Victim Rights, Assistance and Nuclear Weapons Memo Series Launched

The Humanitarian Initiative on nuclear disarmament has shaken the status quo to its core. Like landmines and cluster munitions, discussing the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons has opened new areas of discussion, new space for action and new possible avenues towards abolition.  One of the new areas of discussion is victim rights and victim assistance.

While there is a long history of supporting victim assistance in other humanitarian disarmament forums, the discussion of victim rights and assistance in regards to nuclear weapons has just begun.  The concepts surrounding victim assistance are not well known in the nuclear disarmament community and wider public. Victim assistance puts the humanitarian front and centre in the humanitarian approach to nuclear weapons and yet there has been some confusion and debate about what victim rights mean and what their inclusion in nuclear disarmament could offer to abolition efforts. 

Based on experience with victim assistance under the Ottawa Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, we are launching a series of memos exploring the idea of victim assistance in disarmament and what this topic can offer to nuclear disarmament. Memo #1 - A Humanitarian Approach to Nuclear Disarmament: Victim Rights and Assistance provides a brief overview of the victim assistance and victim rights to set a foundation for the upcoming memos.

Download the memo here and stay tuned for memo #2.


Hidden Dividends: Corporate Leadership and Disinvestment from Cluster Munitions

Guest post by MAC Research Associate, Andrew Luth

On September 1, 2015, Canada will become legally bound by the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). This international treaty bans the use, production, and stockpiling of cluster munitions. These deadly weapons scatter explosives over areas several football fields in size, killing indiscriminately. Current data suggests that as many as 94% of the victims of cluster munitions are civilians. Once conflict ends, unexploded cluster munitions continue taking victims, contaminating cities, fields, and forests as lethal reminders of the past. Cluster munitions often resemble toys, balls or soft drink cans, and thereby disproportionately affect children, who are often unaware of the danger.

Cluster munition and submunitions found in Sudan, April 2015 © 2015 Human Rights Watch

Canada’s ratification of the CCM in March was encouraging news. With the passage of Bill C-6, Canadian law now forbids aiding or abetting the use or production of cluster munitions. Canadian Members of Parliament, Senators and officials have stated that investment is included under this prohibition, but the legislation does not explicitly mention investment. This omission has led to confusion among Canadian financial institutions, and uncertainty about legal obligations. In its November 2014 report, Worldwide Investments in Cluster Munitions, Dutch peace organization PAX called out two major Canadian financial institutions for investing in cluster munition producers, and if you are one of the millions of clients of either of these firms, your investment might be supporting the production of cluster munitions. Despite the passage of Bill C-6, it is difficult to know if these investments have continued.

This problem partly stems from a lack of clarity and consistency within the banking industry. While many Canadian financial institutions are good corporate citizens in most of their business practices, their policies on socially responsible investing do not extend to all their activities. Large financial institutions often have independent governance structures for each part of their business. Consequently, even a good faith statement by a bank to refrain from supporting or financing transactions related to cluster munitions might not apply to practices such as investment banking or asset management. These corporate governance structures often leave sizable gaps in responsible investment policies, thereby failing to fully eliminate suspect investments. When these inconsistencies are noted, firms should promise to review their weapons investment policies in a prompt and transparent manner. These promises should use clear timelines and corporate oversight to ensure that firms can both keep themselves accountable and publicly demonstrate their progress.

It’s not all bad news though. Many Canadian financial institutions are making significant efforts to fully account for the social and humanitarian impacts of their investments. Canada’s second annual Responsible Investment Week starts today and runs to June 5th. It is dedicated to increasing education and awareness about responsible investment. Some financial institutions have already responded decisively to concerns about cluster munitions investing. NEI Investments and Desjardins Investments have been particularly proactive, leading the way in socially responsible investing on many fronts. In February, they announced a joint ban on investment in cluster munitions producers that extends to all their products and should be considered a model for all Canadian financial institutions.

Actions such as these make it clear that corporate social responsibility should extend beyond community involvement, governance and environmental sustainability. Making the world a safe place for all to live, work and play will pay immediate social dividends. It is important that these hidden dividends are not overlooked. Instead of merely conforming to the lowest legal denominator, financial institutions can and should be on the leading edge of social change both at home and around the world.

If you’d like to get involved, please contact your financial institutions and ask them to clearly state their policy on cluster munitions investment. For more information on disinvestment from cluster munitions, please contact Mines Action Canada at or visit

After graduating from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Andrew Luth spent two years living and working in China. He is currently pursuing his master’s degree at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs in Ottawa, Canada. His academic interests include disarmament, conflict analysis and resolution, and the Asia-Pacific region.


Not tilting at windmills

Over the past three years that I have been working full-time at Mines Action Canada in the field we like to call humanitarian disarmament, I have been struck by the results achieved by my colleagues around the world. Working with like-minded states, humanitarian disarmament campaigners are reframing conversations about weapons to focus on humanity and to build a safer, more peaceful future for us all. When people say that taking a humanitarian approach to disarmament is weaker than looking at state security and is idealistic compared to a real examination of power, they are missing out on much of the story. Putting humans at the centre of disarmament has shaped international law and state practice for years now and it continues to do so. Humanitarian Humanitarian disarmament campaignersdisarmament campaigners get things done even when no one is looking.

Starting in mid-2013, humanitarian disarmament campaigners in the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots began to call for meaningful human control over the use of force. Publications, media interviews and statements encouraging states to ensure meaningful human control emerged from campaigners around the world. At the first informal meeting of experts on the topic at the Convention on Conventional Weapons in May 2014, meaningful human control appeared a few times in the debate alongside other issues. Campaigners continued to push the issue forward and strove to deepen the discussion about meaningful human control nationally and internationally.

Less than a year later at the April 2015, we saw a shift in the discussion – meaningful human control was called for and mentioned by numerous state delegations. Meaningful human control featured in the food for thought paper distributed by the German chair of the meeting and in working papers submitted by other states. The concept was mentioned during discussion in almost all sessions during the week. As the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots end of meeting summary put it: “The need for meaningful or adequate or another form of “human control” has been central to the debate with the majority of states speaking in support of retaining it.” Some proponents of autonomous weapons systems have implied the topic is complex and technical however in less than two years, humanitarian disarmament campaigners have successfully framed the debate around concepts everyone can understand – human control and humanity. 

The concept of humanity and obligations to protect civilians put forward by disarmament campaigners are also that the root of two recent policy changes by the United States. First, in September 2014, the United States released a new policy regarding anti-personnel landmines after years of campaigning by Americans and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. The new policy is slightly weaker than hoped as it bans landmines everywhere in the world but the Korean peninsula; however, this policy aims to bring the United States into “closer alignment with a global humanitarian movement that has had a demonstrated positive impact in reducing civilian casualties from [anti-personnel landmines].” Even so, the humanitarian argument, carefully researched and shared by campaigners, is winning out. 

Disarmament campaigning resulted in a second policy change in the United States within the past year; this time on depleted uranium weapons. In October 2014, a Pentagon spokesperson stated that depleted uranium could be used if needed during the ongoing military operation against ISIS. Following intensive campaigning citing humanitarian concerns about the weapons, the Pentagon reversed course just a few months later in March 2015 and clarified that “US and Coalition aircraft have not been, and will not be, using depleted uranium munitions in Iraq or Syria.” This about-face shows campaigners can help governments change policies to protect civilians even during military operations by framing a disarmament issue around humanitarian concerns.

Even within the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), long a bastion of big talk about “real” security concerns and deterrence, we have seen the discussion shift towards a humanitarian approach. The 2010 NPT Review Conference outcome document included mention of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and since then campaigners have worked very hard to ensure the conversation deepened and spread. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons’ call for a treaty banning nuclear weapons based on their unacceptable humanitarian impact has gathered support from around the world. The International Committee of the Red Cross has called for the prohibition of nuclear weapons. There have been three widely attended international meetings on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons (Oslo, Nayarit and Vienna) and at the most recent meeting, Austria issued the Austrian Pledge vowing to fill the legal gap regarding nuclear weapons due to their humanitarian impact. An increasing number of states have endorsed the Austrian Pledge.

A large number of states have embraced the humanitarian framing and issued joint statements about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons at NPT and at First Committee of the UN General Assembly. The most recent humanitarian statement, as they are called, had 159 states signing on. For nuclear umbrella states that are uncomfortable with the idea of a ban on nuclear weapons, the shift towards a humanitarian discourse has been problematic. For the past two years, Australia has led a second humanitarian statement with weaker language (Canada signed this statement not the larger, stronger one). Even those who would like to maintain the status quo cannot escape the shift in language led by disarmament campaigners.

Some people who do not follow the humanitarian discussion see this Australian statement at the NPT as evidence of a weakening of the humanitarian initiative. In reality, the Australian statement shows how far the nuclear weapons discussion has shifted and how strong the humanitarian initiative is – states on the outside need to adopt the language in an attempt to avoid political fallout. Humanitarian disarmament campaigners have changed the conversation and built impressive global momentum towards a ban on nuclear weapons all while being disregarded as idealists with an impossible dream by so-called ‘realists’. 

Reality is disarmament campaigners have a proven track record of using well-evidenced humanitarian arguments to change government positions and to create international laws and norms. From landmines and cluster munitions to the newer issues discussed above, humanitarian disarmament campaigners are getting results. Donors, governments and citizens who want to see real change in the world of peace and security should get behind the humanitarian disarmament movement.

Humanitarian disarmament campaigners are not out of touch idealists. All our goals as a humanitarian disarmament community are possible however we have been framing the debate to make them not only probable but more realistic as well. A pre-emptive ban on autonomous weapons is much more realistic than waiting to see if there is some mythical benefit to humanity of delegating decisions about the use of force to robots. Ending the use of depleted uranium is much more realistic than refusing to even research the problem. A ban on nuclear weapons (even without the nuclear weapons states) is much more realistic than expecting a magical global security situation to materialize and “create conditions conducive to nuclear disarmament”. No one here is tilting at windmills; we are changing the disarmament conversation and changing policies nationally and internationally to build a safer, more peaceful world.


Anti-cluster bomb action should start in Syria

While the extension and expansion of Canada’s mission against ISIL was debated in Parliament, Canada finally ratified a treaty that could save lives in the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria) for years to come.  On March 16, Canada ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions more than six years after signing the treaty.  Cluster munitions are dropped from aircraft or fired from the ground or sea, opening up in mid-air to release tens or hundreds of submunitions, which can saturate an area up to the size of several football fields. The Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of these inhumane weapons due to the unacceptable harm they cause to civilians. 

The Syrian government continues to use cluster munitions against its own people with catastrophic results – over 1,000 casualties were reported in 2013 and the casualties continued throughout 2014 and into this year.  While Canada’s ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions will not put an immediate end to the Syrian government’s use of this horrific weapon; Canada now has obligations to help lessen the suffering of Syrians injured by cluster munitions and to contribute to the prevention of future casualties.

Under Article 21 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Canada has an obligation to discourage our allies in efforts against ISIL to not use cluster munitions. Article 21 is known as the universalization clause because it requires states parties like Canada to encourage allies to join the treaty and to discourage any use of cluster munitions by anyone.  The Canadian government should do everything it can to ensure that none of the states in the anti-ISIL coalition use cluster munitions to prevent further casualties amongst the civilian population in Syria or Iraq.

Canada also has obligations under the treaty to provide assistance to the victims of cluster munitions and to support risk education and the clearance of unexploded submunitions.  The Government of Canada can immediately begin to support Syrians who have been injured by these horrific weapons.  Support to trauma and medical services in Syria, to medical and rehabilitation services for refugees in neighbouring countries and to disability programs in the region will have an immediate impact on the lives of cluster munition survivors, their families and their communities.  All of these actions will help Canada meet the victim assistance obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions and will improve the lives of Syrians.

The government can also support risk education operations in displaced communities to help prevent casualties when people return home to areas now contaminated by unexploded submunitions.  The ongoing conflict means that clearance of unexploded submunitions cannot yet start but it is possible to educate people about the risks and to begin to gather information about dangerous areas to allow for a quick response as soon as it is safe to enter the country.  Canada can begin to plan for such life-saving actions by creating a rapid response fund and by supporting organizations that are doing surveys on the situation in Syria in preparation for clearance operations.  Over 98% of cluster munition casualties in Syria have been civilians and countless more civilians will be at risk when they return home to areas contaminated by cluster munition remnants.  Canada can act now to prevent future casualties through education and preparation for rapid response clearance.

Parliament will continue to discuss the mission in Iraq and Syria as it unfolds and pundits will analyze and criticise that we are risking too much or not doing enough.  Regardless of the extension and expansion of the military mission against ISIL, Canada has the opportunity to create meaningful change in the lives of the people who suffer the painful consequences of the Syrian government’s use of cluster munitions by fulfilling our obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions.  It is time for Canada to be a leader on ending the suffering caused by cluster munitions and let us start by helping the people of Syria.

By Erin Hunt, Programme Coordinator, Mines Action Canada.  Originally published in Embassy News on 8 April 2015


New music video highlights landmine impact on children

The Smashing Pumpkins music video for "Drum+Fife" is visually stunning and powerful.  It brings light to the fact that wars don't end just because the guns fall silent and a peace agreement is signed.  

Landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war continue to kill and maim years or decades after conflict while those who fought often return home with visible and invisible injuries only to be forgotten.

 Since the video focuses on children passing through a mine field, let's look at the most recent statistics about landmine casualties.  The Landmine Monitor 2014 has the most up to date information about the global landmine situation.

  • In 2013, the Monitor reported 3,308 mine/ERW casualties of which 1,065 people were killed and another 2,218 people were injured.  
  • On average nine people are killed or injured by a landmine or other explosive remnants of war every day.
  • Landmine casualties were reported in 55 states and other areas in 2013.
  • Afghanistan reported the most casualties in 2013 (with 1,050 people killed or injured) and Colombia had the second highest number of casualties (368 people killed or injured)
  • There were 1,112 child casualties in 2013 or 46% of all casualties.
  • The majority of child casualties were from three countries - Afghanistan, Colombia and Syria.
  • Globally women made up 12% of all landmine casualties.
  • 79% of casualties in 2013 were civilians while security forces made up 18% and 3% were deminers.

While these figures are distressing they demonstrate a marked improvement compared to the situation before the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines.  The Ottawa Treaty has led to an incredible decrease in the number of landmine casualties globally since it became international law in 1999 but there is still a long way to go. We need all states to join the Ottawa Treaty and commit to a mine free world. Learn more by visiting our website or and support our work by donating online.

Erin Hunt, Programme Coordinator, Mines Action Canada.




Mines Action Canada Welcomes Canada’s Ratification of Cluster Bomb Ban Despite Lingering Concerns about Legislation

(Ottawa – 17 March 2015) Canada has finally ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions and totally banned these inhumane weapons.  After signing the Convention on Cluster Munitions in December 2008, Canada ratified the Convention today and will be fully bound by the provisions of the Convention on September 1, 2015.  As a full state party, Canada will join 89 other states in a total ban on cluster munitions due to the unacceptable humanitarian harm they cause.  The Convention bans the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions as well as assistance with any of those acts.

Mines Action Canada remains concerned about the national legislation used to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions.  The two and a half year long process to pass this legislation is indicative of the importance of the Convention and the widespread concern about loopholes in the legislation known as Bill C-6.  During the legislative process, Bill C-6 received intense national and international attention including commentary from the International Committee of the Red Cross, from diplomats, from international organizations, from humanitarian experts and from civil society organizations.  Mines Action Canada was pleased to see the House of Commons make an amendment to the legislation in 2013. 

“Although Bill C-6 contained numerous loopholes when it was passed; it is clear that Canadians will not use cluster munitions. The debate about the legislation has ensured that the small number of Canadian allies who remain outside the Convention will not likely be putting Canadian personnel in the difficult position of assisting with the use of this banned and internationally condemned weapon,” said Paul Hannon, Executive Director. “Senator Fortin-Duplessis’ statement that ‘Canadian commanders will never have the right to order the use of cluster munitions’ even during joint military operations is a positive step and we look forward to clear directives from the Chief of Defense Staff.”

The thorough review of the legislation included clarification from the government that Bill C-6 and Canada’s ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions bans the investment in cluster munition production.  Department of Justice officials stated that Canadian investment in cluster munition producers is in fact considered aiding in their production and is illegal - “[i]f there's investment in Canada in a company offshore that amounts to aiding and abetting, then it will be subject to the Canadian criminal law under the bill.” 

Canada has been complying with some of obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions prior to ratification.  In June 2014, all of Canada’s remaining cluster munition stockpiles were destroyed well in advance of the 8 years after ratification deadline contained in the Convention.  Canada has also been submitting voluntary reports to the States Parties annually. 

As a full State Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the Government of Canada is obligated to help clear contaminated land and assist the victims of this horrific weapon.   Mines Action Canada is calling on the government to resume its position of a top five donor to mine action by contributing at least $1 per Canadian per year.  Canadian funding can save lives and ensure that Canadian tourists, businesspeople and aid workers can walk without fear everywhere. 

Amidst reports of cluster munition use in Syria, Ukraine and Libya, Canada’s ratification strengthens the stigma against these inhuman weapons.  Mr. Hannon further said “We expect Canada to discourage our allies from using cluster munitions and to encourage all countries to join the treaty.”


For more information or to schedule an interview, contact:

Erin Hunt, Program Coordinator, Mines Action Canada, mob.: 613 302-3088 email:  

Notes to Editors

About cluster munitions:

A cluster munition (or cluster bomb) is a weapon containing multiple - often hundreds - of small explosive submunitions or bomblets. Cluster munitions are dropped from the air or fired from the ground and designed to break open in mid-air, releasing the submunitions over an area that can be the size of several football fields. They cannot discriminate between civilians and soldiers. Many of the submunitions fail to explode on impact and remain a threat to lives and livelihoods for decades after a conflict.

116 countries have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions (89 full States Parties - in bold):

Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, DR Congo, Republic of Congo, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Côte D’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, The Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia FYR, Madagascar , Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Palau, Palestine, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tomé and Principe, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Zambia. See for details.

About Mines Action Canada (MAC)
Formed in 1994 Mines Action Canada (MAC) is a coalition of Canadian non-governmental organizations concerned with the human and socio-economic impacts of landmines, cluster munitions and other weapons causing similar humanitarian impacts. It is the Canadian partner of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the 1997 co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and is a founding member of the Cluster Munition Coalition.


Campaigners from around the world ask Canada to #fixthebill

As Bill C-6 implementing the global ban on cluster munitions is being studied by the Foreign Affairs Standing Committee, campaigners from around the world are seriously concerned because the legislation allows Canadians to help use and request that other countries use a banned weapon.  They have a message for Canada - #fixthebill!

A video message from Lynn in the USA:

Nora from the USA:

Leila from London:

Lucy from the UK and Umedjon from Tajikistan:

A video message from Thoummy in Laos:

Moaffak from Iraq:

Mutebar from Turkey:

Nicola from Geneva:

Serena from Taiwan:

Shushira from Thailand and Seevue from Laos:

Sylvie from France:

Umedjon from Tajikistan:

Vidya from Sri Lanka:

Boibat from Western Sahara:

Atle from Norway:

Ayman from Egypt:

Eva from Germany:

Lucy from London and Geoffrey from South Sudan:

Jeff from the USA:

Ken from the USA:

A video message from Richard in the UK:

Ban Advocates and cluster bomb survivors in Vietnam:

Ana-Maria from Peru:

Tamar from the United States:

Gus in Vietnam:

A video message from Susan from the United States:

Kasia, Tamar and Firoz in Geneva:

Olivia from Canada:

The Landmine Survivors Initiative in Bosnia:

Merel, Lucy and Amy in London:

Chuck, a Vietnam vet who clears cluster bombs in Vietnam:

Morgan, Arthur, Amelie and Jared in Geneva:

Firoz from Afghanistan has a video message for Canada:

Mr. Thi and friends in Vietnam: 






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