the official agenda of the Women Foreign Ministers Meeting co-hosted by Minister Chrystia Freeland (Canada) and High Representative Federica Mogherini (European Union). The meeting was held in Montreal, September 21 and 22, 2018.

Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Coalition to Abolish Nuclear Weapons addressed the Ministers gathered from 16 countries. Informal roundtable discussions followed.

“It was important that the discussion was part of the official programme. This type of exchange is all too rare,” said Theo Sowa, CEO of African Women’s Development Fund. “The mood in the room was constructive. The sharing of information, ideas and strategies will help both the Foreign Ministers and the civil society organisations present to push for more inclusive security and development agendas.”  

Sowa was one of ten activists representing diverse feminist movements from around the globe. They raised concerns about the safety of women human rights defenders and violence against women. They urged a redefinition of security that puts the needs of people (especially women and girls) first. Discussions also focused on increasing women’s participation in peace processes, including in South Sudan; strengthening the voices of feminist activists in foreign policy discussions; and priorities for feminist foreign policy.

Razia Sultana, founder of Rohingya Women Welfare, shared her experiences of documenting sexual violence and working with Rohingya women and girls in the refugee camps in Bangladesh. “I congratulated Minister Freeland on the recent Canadian recognition of the crimes against my people as genocide. I urged the other women Ministers to follow Canada’s example. This is the first step towards ending the violence and ensuring justice.”

At the closing press conference Minister Freeland announced that Canada would create an Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security. “This is an exciting new development, one that we hope will accelerate the implementation of Canada’s ambitious Women, Peace and Security commitments and increase Canada’s support grassroots women peacebuilders,” said Beth Woroniuk, coordinator of Women, Peace and Security Network-Canada.

The Minister also announced $25 million for women, peace and security initiatives, including funding for several women’s rights organizations. Specific funding for these organizations has been a long-time policy ask of Canadian civil society organizations.

Over 200 organizations from around the world urged the Ministers to recognize, protect and support women human rights defenders, noting that these activists face grave and numerous threats. “We will be monitoring the response to this statement. We are optimistic that future meetings of women Foreign Ministers will build on the productive relationships established here in Montreal,” said Anne Delorme, Gender Equality Programme Manager, AQOCI.

An informal coalition organized a series of side events around this historic women Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, including a public panel on Feminist Foreign Policy and a civil society dialogue.  Coalition members are: Amnesty International Canada (English), Amnistie internationale Canada francophone, Association Québecoise d’Organismes Cooperation Internationale (AQOCI), Canadian Foodgrains Bank, CARE Canada, Mines Action Canada, Nobel Women’s Initiative, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam Québec, The MATCH International Women’s Fund, World Federalist Movement Canada.


New Explosive Weapons Q&A

The International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) has released a new Question and Answer document. This publication tackles such questions as:

- Are some explosive weapons worse than others?

- If we are limiting the use of certain explosive weapons in populated areas, are we encouraging the use of other, more targeted weapons?

- Does international humanitarian law adequately address this problem?

- Won’t some armed actors/explosive weapon users take such a standard more seriously than others?

- What can be done?

For answers to these questions and more, check out INEW's new publication here


PeaceBoat Visits Canada

PeaceBoat, a Japan-based international NGO that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment, stopped in Halifax this week. On board were hibakusha (survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) who are travelling the world, sharing their experiences and calling on states to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as well as a replica of ICAN's Nobel Peace Prize.

Mines Action Canada was pleased to welcome our colleagues to Canada and our Program Manager, Erin Hunt, was on hand to meet the boat and help bring the message of peace and disarmament to Canadian decision makers. The Halifax Peace Afternoon brought three hibakusha together with representatives from civil society organizations in Halifax as well as parliamentarians.

Guests heard remarks from Akira Kawasaki of PeaceBoat, testimony from 2nd generation Hibakusha, Shinagawa Kaoru,a speech from Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Matt DeCourcey and remarks from our Erin Hunt where she called on Canada to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and highlighted what was needed to ban the bomb.

"I think it is especially poignant to be hearing from survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki here in Halifax. Halifax is the only city in North America and maybe the only other city in the world who can begin to understand what it is like to have your city destroyed by a single blast.

As Halifax learned in 1917, response, recovery and rebuilding after such destruction is difficult even without the radiation damage that Hiroshima and Nagasaki faced. The people of Halifax, Hiroshima and Nagasaki have all rebuilt their cities through courage, conviction and collective action.

Those three ingredients, courage, conviction and collective action also were crucial to the negotiation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and ICAN’s Nobel Peace Prize win."

You can read Erin's full remarks here

CTV also visited PeaceBoat and met with the Hibakusha. You can see their full coverage here.


Peace on the Korean Peninsula will require disarmament

As Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un meet in Singapore, humanitarian disarmament organizations are highlighting the importance of disarmament more broadly to a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. Both nuclear weapons and anti-personnel landmines will need to be addressed by the states involved.

The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula has been a topic of much discussion. Working behind the scenes for the last month, a group of the world’s foremost nuclear disarmament experts have mapped out the best pathway for total denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, determining that the existing international treaty framework is the most appropriate solution.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for efforts to promote denuclearization through a treaty-based solution, presented the “Korean Peninsula Denuclearization Roadmap” at a press conference in Singapore ahead of the historic meeting between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump.

The plan begins by recognizing the horrific loss of life and suffering that would be caused by any use of nuclear weapons. Experts agree that even a limited nuclear engagement on the Korean Peninsula would see upwards of 30 warheads detonated causing massive loss of life and cataclysmic environmental damage in North Korea and South Korea, as well as the entire Northeast Asia region. Any solution to the crisis requires all parties to reject nuclear weapons outright on humanitarian grounds, through the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

The roadmap outlines a solution to the question of how the Korean Peninsula will be denuclearized where states recognize the unacceptable humanitarian risk of nuclear weapons; reject weapons by joining the TPNW; remove existing weapons with verifiable and time-bound plans; ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); and rejoin the world community through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

“The existing treaty frameworks are the only way to make Korean denuclearization permanent,” said Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN. “There has been little talk as to what an agreement could look like. This roadmap answers the question at the heart of negotiations: How do North Korea and South Korea denuclearize in a way that is verifiable, irreversible and won't unravel?”

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is the central point of the plan and joining the Treaty would oblige North Korea to immediately cease any development, production, and manufacture of nuclear weapons. North Korea would also be obliged to eliminate its nuclear-weapon programme, to resume implementation of its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) comprehensive safeguards agreement, and to conclude and implement an Additional Protocol with the IAEA.

The plan also calls on South Korea, which has not had nuclear weapons on their soil since the early 1990s, to denuclearize. South Korea must formally reject the United States’ extended nuclear deterrence in order to guarantee nuclear weapons will not be used on their behalf. This would not change existing military treaties between the US and South Korea, and the current “nuclear umbrella” security arrangement would be transformed to a general “security umbrella.” For its part, the US would take a practical step towards denuclearization by finally following through on its commitment to ratify the CTBT. North Korea and China would join the US in this step. Ultimately, ICAN calls on the US and all states to sign and ratify the TPNW and join the 122 nations who adopted the Treaty at the UN last July in moving towards a global nuclear weapons ban.

The plan at a glance:

Recognize the risk of nuclear use and unacceptable humanitarian consequences of such use.

Reject nuclear weapons by joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Remove – a verifiable and irreversible plan for disarmament

Ratify the CTBT and verify through the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization

Rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the world community

The full Korean Peninsula Denuclearization Framework is available for download here: http://www.icanw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/ICAN-Korean-Peninsula-Denuclearization-Roadmap.pdf

Beyond denuclearization, the issue of anti-personnel landmines should be on the agenda not just at the Kim-Trump summit but at other talks aimed at building peace on the Korean Peninsula. The Korean Peninsula is one of the most heavily landmine contaminated places on the planet. The Landmine Monitor has received reports of between 500 and 3,000 landmine casualties in South Korea but has no estimate of the number of casualties in North Korea. Despite the threat to civilians living near the Demilitarized Zone, landmines have not received much attention during this process.

Should this summit start a serious peace process, the United States of America, North Korea and South Korea will all need to deal with the landmines in the Demilitarized Zone. Similar to the calls from ICAN for North Korea and South Korea to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, both North Korea and South Korea should join the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines together. Acceding to the Treaty together will be a confidence and peace building measure. There is a proven track record of the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines being used to build confidence between states - Greece and Turkey joined the treaty simultaneously to further political trust between the two states. After joining the Ottawa Treaty, North and South Korea will have to demine the Demilitarized Zone. Working together to clear the landmines can further build trust and peace between the former adversaries as seen by the close cooperation between Ecuador and Peru to clear their formerly contested border of landmines. By joining and implementing the Ottawa Treaty together, North Korea and South Korea can begin to work towards a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Mines Action Canada hopes that the Trump-Kim Summit in Singapore will bring renewed attention to the disarmament of the Korean Peninsula. We call on both parties to join the Ottawa Treaty and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as an immediate peace dividend. It is time to take the first in a number of steps towards a nuclear weapons and landmine free peaceful Korean Peninsula.


Ten Years

It has been ten years since the Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted in Dublin. In those ten years, the treaty has been signed by 120 states, ratified by 103 states, entered into force, had 7 Meetings of States Parties and a Review Conference and destroyed millions of cluster munitions around the world.

Over the past ten years, victims have seen their access to services expanded in some countries and clearance operations have made land safe to walk on in communities large and small. Thousands of people have worked countless hours to make the words adopted in Dublin a reality for millions.

Also for those ten years, we have been waiting for 17 states to complete the ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. They signed the treaty and still have not become full state parties. For ten years these countries have been one step away from stating clearly and forcefully that cluster munitions, with their over 90% civilian casualty rate, are inhumane, illegitimate and illegal.

Ten years is long enough. Help bring these states on board the Convention on Cluster Munitions this summer. Tell them the time is now - it is time to ratify.

Click below to tweet to each state.


Central African Republic

Democratic Republic of the Congo












Sao Tome & Principe




Courage, Conviction and Collective Action

Program Coordinator Erin Hunt spoke at the PEGASUS Conference on April 28. Here are her remarks.

Thank you for having me today.

When I was preparing for this talk, I looked into the land I would be visiting as part of personal efforts towards reconciliation and I learned that the land we are on today is the subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Iroquois Confederacy and Confederacy of the Ojibwe and allied nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes. The Covenant recognized that we have to share the responsibility of ensuring the shared dish (this territory) is never empty, which includes taking care of the land and the creatures we share it with. That idea that we all eat out of one dish with only one spoon is crucial to the story I want to tell you today.

This is the story of how ordinary people combined conviction, courage and collective action to do the impossible - to ban the bomb and take humanity one step closer to world without nuclear weapons.

At the heart of ICAN’s work and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a simple conviction: due to their humanitarian impact nuclear weapons must be prohibited then eliminated and we all have a role to play in that process.

We heard a convincing case for why nuclear weapons must be prohibited and eliminated from Ira. Regardless of your knowledge of medicine, nuclear physics, arms control, international law or diplomacy, it is easy to see that an indiscriminate weapon whose impacts cannot be contained poses an existential threat to us, the land and the creatures we share it with and is therefore unacceptable. If we all eat of out of one dish with only one spoon, we should never use or possess a weapon that could contaminate the dish for centuries.

For too many decades, the global conversation about nuclear weapons was something for the experts and most of the time those experts were men with security or military backgrounds. For the majority of the past 70 years the rest of us and our opinions were something to be humoured – maybe – but nuclear disarmament and deterrence was “serious” work for “serious” people and couldn’t be tainted with humanity or emotion. Actually discussing what nuclear weapons would do to people was considered a weakness.

Talking about what nuclear weapons do to people, bringing the evidence to the table was one of the key ways ICAN and like-minded members of the international community was able to break through the diplomatic deadlock. More importantly talking about the humanitarian impact of these abhorrent weapons allowed all of us to have a say. No longer was an in-depth knowledge of warhead yields required to advocate for disarmament. The mere recognition of the global catastrophic humanitarian harm that nuclear weapons could cause is enough to justify any of us speaking out on the issue. Every person and every state has a stake in nuclear disarmament and we no longer were willing to wait around for the nuclear weapon states to disarm.

One of ICAN’s advocacy videos produced in the lead up to the negotiations reminded viewers that “It takes courage to change the world.” Having conviction means little unless you have the courage to stand up for it. Campaigners faced naysayers in almost every country around the world - even here in Canada. The nuclear armed states and their allies were angry. Diplomats supporting the ban treaty were confronted and pressured to not attend the humanitarian initiative meetings, to vote against the start of negotiations and to not attend the negotiations. Ban proponents were accused of undermining the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and of dividing the international community. One particularly memorable example was an informal statement by the United Kingdom that made allusions to the UK and the US causing problems for the NPT if states went ahead with the negotiations and condescendingly disregarded ban states’ security concerns related to the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons as not real. Long standing colonial power dynamics were resurrected and used to coerce states. Funding to civil society organizations like ICAN was cut and some former champions of nuclear disarmament, like Canada, went strangely silent.

Campaigners and states alike gathered their courage and persisted despite the pressure and difficulty. At the end of 2016, a majority of the UN General Assembly voted to start negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. In July 2017, 122 states adopted a treaty text and in September over 50 states signed the treaty. We now have 51 states who have signed and another 7 who have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The reason we were able to achieve a treaty relatively quickly after decades of diplomatic deadlock is collective action. ICAN worked closely with a core group of states as well as the United Nations and the Red Cross movement throughout the process. Within ICAN, partner organizations collaborated at the international and national level to bring states on board with the ban treaty and make sure they were ready for negotiations. In many countries, parliamentarians, mayors and other decision makers were included in actions. A success in one country brought energy to the whole campaign. A shared goal made the partnerships between organizations stronger and helped motivate campaigners. We recognized that we all eat out of one dish so we have to work together to protect it.

Collective action was also a key part of civil society’s plan for the negotiations. ICAN followed the model of many humanitarian disarmament campaigns and worked both regionally and thematically. Campaigners were divided up according to the regions they were from and those regional teams worked to share messages and do advocacy with the states of that region. The thematic teams worked specifically on particular parts of the treaty. I was part of the positive obligations team which focused on ensuring that assistance to victims of nuclear weapons use and testing, environmental remediation and international cooperation were included in the treaty. Obviously the fact that Canada boycotted the negotiations was a disappointment but being part of this successful positive obligations team was an incredible experience.

Collectively campaigners wrote working papers, delivered statements, worked with government delegates on language, organized stunts outside the UN, did media interviews, strategized, analyzed texts and kept the world updated through social media. Besides the adoption of the treaty there are two images that will stick with me from the negotiation process.

  • Analyzing the new preamble on a midtown sidewalk with ICAN’s director and my colleague from Harvard Law School at 10pm one night. Beatrice had just been handed a hard copy at a dinner when we ran into her on the street so of course we had to stop and read it under a streetlight.
  • Crowding on a couch in the UN basement with the posobs team and using whatsapp and emails to communicate with two supportive diplomats in the closed door small group negotiation session on the positive obligations and successfully getting problematic language fixed and good language put in.

Hopefully those images should give you a sense of the negotiations. What I can’t show you as easily is the energy of the ICAN delegation which included youth and the elderly survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, physicians and lawyers, teachers and students, faith leaders and academics, advocates and indigenous peoples – in short ordinary concerned citizens from around the world. This diverse group acting collectively is the reason we see some very important and often overlooked language in the treaty.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has some of the strongest language on gender in a disarmament treaty – not only recognizing that nuclear weapons have different effects on men, women, girls and boys, but also promoting the participation of women in the treaty’s decision making processes and implementation. The recognition that nuclear weapons activities have had a disproportionate impact on indigenous peoples in the Treaty’s preamble is ground-breaking. This is the first disarmament treaty to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples due to the hard work of Australian, Pacific and American indigenous activists whose land is still contaminated from nuclear weapons tests a half century ago. The impacts of nuclear colonialism continue to be felt and these provisions give voice to marginalized populations who have been excluded by the nuclear deterrence narrative for decades. Acting collectively brought the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons into existence and ensured it was an inclusive and pragmatic step towards the elimination of nuclear weapons.

On July 7 2017, we collectively held our breath as the votes to adopt the text came up one by one on the screen and collectively we applauded, cried and hugged when the votes showed an overwhelming majority of states in favour. Later in the year, we collectively celebrated the treaty being opened for signature and then the Nobel Peace Prize. With courage, conviction and collective action, this group of ordinary people had changed the world.

Previous humanitarian disarmament treaties show that getting the treaty (and even winning a Nobel Peace Prize) is actually the easy part and the hard work comes now.

So what’s next and how can Canada and Canadians play a role?

The treaty needs 50 ratifications to enter into force so the priority for the next year or two is to get states to sign and ratify the treaty. Canada should be one of those first 50 and Canadians should, of course, be encouraging our government to join the Treaty as soon as possible.

Canada may not have participated in the negotiations or signed the Treaty yet but there are ways for Canada to contribute to its implementation. Canada should participate as an observer in all treaty meetings until we join. Before Canada joins and even after we should be focusing on the positive obligations provisions in the treaty.

These provisions on victim assistance and environmental remediation in the treaty mean that the moment it enters into force it will begin to have an impact on the lives of people.

It is these provisions that offer Canada and Canadians the opportunity to engage meaningfully with the treaty. We have the skills, knowledge and resources to make a real difference to affected communities.

Our feminist international assistance policy and Canada’s work toward the sustainable development goals can help support victim assistance services or environmental remediation in nuclear weapons affected communities of the South Pacific, Algeria and Kazakhstan. Not only do we have to protect the dish we share but we also have to protect and help those we share it with.

Canada says it is committed to ensuring gender equality and to pursuing reconciliation with indigenous peoples. Engaging with the treaty will help us reach these goals.

In order to make these changes, parliamentarians need to hear from Canadians that this is an important issue. In some of our allies, parliament is the main force driving reviews of the treaty and its compatibility with NATO. So get out there and tell people what you have learned today and what you want to see.

When I started I said I wanted to tell you the story of ordinary people who used conviction, courage and collective action to achieve the impossible. So far we have been more successful that we dared dream but the story is just getting started and we need you to help us write the next chapter.

Thank you.


The Good, The Bad, and the Brave: Women & their Fight with Cluster Munitions

With the tenth anniversary of the Convention on Cluster Munitions approaching, the many successes of the treaty are increasingly apparent. While the convention is the product of a multitude of different peoples’ hard work, many of its successes can be attributed to women, whether they are on the frontlines clearing contaminated land, or lobbying for stronger legislation domestically or internationally. Mines Action Canada (MAC) is well aware of the huge role these women and girls play in helping not only their individual communities, but the global community. Today, on International Woman’s Day, we would like to share what we have learned, and what you should know about the role women play in solving the problem of cluster munitions.

The Bad: The Disproportionate Impact of Cluster Munitions on Women

Cluster munitions impact women and girls differently than they do men and boys. While only around a quarter of women are the direct victims of cluster munition remnants, they are disproportionately affected by them in other ways. Women often face unique issues when dealing with the aftermath of a cluster munition explosion. They face barriers to medical care, social stigmatization, psychological trauma, and even the possibility of divorce and abandonment. Women are less likely to know about the resources available to them, such as prosthetics and rehabilitation. Women are also less likely to receive risk education regarding cluster munitions that teaches them what areas to avoid, and how to safely deal with cluster munitions when found.

Even when women are not the direct victims of cluster munitions, they often become ‘secondary’ victims. If a husband or male provider is killed or severely injured by a cluster munition, a woman and her family may be left without a provider. Finding work with pay equal to that of a man’s is extremely difficult, if not impossible in many places around the world. Women are also much more likely to stay and care for a disabled spouse, than a man is to stay with his wife after she is injured. In general, women who are injured face a poorer long-term outlook than men who are injured, primarily due to a lack of educational and medical resources for women.

The Good: Working Towards Positive Change

Things are changing for the better, largely because of the actions of organizations such as the Cluster Munition Coalition, which works to track the progress of states with regards to cluster munitions, raises awareness about the issue, and puts pressure on states which may not be meeting all of their commitments under the Convention on Cluster Munitions. While the original convention text does explain that states should implement gender-sensitive assistance to cluster munitions victims, it was not overly clear to many what exactly that would entail.

The Dubrovnik Action Plan, agreed to by the Convention on Cluster Munitions’ states party in September 2015, helped to clarify the expectations for states who had signed the Convention. It set out clear steps for states to follow that would allow them to meet the requirement for gender-sensitive assistance. In addition, states agreed to improve data collection by including the sex of the individual injured by cluster munitions. Most importantly, the Dubrovnik Action Plan details how nations can consider the specific vulnerabilities of women and girls, and how to improve female victims long term outlooks. The clarification and literal step by step instructions on how to incorporate gender into work on cluster munitions helps nations to improve the situations of women and girls impacted by cluster munitions.

The Brave: Fighting Cluster Munitions, One Bomb at a Time

Women have not allowed themselves to only be victims in the battle against cluster munitions. They are also stepping up to the plate to tackle the issue head on. Increasingly, women are on the frontlines, clearing contaminated land of these deadly weapons. In two of the nations most impacted by cluster munitions, Laos and Lebanon, women are tearing down barriers and creating all female demining teams. One of the goals of these teams is to give women the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty by supplying them with incomes that are the equivalent to, or even better, then that of the average man. More importantly, these women act as everyday heroes for their communities, inspiring their communities to take the steps necessary to end the scourge of cluster munitions and showing young girls that changing the world is women’s work.

Laos became a dumping ground for cluster munitions from 1964 to 1973 during the Vietnam War. At least 270 million cluster munition submunitions rained down on the country, or one planeload every eight minutes for around nine years. It comes as no surprise that Laos remains the nation with the most causalities from cluster munitions remnants, at an estimated twenty thousand. Women and girls are included in this number, and also have family members, their livelihoods and their happiness taken away from them.

One team leader of a Mines Advisory Group clearance team in Laos, Peng Souvanthone, credited her employment with providing her an income to support her family and the ability to educate her relatives on the risks of cluster munitions. Souvanthone has directly been impacted by cluster munitions; her eleven-year-old brother was killed by a cluster munition remnant in 2004 while hunting for scrap metal with friends. Stories like Souvanthone’s are too common in Laos, and she and others like her are working hard in turn them into rarities.

Lebanon has been contaminated with cluster munitions since 1978, and the problem worsened with later conflicts and bombings. Most recently, Lebanon’s cluster munition contamination was intensified by extensive use of the weapon during the 2006 conflict when Israel launched approximately four million submunitions in Lebanon. As is so common with cluster munitions, many of the submunitions did not detonate, leaving millions of potential bombs dotting Lebanon’s landscape long after the end of the war.

Women such Lamis Zein jumped on the chance to join a demining team, surprising the men in her community. Zein was no stranger to the impact cluster munitions can have on civilians, having lost five family members to the weapon during the 2006 war, including her grandmother. She, and a few other women, made up Lebanon’s first all-female demining team with the demining NGO Norwegian People’s Aid. When discussing her thoughts on the team, Zein stated, “it is a good opportunity for women and to encourage women to work in the field. It shows we can work in anything.” With two young daughters, Zein and the other women like her, are acting as role-models for women and girls in their communities, and are setting new standards for how women can directly work to solve the cluster munition problem.

In the midst of the ongoing conflict in Syria where cluster munitions have been used extensively since 2012, women are doing their best to keep their communities safe. Some are starting to work on survey and clearance operations while others are doing risk education; teaching community members, especially children, to practice safe behaviours in areas contaminated by cluster munitions.

Whether it is in clearance, risk education, advocacy efforts or assisting victims, women have played an active role in the implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions over the past 10 years. Their bravery and perseverance is the driving force behind the continued successes of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Lexi Zamojski is a Graduate Student at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University and a Research Associate at Mines Action Canada. 


Bring MAC to career day virtually!

Mines Action Canada's diverse work means that our staff do not have the most typical sounding jobs. To give elementary school students a glimpse into our careers, our Program Coordinator filmed a short career day video for our supporters. 


Young Women Leaders Address 16MSP

At the 16th Meeting of States Parties to the Ottawa Treaty, Mines Action Canada hosted a Women in Disarmament Youth Leaders 

20171221_151536_resized.jpgForum supported by the Governments of Australia, Canada and Ireland.

After four days of training, mentoring and participation in the meeting, the 12 young women leaders addressed the plenary on the final day of the meeting.

Their statement is available in English, French, Spanish and Arabic.



The Ottawa Treaty, Disarmament and Canada's New Women, Peace & Security Action Plan

Canada’s National Action Plan 2017-2022 for the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions on Women, Peace and Security was launched on November 1, 2017. The National Action Plan (CNAP) outlines how Canada will advance the Women, Peace and Security agenda over the next five years.

The Women, Peace and Security agenda covers a wide variety of issues including work on disarmament. When it comes to disarmament the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines is at the forefront of most discussions in Canada especially with the 20th anniversary of the Treaty’s signing coming a month after the launch of the CNAP. The WPS global agenda and the CNAP in particular are closely linked to efforts to implement the Ottawa Treaty.

Mines Action Canada was pleased to see “Take gender-responsive approaches to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, to transitional justice and reconciliation, to small arms and light weapons, to mine action, and to human trafficking” (emphasis added) was listed as an action under the heading of Programming in the CNAP’s Theory of Change. Mine action is an umbrella term for the activities required to implement the Ottawa Treaty: landmine clearance, victim assistance, research and advocacy, stockpile destruction, and risk education. The inclusion of mine action in the CNAP’s actions is crucially important as mine action, the Ottawa Treaty and the global landmine problem are relevant in differing degrees to the five objectives set out in the CNAP.

In this paper, we will explore the links between mine action, Canada’s obligations under the Ottawa Treaty and the five objectives in the CNAP. In the annex, some of the targets and goals set out by Global Affairs Canada will be assessed in more detail.

Increase the meaningful participation of women, women’s organizations and networks in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict peacebuilding

The Ottawa Treaty provides an excellent example of the results of increasing meaningful participation of women, women’s organizations and networks in peace and security work. The 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), a driving force behind the negotiation and the ongoing implementation of the Ottawa Treaty, has always been a women-led movement. In the ICBL women lead at the national and international levels.  

One way the ICBL increases the meaningful participation of women in disarmament, peace and security, is through small grants. The ICBL like other international disarmament campaigns and networks issue small grants to grassroots organizations to support their work. These small grants provide much needed funding directly to women-led organizations, often working at the intersection of disarmament, disability rights and women’s rights. These organizations are usually too small to be noticed in donor state capitals or to be able to receive funding directly from states. Through grants from the international campaigns they can receive visibility and funding at a scale that is manageable yet significantly enhances their effectiveness.

Research shows that women still make up less than a quarter of delegates to disarmament forums at the international level.[1] Civil society tends to have more diverse representation at disarmament forums. Civil society organizations also have the capacity to ensure that newcomers to disarmament forums have mentorship and assistance in navigating the archaic and patriarchal structures that dominate international discussions on peace and security.  One way to support meaningful participation of women, women’s organizations and networks in peace and security is to support the international campaigns and networks who have a proven track record in bringing diverse voices to the table.

Prevent, respond to, and end impunity for sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated in conflict and sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers and other international personnel, including humanitarian and development staff

Displacement is closely linked to higher levels of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls including domestic violence, rape and forced/child marriage. Landmines and ERW prevent displaced women and girls from returning home leaving them at risk for sexual or gender-based violence over an extended period of time. For female landmine survivors, like all women and girls with disabilities, this risk is compounded.

Under Article 6 of the Ottawa Treaty, Canada is obligated to provide assistance to states needing support to meet their obligations regarding clearing landmines and assisting victims. In addition, supporting clearance and victim assistance will also help Canada meet this objective under the CNAP. Landmine clearance and victim assistance programs will indirectly reduce risk of sexual and gender-based violence by allowing women and girls to return to safety and by reducing the vulnerability of female landmine survivors. To achieve this will require a return to funding mine action consistently and strategically.

The mine action sector, like all sectors, has seen its share of issues with sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse. These are issues that are being actively addressed by a number of actors; however, there is much work to be done to end these crimes and ensure justice for those harmed. Mines Action Canada welcomes the focus on ending impunity for exploitation and abuse and will work with all those committed to these ends.

Promote and protect the women’s and girls’ human rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in fragile, conflict and post-conflict settings

One of the main focuses of Ottawa Treaty advocacy is the rights of landmine victims. Female landmine survivors face intersecting barriers to full realization of their human rights due to their gender, and their status as persons with acquired disabilities. Promotion of the rights of landmine victims often results in additional attention to the rights of persons with disabilities and the rights of women. Furthermore, the rights-based implementation of the Ottawa Treaty’s provisions on victim assistance draw on international human rights documents including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Organizations involved in implementing the Ottawa Treaty have long had a focus on gender equality. Hiring of women is a key priority for a number of organizations as a path towards gender equality and empowerment. As Mines Advisory Group and the HALO Trust wrote “Employment of women in mine action can change attitudes towards women. In post-conflict contexts employing female deminers brings women into the peacebuilding process and helps them contribute to the reconstruction of their communities.” Women deminers are not only employed but they are seen as powerful agents of change in their communities. 

Meet the specific needs of women and girls in humanitarian settings, including the upholding of their sexual rights and access to sexual and reproductive health services

Victim assistance under the Ottawa Treaty requires age and gender sensitive services be provided to meet the needs of landmine victims and others with similar needs, due to the principle of non-discrimination. Women and girls with disabilities, including landmine survivors, are often overlooked in humanitarian settings despite being among the most vulnerable. Age- and gender-sensitive data from the Landmine Monitor can assist in ensuring that women and girls with disabilities are taken into account when services are planned. Support to victim assistance programs in complex emergencies can help ensure that the specific needs of women and girls with disabilities are met.

Strengthen the capacity of peace operations to advance the WPS agenda, including by deploying more women and fully embedding the WPS agenda into CAF operations and police deployments

Landmine clearance is crucially important to keeping peace operations safe and often the United Nations Mine Action Service is closely linked to peace operations. When peace operations work with landmine clearance or explosive ordinance disposal teams, women and diverse voices will need to be consulted to prioritize tasks. Also, Canada can look at increasing the deployment of explosive ordinance professionals and other engineers in peace operations as a way of raising the number of women deployed.


The new CNAP sets ambitious objectives for national implementation of the Women, Peace and Security resolutions. The Women, Peace and Security agenda is crucially important to Canada’s work on disarmament issues including the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines. By strengthening current efforts to implement the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines through a gender lens, Canada take concrete steps towards the five objectives outlined in the CNAP and towards an inclusive and peaceful world.

As Canada said in a joint statement on Gender and Disarmament Machinery at the 2017 First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly “the way disarmament issues are treated and discussed is affected by who participates in the discussion.”[2]

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[1] Article 36, “Women and multilateral disarmament forums: Patters of underrepresentation” http://www.article36.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Underrepresentation-women-FINAL1.pdf

[2] Canada on behalf of a group of states, “Statement on Gender and the Disarmament Machinery,” 26 October 2017, http://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com17/statements/26Oct_Canada_joint.pdf


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