MAC staff's video message on victim assistance in nuclear ban treaty



Big win for our colleagues in Trinidad and Tobago

For the past few years, MAC has partnered with the University of Ottawa to send students to Trinidad and Tobago for internships with our colleagues the Women's Institute for Alternative Development (WINAD). In addition to supporting WINAD's work on the Convention on Cluster Munitions and other humanitarian disarmament issues, the students helped with a campaign to end child marriage.

Our Young Professionals (as we call our interns) were there when WINAD first raised the issue with the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago while others continued to work on the campaign after their internship was finished. You can read WINAD's arguments for raising the age of marriage to 18 in Trinidad and Tobago here

Recently those Young Professionals saw their work pay off. Within a year of launching a new campaign in which WINAD coordinated the work of 26 NGOs, new legislation was passed and assented to making the minimum age of marriage 18.

We are very pleased our Young Professionals were able to contribute to such important work and continue to be grateful that we are able to work with such committed and effective campaigners in Trinidad and Tobago and around the world.  




MAC Statement on the Nuclear Ban Treaty

Mines Action Canada's Statement to the Nuclear Ban Treaty Negotiations Delivered by Erin Hunt, Program Coordinator

Thank you madam President. We are encouraged by the draft text’s inclusion of positive obligations and by the depth of debate on this topic.
With regards to assistance to affected individuals it is important that this treaty furthers existing norms and obligations and does not undermine them. There is no reason that victims of nuclear weapons use or testing should have fewer rights or less access to services than victims of other indiscriminate weapons. For that reason, we support Switzerland’s proposal about adding guidance for the implementation of victim assistance to the article.
It is important to note that assistance to victims is seen as the responsibility of all states not just those in “a position to do so” so we support removing that qualifier from Article 6(1) as suggested by many states.
Remember this international legal agreement does not create any new victims – states have existing obligations to those citizens. It does though formalize the need and right for international assistance and experience with other treaties has shown that victim assistance provisions can help states better organize their activities to be more effective and efficient. By requiring data collection, as well as national plans and policies, victim assistance provisions facilitate requests for assistance internationally and ensure that services are provided effectively allowing states to meet their existing obligations to their citizens.
Turning now to Article 6(2). While the draft treaty text references environmental remediation, it merely establishes a right to seek and receive assistance. The language should be amended to make clear that states parties have an obligation to take necessary and appropriate measures to ensure remediation of contaminated areas under their jurisdiction or control.
To promote the effective implementation of this obligation, the treaty should also require specific remediation measures, such as assessment and identification of contaminated areas, removal or containment of contaminated materials, and risk reduction education. These proposed amendments to draft Article 6 draw heavily from precedent in past disarmament treaties.
Primary responsibility for environmental remediation, like victim assistance, should rest with affected states, which are best situated to coordinate implementation in their sovereign territory. But international assistance would be available and Article 6 could also include language strongly encouraging states that have used and tested nuclear weapons to provide remediation assistance to affected states.
A separate article requiring all states parties to provide international cooperation and assistance would help affected states parties meet their victim assistance and environmental remediation obligations and ensure they do not bear an undue burden. None of these proposed changes to the draft treaty text would preclude affected states from seeking redress through peaceful means from states that have used or tested nuclear weapons.
Through the implementation of these strong provisions on positive obligations, the convention will contribute to the sustainable development goals and the realization of a number of other international agreements and goals. Strong provisions regarding positive obligations are the duty of all of humanity not just specific states.
There is nothing in these provisions, even amended as suggested, that prevents an affected state from seeking redress, through other peaceful means, from user and tester states. I encourage states to review NGO working papers 14, 24, 32 and 33. Thank you.


Applying Lessons Learned

Our humanitarian disarmament partners in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) are currently working hard at the United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.

In a process inspired by the Ottawa Process banning landmines, states with support from civil society and international organizations are negotiating a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons from 15 June to 7 July 2017.  

After 20 years of work on the Ottawa Treaty and other efforts to address the humanitarian impact of indiscriminate weapons, we have learned a lot and have a lot of experience we are sharing with our colleagues. In that spirit Mines Action Canada has drafted three documents for states to review during their negotiations. 

First, we submitted a new Working Paper to the negotiating conference. Our paper on The Disproportionate Impact of Nuclear Weapons Detonations on Indigenous Communities is available on the United Nations website. It follows on some themes from our Working Paper submitted with ICAN to the March session of negotiations.

Second, we have a new Frequently Asked Questions document about victim assistance in the draft treaty text. This FAQ aims to help states and civil society ensure that the provisions regarding assistance to affected persons in the final treaty support existing norms around victim assistance. 

Third, we co-published a paper on sustainable development and the draft text of the treaty with the International Disarmament Institute at Pace University. The paper is also available in French. Our work has shown that indiscriminate weapons are lethal barriers to development.

MAC staff will be attending the negotiations and speaking at a briefing event on positive obligations in the treaty on Wednesday June 21, 2017 to further outline lessons learned from previous disarmament treaties. For more on the negotiations please visit ICAN's website at and follow the hashtag #nuclearban on social media.



Cluster Munition News

It’s been a busy few days in the global efforts to end the suffering caused by cluster munitions. We are thrilled that Madagascar ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions on May 20 becoming the 101st State Party. We look forward to working with Madagascar to achieve the aims of the treaty.

Today, the Cluster Munition Coalition and Dutch peace organization, PAX released the 2017 Worldwide Investments in Cluster Munitions: a shared responsibility report. This report outlines links between the financial community and producers of banned cluster munitions.

Canadians will be concerned to learn that there were still Canadian financial institutions listed on the Hall of Shame.  On a positive note, again this year one Canadian financial institution is listed on the Hall of Fame. Recent developments in Canada include the tabling of a private members bill in the Senate to clearly state that investment in cluster munition producers is prohibited in Canada. Mines Action Canada urges all Senators and Members of Parliament to ensure the investing in companies which make these banned weapons is prohibited in Canada.

The full press release is below. Take this opportunity to see if your financial institution invests in banned cluster bombs.

Billions $ invested in producers of globally banned cluster bombs

(Tokyo, 23 May 2017) – While 119 nations have joined the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions to rid the world of cluster munitions, in the past three years, 166 financial institutions invested US$31 billion in companies that produce cluster munitions. Investing in cluster munitions is morally unacceptable with devastating consequences when these weapons are used among civilians. Yet, financial institutions turn a blind eye and continue investing in companies that produce them. The Cluster Munition Coalition urges all financial institutions to stop investing in producers of cluster munitions.

According to the report ‘Worldwide Investments in Cluster Munitions: a shared responsibility’ published today by Cluster Munition Coalition member PAX (the Netherlands), the US$31 billion investment by 166 financial institutions went to six companies that produce cluster munitions. Of the six, two companies are located in China (China Aerospace Science and Industry and Norinco), two in South Korea (Hanwha and Poongsan) and two in the U.S. (Orbital ATK and Textron).

“Cluster bombs are banned for a clear reason, because they disproportionately harm civilians, as is the case with the ongoing use of cluster munitions by Syrian and Russian forces in Syria and by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. That is why no banks or financial institutions should put a penny in companies that produce these illegal and harmful weapons, and no company or country should produce cluster munitions,” said Firoz Alizada, Campaigns and Communications Manager at the Cluster Munition Coalition.  

“It is unacceptable to see an increase of US$3 billion investments in producers of cluster bombs in 2017 in comparison to 2016. Nonetheless, we are pleased that Textron, a major producer of cluster bombs in the US announced last year that it would cease the production of cluster munitions and that, by the end of 2017, the company will have no involvement in the production of these weapons,” said Maaike Beenes, co-author of the PAX report. “We will be following closely to see if Textron does indeed end all involvement with cluster munitions this year. We also call on all other producers to stop producing cluster bombs without further delay,” she added.

42 financial institutions in 11 countries have enacted policies ending all investments in cluster munition producers. Furthermore, 46 financial institutions in 14 countries have taken steps to prohibit investments in companies producing the weapons, however, they must fix loopholes in their policies to put an end to all investments in producers of cluster bombs.

The 166 financial institutions still investing in cluster munitions are in fourteen countries. The vast majority of the financial institutions (151) are from countries that have not joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Of these, 85 are from the United States, 30 from China and 27 from South Korea. However, 15 financial institutions that have invested in producers of cluster munitions are from countries that have joined the convention: Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The number of investors in these countries has decreased from 20 in 2016 to 15 in 2017. To fulfill their convention obligations, States Parties to the convention must take action to prohibit investments by all financial institutions.  

In strengthening the norm against cluster munitions, ten countries have enacted national legislation banning investments in cluster munitions. In addition, 28 countries have expressed the view that investments in the production of cluster munitions are prohibited. 


International Mine Action Day 2017

April 4th is International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.  This year there were some very exciting events to mark the day.

We were very pleased to see Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Crystia Freeland, announce support for mine action in Sri Lanka and Ukraine. This announcement follows soon after an announcement of funding for clearance activities in Iraq. Each of these projects will save lives and limbs for years to come. 

Minister Freeland also attended a reception at Kensington Palace hosted by our colleagues Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and The HALO Trust. At the reception, Prince Harry delivered a keynote speech highlighting the progress made since his mother, Princess Diana, spoke out about the issue in 1997 and the importance of finishing the job. 

You can see Prince Harry's full speech in the video below or read it online.

Elsewhere around the world, the President of the Ottawa Treaty, Austria's Foreign Minister released an excellent statement to mark the day. In Tunis, the Canadian Embassy hosted a reception. The UN Mine Action Service in South Sudan held a photo exhibition. Our colleagues in Iraq held a large event (see photo below). Campaigners in Albania, Yemen, the United States and more met with their governments, held public events and raised funds. The Secretary General of the United Nations reminded the world that "Peace without mine action is incomplete peace" in a statement. That is a fitting reminder of why this day is so important. Without all the pillars of mine action (clearance, risk education, victim assistance, advocacy and stockpile destruction), conflicts will continue to claim lives and limbs long after the peace agreement is signed. 



Ending the suffering caused by nuclear weapons

This is a very exciting week for humanitarian disarmament. The United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination started on Monday March 27th

It is amazing to see history being made yet again. At MAC, we want to ensure that this new treaty builds on past humanitarian disarmament success.  With that goal in mind, we have released two new papers applying the lessons learned about victim rights and victim assistance in the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines and the Convention on Cluster Munitions to a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.

The Working Paper was submitted to the negotiating conference for consideration by all participating states. It will also be available on the United Nations website shortly.

We have also published a Frequently Asked Questions to help campaigners and others advocate for strong provisions on victim assistance in the treaty. 

We hope that these documents will be useful. For more on the negotiations please follow our friends the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and the hashtag #nuclearban. 


Prohibiting Investment in Cluster Munitions

Mines Action Canada is pleased to see that Senator Salma Ataullahjan has tabled Bill S-235 an amendment to the Prohibiting Investments in Cluster Munitions Act which aims to amend the current legislation on cluster munitions. Canada has prohibited the production of cluster munitions, but this amendment will go one step further by prohibiting Canadian companies from investing in entities which produce these indiscriminate weapons. MAC welcomes this amendment as a necessary step towards humanitarian disarmament, post-conflict reconstruction, and the protection of civilians.

In her Second Reading speech Senator Ataullahjan effectively summarizes the importance of this amendment when she states, “To invest in companies that produce cluster munitions is to invest in the devastation and misery they cause… Canada has been a global leader against landmines. Let us also be a leader against the production and use of cluster munitions.” 

Debate on Bill S235 has been adjourned and should resume after the March break.  Keep an eye on our social media for more updates!


Women lead every day of the year

Women play a crucial role in global humanitarian disarmament initiatives. Mines Action Canada (MAC) knows that involving women and girls is key to achieving a more peaceful and sustainable future free of indiscriminate weapons.

In the 20 years since the signing of the Ottawa Treaty, we have seen that it is imperative that all perspectives are incorporated into mine action. We have learned that the elimination of landmines and effective victim assistance programming are impossible goals without the inclusion of women and girls.

Women, men, girls and boys all experience conflict differently and the impact of landmines is engendered. Female survivors experience many different challenges than male survivors do and women and men face differing risks from landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war. For these reasons, those working to eliminate these weapons must acknowledge these gender differences and provide services which are accessible for both sexes. MAC, and the humanitarian disarmament campaigns we participate in, are focused on gender equality and mainstreaming gender initiatives into our work at all levels.  

We benefit from strong women leading the majority of disarmament campaigns internationally. For example, all of the directors of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) have been female. The first director of the ICBL was Jody Williams who shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize with the campaign. Since then, the ICBL has had multiple female directors, including the current director of the ICBL-CMC, Megan Burke. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, the International Network on Explosive Weapons, and Control Arms are also women led.

At the national level we see further female leadership. Margaret Arach Orech is an excellent example of women leading in disarmament. A landmine survivor from Uganda, Margaret is an ambassador for the ICBL, a globally recognized expert on survivor inclusion and assistance and is the founder of the Uganda Landmine Survivor Association. There are women like Margaret participating and leading in every aspect of mine action, specifically mine risk education, clearance, and victim assistance. We see women conducting risk education, clearing landmines, providing assistance to victims, monitoring the treaty and doing advocacy around the world.  Since women’s empowerment and participation is an objective of the Canadian government, it is crucial that Global Affairs Canada recognizes and supports women leaders, like Margaret, in all aspects of mine action and disarmament.

It has been 20 years since the Ottawa Treaty was signed, and without the hard work of women around the world every single day of those 20 years the mine action and disarmament communities would be nowhere near as successful as we have been.

Young Women at the Youth Leaders Forum in 2011

MAC believes that the next generation of women leaders will be the ones to finish the job on landmines and on all disarmament campaigns. Therefore, our key focus for 2017 is increasing young women’s involvement in disarmament, peace and security. MAC hopes to host young women from mine-affected countries at a Young Women’s Leaders Forum during the Meeting of States Parties to the Ottawa Treaty in December 2017. Since it is the 20th anniversary of the Ottawa Treaty, it is a great time to bring the next generation of women leaders into the disarmament world. To help make this plan a reality, please consider donating to MAC.

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



Canadian funding for Syria announced

The conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria) has resulted in extensive landmine, cluster munition and other explosive remnant of war (ERW) contamination. Mines and ERW caused 864 casualties in Syria in 2015 while cluster munition strikes caused another 231 casualties. The contamination will continue to kill and maim people for decades.

At a time when global landmine contamination is dropping, MAC has been very concerned about increasing Syrian contamination.

Today we have some good news though, the Government of Canada announced a $4.5 million CDN contribution to Mayday Rescue to support the Syrian Civil Defence aka the White Helmets. In addition to the post-bombing search and rescue they are famous for, the White Helmets carry out risk education and explosive ordinance disposal/clearance operations in some of the most contaminated areas.

We hope that this support, following the September announcement of $12.5 Canadian over five years to mine clearance in Colombia, is the start of Canada's return to being a top-five donor to mine action.  It is time that Canada reasserts its leadership on the Ottawa Treaty and on global efforts to eliminate the suffering caused by landmines, cluster munitions and other ERW. 



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