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]

Download the annex here.

Download a PDF version of this article


[1] Article 36, “Women and multilateral disarmament forums: Patters of underrepresentation”

[2] Canada on behalf of a group of states, “Statement on Gender and the Disarmament Machinery,” 26 October 2017,


Statement on the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Mines Action Canada congratulates the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) on being awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize! Coming 20 years after Jody Williams and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines won, this award

ICAN_award.jpgrecognizes their important work to the highlight the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons. 

In the words of ICAN: 

"This prize is a tribute to the tireless efforts of many millions of campaigners and concerned citizens worldwide who, ever since the dawn of the atomic age, have loudly protested nuclear weapons, insisting that they can serve no legitimate purpose and must be forever banished from the face of our earth.

It is a tribute also to the survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the hibakusha – and victims of nuclear test explosions around the world, whose searing testimonies and unstinting advocacy were instrumental in securing this landmark agreement."

Mines Action Canada is proud to have worked with ICAN to share lessons from the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines during the negotiations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. 

We encourage the Government of Canada to constructively engage with the nuclear ban treaty to help move us all towards a world without nuclear weapons. 

This award further proves that ordinary people can have an extraordinary impact.




Stepping back in the spotlight

In December it will have been 20 years since the world came to Canada to sign the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines. The Ottawa Treaty is a success in progress with a huge amount of land cleared of landmines, a significant decrease in the number of casualties, millions of stockpiled mines destroyed and 80% of the world belonging to the treaty. However, there is still work to do – 64 states and other areas are contaminated by landmines and other explosive remnants of war and there were over 6,400 casualties in 2015.

The States Parties to the Ottawa Treaty including Canada have set a goal to finish the job by 2025. This goal is ambitious but achievable with political will and consistent funding.

As a State Party to the Ottawa Treaty with the means to do so, Canada has an obligation to provide assistance to landmine affected states to implement the treaty under Article 6 of the Treaty. At the moment, Canada has not been meeting this obligation to a level expected of the home of the treaty and a global leader on peace and human rights.

Canada’s current support for the Ottawa Treaty

According to Canada’s Article 7 Report submitted as required by the Ottawa Treaty, Canada contributed $17.55 million Canadian to mine action projects in 2016. This $17.55 million represents an increase from 2015 contributions and is the highest total amount since 2012. However, $17.55 million is significantly lower than the all-time high of $62.83 million in 2007 and considerably lower than the 22 year average of $21.53 million.

With the contribution of $17.55 million Canadian, Canada is the 9th highest donor to mine action in 2016.


In 2016, Canada funded mine action projects in five countries: Afghanistan ($8,000,000), Colombia ($3,235,000), Iraq ($4,513,425), Sri Lanka ($569,386) and Ukraine ($1,232,817).

There are five pillars of mine action: victim assistance, mine clearance, stockpile destruction, risk education and advocacy. Canada’s 2016 funding was concentrated on one of these pillars – mine clearance. Some funded projects included risk education alongside the clearance operations. The only funding to include victim assistance and advocacy was the $8,000,000 CDN to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in Afghanistan. The description of this project listed all aspects of UNMAS’ work so it difficult to ascertain how much of the Canadian funding went to each pillar of mine action specifically.

Gaps in Canada’s support for the Ottawa Treaty

Canada’s support for the Ottawa Treaty currently has a number of gaps that leave some members of the international community questioning Canada’s recent commitment to its greatest contribution to global peace and security in the past 50 years.

Canada has not been very active on the Ottawa Treaty diplomatically in recent years. There has been a slight increase in engagement since early 2015 however, in general, there is little evidence that Canada has been speaking out on the issue publically or privately.

Canada’s funding support for the Ottawa Treaty, as it is currently implemented, contains large geographic gaps. Structural barriers have made it almost impossible for Canada to assist key states in dire need of support to meet their goals under the Ottawa Treaty, for example, Angola, Cambodia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These barriers also prevent Canada from assisting other states with heavy contamination such as Vietnam. If a state is not one of Canada’s development target countries or a state in need of stabilization, it is unlikely that Canada will be able to provide mine action assistance regardless of the need or our treaty commitment. The new Feminist International Assistance Policy is supposed to end the Countries of Focus program. However, the lack of details on how such a change will be implemented raises questions about how effective the new policy will be in closing geographic gaps in Canada’s support of mine action and the Ottawa Treaty. Indeed without specific recognition of how mine action meets Canada’s feminist foreign policy, connects to the SDGs, and addresses particular development needs of affected countries, it is not clear how removing the countries of focus approach will contribute to increased funding for the pillars of mine action.

As the table of data from Export Development Canada below indicates, all four of the countries mentioned above have business ties with Canada, as well as cultural ties, ensuring that support for mine action including clearance, victim assistance and advocacy in them would be of benefit to Canadians in addition to ensuring that Canada meets its obligations under the Ottawa Treaty.




DR Congo


Canada companies assisted by EDC





International buyers insured by EDC





Business Volume (CAD)

$354.91 Million

$0.96 Million

$1.97 Million

$202.93 Million

In addition to geographic gaps, Canada’s support for mine action has significant gaps in terms of the pillars of mine action that are supported. As mentioned above, Canadian funding in 2016 focused very heavily on mine clearance and contained little support for other crucial pillars such as victim assistance and advocacy which includes research and monitoring of the treaty. Without funding for victim assistance and advocacy, it will be difficult to meet the 2025 goal. The lack of Canadian support for advocacy and victim assistance is curious considering the direct links between those two pillars of mine action and the feminist approach to international assistance taken by the government.

A renewed commitment

During the 2015 election, the Liberal Party of Canada pledged that “A Liberal government will re-engage on this important treaty and lobby non-signatory states to join the treaty” when asked about the Ottawa Treaty. In order to truly re-engage with the Ottawa Treaty, Canada should:

  • Ensure that diplomats, Ministers, parliamentarians and other representatives of Canada advocate for the universalization and full implementation of the Ottawa Treaty when engaging in bilateral and multilateral discussions on international peace, security and development issues;
  • Recognize the important contribution mine action makes to the Sustainable Development Goals, gender equality and peacebuilding;
  • Support research and evidence based decision making within Canada’s mine action work and in global efforts towards the 2025 goal;
  • Mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Ottawa Treaty as part of the Canada 150 celebrations;
  • Include victim assistance and advocacy programs in Canadian funding for mine action; and
  • Increase Canadian funding for mine action to $1 per Canadian per year. This achievable target would put Canada in the top five donors on mine action; allow Canada to contribute meaningfully to the goal of a mine free world by 2025; support grassroots organizations and meet our obligations under the Ottawa Treaty. By dedicating specific funding to mine action, Canada would have more flexibility to assist states which need support to implement the treaty.

Canada has the resources and the capacity to be a leader on landmines again by making a few small adjustments. The funds and the diplomatic resources required to make this re-engagement a reality are there, all that is needed is political will.  With Canadian leadership, it is possible to end the suffering caused by landmines by 2025.


Building Common Security Conference

MAC is pleased to partner with the Group of 78 and other organizations working on peace and disarmament on the Group of 78's annual policy conference here in Ottawa.

Nuclear disarmament ultimately requires a shift from the doctrine of mutually assured destruction (MAD) to a commitment – in mind, policy and practice – to mutual security, through a sustainable common security regime rooted in global interdependence, the rule of law, and a recognition of the limited utility of military force in responding to political conflict. Common security is built on UN Charter principles and on mutual security arrangements, rather than competitive military alliances, and focuses on war prevention and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

On September 22 and 23, join us for GETTING TO NUCLEAR ZERO: BUILDING COMMON SECURITY FOR A POST-MAD WORLD in order to talk about how humanitarian disarmament can help build common security.

 For more on the conference and to register please click here.


Cluster munition attacks spike casualty toll as world shows steadfast resolve for humanitarian ban

(Geneva, 31 August 2017) – States are continuing to ratify and implement the international treaty prohibiting cluster munitions while new use of these notorious weapons in Syria and Yemen has caused even more civilian casualties, according to the annual monitoring report released today by the Cluster Munition Coalition at the United Nations (UN) in Geneva.

“Last year, cluster munition casualties doubled, and civilians accounted for nearly all of the victims. The only sure way to end this insidious menace is to have all states embrace and adhere to the international ban on these weapons,” said Jeff Abramson, coordinator of the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor initiative. “The humanitarian devastation caused by cluster munitions is particularly acute in Syria, where use has continued unabated since mid-2012.”

Cluster Munition Monitor 2017 identified at least 971 new cluster munition casualties globally in 2016, with 860 of these in Syria. This global number is certainly less than the actual total. Disturbingly, the number of casualties in 2016 is more than double the number recorded in 2015 (417), making it the second-highest annual figure since Cluster Munition Monitor reporting began in 2009 (highest was in 2013). When it was possible to identify their status, civilians made up 98% of casualties. Most of these casualties occurred during cluster munition attacks (837 in Syria and 20 in Yemen). Additionally, more than 100 people were known to have been killed or injured by previously unexploded cluster munition submunitions, the deadly landminelike remnants left over from earlier attacks. In Lao PDR, all of the 51 new casualties in 2016 were the result of remnants from cluster munitions used in the 1960s and 1970s. In total, casualties were recorded in 10 countries in 2016, but new attacks causing casualties were recorded only in Syria and Yemen.

Since August 2016, two countries have ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions (Benin and Madagascar), bringing the total number of States Parties to 102. Another 17 states have signed but not yet ratified the convention. Last December, 141 states, including 32 non-signatories to the convention, adopted a key UN General Assembly resolution supporting the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

“Most countries in the world are now part of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and working hard to implement its disarmament obligations,” said Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch, ban policy editor of Cluster Munition Monitor 2017. “The ongoing use of cluster munitions in Syria is an affront to that steady progress and must continue to be vigorously condemned without reservation.”

Syrian government forces have continued to use cluster munitions, with at least 238 cluster munition attacks recorded in opposition-held areas across the country between August 2016 and July 2017. Russia has participated in a joint military operation with Syrian forces since 30 September 2015. A Saudi Arabia-led coalition of states has used cluster munitions in Yemen, although the number of cluster munition attacks has declined following widespread international condemnation. None of these countries have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Cluster munitions are fired by artillery and rockets or dropped by aircraft, and open in the air to release multiple smaller bomblets or submunitions over an area the size of a football field. Submunitions often fail to 2 explode on initial impact, leaving dangerous remnants that pose the same danger as landmines until cleared and destroyed. The Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force on 1 August 2010 and comprehensively prohibits cluster munitions, requires destruction of stockpiles within eight years, clearance of areas contaminated by cluster munition remnants within 10 years, and the provision of assistance for victims of the weapon.

Under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, 28 States Parties have completed the destruction of nearly 1.4 million stockpiled cluster munitions containing more than 175 million submunitions. This represents the destruction of 97% of all cluster munitions and 98% of all submunitions declared as stockpiled under the treaty. During 2016, three State Parties (Slovakia, Spain, and Switzerland) destroyed 56,171 cluster munitions and 2.8 million submunitions.

In 2016, operators surveyed and cleared at least 88 km2 of contaminated land worldwide resulting in the destruction of at least 140,000 submunitions, both increases compared to the previous year. Mozambique announced the completion of clearance of its contaminated areas in December 2016.

“Efforts to grow the convention's membership continue to be central to stigmatize the use of these weapons and to bring an end to the threat they pose. Convention members have a better understanding of the location and scale of contamination, and will more readily share information about it, compared with states outside the convention,” said Amelie Chayer, acting director of the Cluster Munition Coalition.

At least 26 states remain contaminated by cluster munitions, including 12 States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Continued conflict and insecurity, particularly in Syria and Yemen, is hampering clearance of cluster munitions.

Countries with obligations to improve their assistance to cluster munition victims boosted their commitments to addressing victims’ rights when they adopted a five-year action plan at the convention’s First Review Conference in 2015. The 14 States Parties with cluster munition victims, and national victims’ organizations, face serious challenges because resources made available for them do not measure up to the promise of adequate assistance.

### ENDS

About the Monitor: This eighth annual Cluster Munition Monitor report has been prepared by the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) for dissemination at the Seventh Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions at the UN in Geneva on 4–6 September 2017. It is the sister publication to the Landmine Monitor report, issued annually since 1999 by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor is coordinated by a committee of ICBL-CMC staff and representatives from CMC member organizations, Danish Deming Group, Handicap International, Human Rights Watch, and Mines Action Canada.

Using the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions as its principal frame of reference, the report focuses on activities in calendar year 2016 with information included into August 2017 where possible. It covers global trends in ban policy and practice, survey and clearance of cluster munition remnants, cluster munition casualties, and efforts to guarantee the rights and meet the needs of cluster munition victims. These findings are drawn from updated country profiles published online.


For more information or to schedule an interview, contact:

  • Laila Rodriguez-Bloch, Media Consultant, Geneva (CEST), Mobile/WhatsApp +41 (0) 78 953 0720 or email media [at]
  • Jeff Abramson, Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor Program Manager, United States (EDT), Mobile 1-646-527-5793 or email jeff [at]
  • Erin Hunt, Program Coordinator, Mines Action Canada, Ottawa (EDT), Mobile/Whatsapp +1-613-302-3088 or email erin [at] 

How do the weapons used determine what's next for Mosul?

After years of occupation by the so-called Islamic State (Da’esh) the city of Mosul, Iraq is on the verge of being liberated. The urban battle there has raged for almost nine months leaving a devastating humanitarian disaster in its wake. The weapons which were used during this battle have a direct impact on what comes next for the city and its inhabitants.

Although the Iraqi Prime Minister has declared victory and the city liberated, the humanitarian suffering will continue for years or more likely decades due to the indiscriminate and inhumane weapons used.[1]

The weapons used and their impact

For a number of years, civil society under the International Network on Explosive Weapons and a number of states have been concerned about the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas. During the battle for Mosul, INEW expressed great concern about the weapons being used and encouraged all actors to cease using explosive weapons with wide area effects in the densely populated city. Despite these calls for restraint, populated areas of Mosul and especially west Mosul have seen the use of airdropped munitions, unguided bombs, multiple launch rocket systems, mortars, other shelling, and improvised explosive devices including car bombs for months.

The use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in a densely populated city results in high levels of civilian casualties. Mosul has seen this assertion to be true over the past nine months. Airwars, a civil society monitoring organization, estimated that as of July 1, 2017 between 900 and 1,200 civilians were killed by Coalition airstrikes or artillery in Mosul. That number does not include civilians killed when there was uncertainty about the user of the explosive weapon (International Coalition, Iraqi security forces or Da’esh) or casualty reports which could not be verified. The casualty toll from Da’esh’s use of explosive weapons and improvised explosive devices is expected to be quite high. The United Nations reports that in a three day period in March 2017, at least 95 civilians were killed in four neighbourhoods of western Mosul alone by Da’esh explosive weapons and snipers.

These numbers of civilians killed only show a small glimpse of the suffering caused by the explosive weapons with wide area effects used in Mosul. For each person killed, many more have been injured. The ICRC reported that their surgical team at Mosul General Hospital has received over 650 cases, many of them children. Hospitals in the area have been overwhelmed with the injured during the battle.

Those who are injured may need ongoing care to deal with their injuries and any resulting impairments.  Rehabilitative services, prosthetics, mobility aids and psychological support will all be needed to ensure that those injured can participate in society fully.

Beyond immediate casualties the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in Mosul has resulted in extensive destruction of key infrastructure, housing and other buildings greatly compounding the ongoing humanitarian suffering.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reports that water treatment plants and pumping stations in both eastern and western Mosul were damaged. Of the damaged facilities, nine are under rehabilitation in July 2017, however, ongoing insecurity and a lack of funding has inhibited rehabilitation. Water is currently being trucked into Mosul. Related to the damage done to the water supply is the destruction of sanitation infrastructure. In addition, the electrical grid has been seriously disrupted, waste disposal operations have been halted for months on end and schools, medical facilities and religious or cultural buildings were destroyed. All of these results of explosive weapons use have humanitarian consequences now and will make it much harder and costlier to rebuild a thriving city in the future.

UNOCHA reported that out of west Mosul’s 54 residential neighbourhoods, 38 are heavily to moderately damaged. The damage and fighting combined with the draconian rule of Da’esh has resulted in over half a million people being displaced from in and around Mosul. Studies conducted in similar situations around the region have shown that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is a key driver of displacement and the ICRC gathered a number of reports from displaced persons from Mosul who stated they fled the city due to explosive weapons use. For many, return will be impossible until rubble has been cleared and reconstruction has been begun.

Not every explosive weapon used in the battle for Mosul functioned properly, especially considering the number of homemade mortars. These explosive remnants of war will need to be cleared before reconstruction and return of displaced persons can begin in earnest.

In addition to the explosive remnants of war, Da’esh has been using improvised landmines, booby traps and other victim activated weapons extensively to continue killing after they have retreated. In one village near Mosul, improvised mines have already killed ten and injured five. High levels of contamination are being reported across the region in areas liberated from Da’esh and Mosul is no exception. The improvised mines left by Da’esh aim to prevent civilian return to Mosul and surrounding villages.

Mines are being found surrounding essential infrastructure, schools and other public buildings further impeding reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts. Booby traps contaminate residential homes waiting in mattresses, kitchen sinks, doorways and other ordinary items for the residents to return. The contamination will take years to clear. Mines Advisory Group calls the situation in areas liberated from Da’esh a new landmine emergency, noting that the improvised mines created by Da’esh are often sensitive enough to be triggered by a child but packed with enough explosive to destroy a tank.

What’s next?


There is little doubt that significant work needs to be done to rebuild Mosul after the nine months of conflict and years of Da’esh rule. Iraqi officials estimate that recovery and complete reconstruction will cost billions of dollars.

The weapons used during the conflict in many ways dictate the next steps towards reconstruction. Of prime importance is rehabilitating water and sanitation facilities as well as the electrical grid. In terms of saving lives and limbs, the clearance of mines and ERW must be a priority. The presences of ERW and improvised mines will hamper reconstruction by making clearing rubble and navigating the city a very risky endeavor. Humanitarian demining organizations are on the ground outside the city and armed forces explosive ordnance disposal teams are also working hard to remove the mines and ERW. However, this is a task that will take many months or years. Without clearance, travel, shopping, attending school and other aspects of everyday activities will be life-threatening. Once this work is done, the city and surrounding countryside can return to a thriving community.

In the meantime, risk education will be needed to protect civilians still living in Mosul and those who may return. Risk education can show residents what common dangerous objects look like and warning signs will remind citizens to be on the alert. For communities that have never been contaminated with mines and ERW before risk education is crucially important. Such activities are already underway and will need to be expanded to populations who were recently liberated from Da’esh.

The destruction of buildings through explosive weapons use has resulted in significant amounts of rubble littering neighbourhoods across Mosul which will need to be cleared before reconstruction can begin in earnest. The rubble poses a threat to the health of residents as well as an impediment to reconstruction. Rubble may contain harmful chemicals while the long term inhalation of dust may impact breathing; these impacts will be magnified if industrial areas and infrastructure was targeted. Environmental remediation will have to be included in the recovery plans to ensure that the city remains a healthy place to live.

At the moment, reports indicate that not only is there significant amounts of rubble in West Mosul, but that the bodies of those killed in the bombing and shelling are still buried under the rubble. Collection of human remains and proper burial is needed to be able to start clearing the rubble and to allow family members and friends to grieve.

Once the deceased have been properly cared for and the rubble cleared, basic infrastructure will need to be repaired or rebuilt. Displaced persons will need to have access to water, sanitation and electricity prior to return. The destruction of Mosul is extensive as discussed above. Water, sanitation and electricity infrastructure have been severely damaged, schools and hospitals have been destroyed and roads are clogged with rubble. The rehabilitation of destroyed infrastructure has already begun but the process will be long. Standing buildings will need to be assessed for structural safety, as well as, for improvised mines, booby traps and other ERW. Partially destroyed buildings will need to be repaired following assessments. Destroyed buildings will need to have the rubble cleared away and the buildings rebuilt. In addition to essential infrastructure, houses, schools, hospitals, mosques, churches and markets will need to be rebuilt. Entire neighbourhoods have been destroyed and will need extensive reconstruction to make them thriving communities again. This will be a long and costly process, but the city will need to be rebuilt in order for the citizens to be able to return and begin to re-establish their lives.

Beyond Rebuilding

For those who lived through the conflict, re-establishing their lives will require more than just rebuilding the city and its infrastructure. As mentioned above, ensuring proper support and services to those injured by explosive weapons will be a major undertaking for the foreseeable future. Medical care, rehabilitation, mobility aids, assistance with social and economic reintegration and psychosocial support will all be needed. To provide services to the large number of injured, there will need to be a large increase in the availability of age and gender sensitive services. Under the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Iraq has an obligation to provide assistance to victims of those weapons. The principle of non-discrimination in victim assistance under those two treaties would likewise require the provision of services to citizens with similar needs regardless of the cause of those injuries. Those who were not injured but have lived under the bombing and shelling for months may require mental health care as well.

One consideration that is not entirely unique to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, but is greatly exacerbated by their use is the fate of unaccompanied children. Families get separated in armed conflict. The Red Cross/Red Crescent and other organizations have worked to reunite families in conflicts for decades. More than just getting lost in the chaos of fleeing conflict, UNICEF reports that a number of medical facilities have received injured or traumatized children who are alone and remain unclaimed. Often they are the sole survivor of a bombing or airstrike that destroyed their family’s home. The explosive weapons used in Mosul would frequently collapse an entire home or building on those inside, especially in the Old City, killing large numbers of the same family. This family destruction was intensified by the use of civilians as human shields by Da’esh which forced extended families to shelter together.  Some of these unaccompanied children may be in the care of  UNICEF and other humanitarian organizations but that is a temporary solution. These children will need to be reunited with surviving extended family or placed in safe and loving foster or adoptive homes to give them the best possible chance to recover from this trauma and become productive members of society.

All of this reconstruction work requires strong social cohesion and civil society. Years of displacement or occupation coupled with the long battle have weakened social ties as is evident by the extra-judicial retribution currently going on in Mosul. If the goal is to rebuild the city and defeat Da’esh work needs to be done on countering the damage done to the culture of the city, as well as, the buildings and people. Citizens are beginning this work already by bringing back music and cultural activities and that work should be supported. Civil society organizations should also be supported especially networks and peer support groups for survivors of explosive weapons use. We know from work on landmines and cluster munitions that peer support is key to adapting to new impairments caused by weapons injuries in terms of physical, psychological and economic recovery. It will also be crucially important to ensure that women and marginalized communities have a seat at the table while decisions are made about rebuilding the city. Iraqi officials and others must make sure these populations are included in the reconstruction process. In addition to supporting the physical rebuilding of the city, donors such as Canada should be supporting grassroots organizations to build their capacity to provide services in Mosul and to reconstruct society.


Moslawis experienced years of occupation by an inhumane terrorist organization and then suffered immensely during the battle to liberate the city from Da’esh. Much of this suffering was caused by the tactics used during the battle and the behavior of actors in the conflict, but the weapons used will determine what comes next for the city. The city cannot rebuild without dealing with the legacy of the weapons used and the ways in which the weapons have harmed and continue to harm the civilian population.

[1] This article deals solely with the humanitarian harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. There are a number of reports of humanitarian harm and extra-judicial killings taking place in areas liberated from Da’esh. These reports are concerning; they should be investigated thoroughly and perpetrators brought to justice.


Mines Action Canada Welcomes the Adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Mines Action Canada (MAC) warmly welcomes the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by UN Member States at the United Nations on July 7, 2017. Over 120 states participated in the negotiations.

20170707_104311_resized.jpgThe process to develop the treaty was motivated by the catastrophic humanitarian impacts that would result of any use or detonation of a nuclear weapon. This new treaty is grounded in the humanitarian approach to disarmament pioneered by the Ottawa Process banning landmines. It makes nuclear weapons illegal as well as immoral.

MAC has been working on indiscriminate and inhumane weapons for over two decades so we are very pleased to see nuclear weapons prohibited like all other weapons of mass destruction. MAC staff were involved in the negotiations of this treaty to share lessons learned from the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines and the Convention on Cluster Munitions. These lessons were translated into the Article 6 provisions on Victim Assistance and Environmental Remediation which were significantly strengthened over the course of negotiations.

MAC is glad to see the groundbreaking recognition of the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons activities on indigenous peoples found in the Preamble of the Treaty. This recognition is something MAC strongly advocated for in cooperation with a number of civil society and indigenous organizations. The treaty also highlights the impact of nuclear weapons on women and girls. MAC is pleased to see the commitment to supporting and strengthening the effective participation of women in nuclear disarmament and reference to the importance of peace and disarmament education in the Treaty.

Canadian civil society and parliamentarians participated in the negotiations and contributed to the development of this treaty as a strong normative instrument. “The Government of Canada did not attend the negotiations but Canadian civil society has ensured that the Treaty reflects Canadian values such as humanity, respect for the environment, peace, justice and security,” said Erin Hunt, Program Coordinator of Mines Action Canada.

Mines Action Canada strongly encourages Canada to sign the treaty when it opens for signature in September 2017 in order to continue our strong tradition of putting humanitarian concerns at the center of disarmament policy which started with the prohibition on blinding lasers, the Ottawa Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

(Moment of adoption - photo by Clare Conboy, ICAN)


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