Erin Hunt

Disarming humanitarian, banning landmines, cluster bombs, killer robots & nukes, working @MinesActionCan and loving the fights I lose.

Erin Hunt's latest activity
published Immoral Code Canadian Premiere in What's New 2022-09-12 12:40:46 -0400

Immoral Code Canadian Premiere

Mines Action Canada and the Stop Killer Robots Campaign is pleased to present the Canadian Premiere of Immoral Code on September 19 at Ottawa's SAW Gallery (67 Nicolas Street).

Immoral Code is a documentary that contemplates the impact of killer robots in an increasingly automated world - one where machines make decisions over who to kill or what to destroy. The film examines whether there are situations where it’s morally and socially acceptable to take life, and importantly - would a computer know the difference?

After the documentary we will be joined by a panel of experts to discuss the film and what Canadians can do to ensure that autonomous weapons are never used.

Moderated by our Project Officer, Gillian Flude, the panel will include:

  • Paul Hannon, Executive Director of Mines Action Canada
  • Dr. Jason Millar, Canada Research Chair in the Ethical Engineering of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Director of the Canadian Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Ethical Design Lab (CRAiEDL.ca)
  • Charlotte Akin, Projects & Logistics Officer for Stop Killer Robots Campaign

After the panel, we’ll have a reception with a cash bar so we hope to see you there!

Get your FREE tickets here.

published No Place for Cluster Munitions in What's New 2022-09-06 16:14:09 -0400

No Place for Cluster Munitions

On the final day of the 10MSP of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the Mine Action Fellows lead by Plamedi from DR Congo and Noor from Iraq delivered a strong statement to the delegates. Here is the text.

Your excellency, distinguished delegates, attendees of this plenary.

We, the representatives of the Mine Action Fellows gathered in Geneva for the 10th Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions,

 express our firm commitment and determination, towards creating a world free of suffering and casualties caused by cluster munitions.

We recognize the progress towards the implementation of the Convention, with millions of stockpiles destroyed, large areas of land cleared, and the stigmatization of the use of cluster munitions. However, we are deeply concerned about the increase in the use of this horrible and indiscriminate weapon around the world in recent years, especially in the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine, Syria and Yemen. And, we must not forget the suffering endured by many other communities affected by cluster munitions.

In this context, we urge States Parties to ensure the rights of all cluster munition victims, we also strongly call on States Parties to provide and guarantee adequate, accessible and sustainable assistance, including psychological, psychosocial, and socio-economic support and inclusion.

As young leaders, most from cluster munition affected communities, we are very concerned that the proportion of child casualties of cluster munitions increased alarmingly in 2021, rising to two-thirds of total recorded casualties. 

We demand the States Parties implement context-specific, tailor-made risk education activities, while taking into account age, gender and diversity, as well as disability considerations.

On this note, we would like to express our delight with the statements focusing on the importance of gender and diversity as highlighted in the Lausanne action plan. Yet, we strongly advocate to see action being taken towards the inclusion of everyone, in making the world a safer place.

We recognize that the Covid-19 pandemic has aggravated economic, social, and political obstacles in many countries. As a result, clearance on the ground has slowed, funding for mine risk education, victim assistance, and field activities remains insufficient, and gender and diversity perspectives have been pushed aside. 

We, as Mine Action Fellows, insist that States do not lose their humanitarian path and make the necessary efforts to fulfill their obligations. And we call on those, who have the resources, to increase support for countries that need assistance.

Moreover, we are concerned about rising tensions around the world especially involving non-state parties, which could lead to conflicts with the use of cluster munitions. For this reason, universalization has to continue and States Parties should make it clear to allies that any use of cluster munitions ever by anyone is unacceptable.

We call upon all signatory states to ratify and Non-Signatory States to join the Convention in support of mitigating the devastating effects of these weapons on people’s lives, the environment and the economy.

We also encourage States Parties to promote the convention by supporting the work of institutions, such as the UN and civil society organizations in their advocacy for universalization on the national and regional levels.

We demand that States Parties fulfill their obligations, namely the submission of the transparency reports. We are disappointed that such a large number of states have not submitted their reports for the year 2022. We believe that annual transparency reports are a great tool to show the level of commitment to the convention’s humanitarian goal. 

Finally, we would like to thank all delegations that were open for conversation about their states’ positions, and thank the President for meeting us and hearing our testimonies. We would like to express our gratitude to Mines Action Canada and the Governments of Canada and Switzerland for making our participation here today possible, as well as the donors who have supported this program in other ways.

We, the Mine Action Fellows, commit to supporting States Parties and the Convention on Cluster Munitions in achieving our shared goal of ending the suffering caused by cluster munitions. As current and future leaders, we believe there is no place for cluster munitions in the future we are building. 

 

 

published Mine Action Fellows Lead at 10MSP in What's New 2022-09-06 15:31:46 -0400

Mine Action Fellows Lead at 10MSP

The 10th Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions was the first Meeting of States Parties MAC had attended in-person since 2019 due to the global pandemic and we made sure to make our mark.

MAC hosted a Mine Action Fellows Forum with 22 young people from around the world. These Fellows had training sessions on leadership and diplomacy; heard from experts on gender and diversity; making change and research. They had a Model Review Conference to negotiate a statement to the States Parties and had multiple peer learning sessions where they got to learn from each other. In addition, they participated fully in the Meeting of States Parties talking to delegations about transparency reporting, treaty universalization and condemning the use of cluster munitions in Ukraine. The Fellows also met with the President of the Convention, UK Ambassador Aidan Liddle (see photo).

The Fellows delivered a statement in French and English to the plenary at the end of the meeting which was met with applause and excellent feedback from delegates. You can read the statement here in English or here in both languages. The MAC delegation including the Mine Action Fellows made their presence known by being the largest and most diverse delegation to the MSP. The Fellows were a clear example of how powerful civil society can be with their tireless outreach to governments.

Mines Action Canada also had the pleasure of delivering a statement on behalf of the Gender and Diversity in Mine Action Working Group. You can read the statement here and below is a video recording of Program Manager, Erin Hunt, delivering the statement. 

Your support will help ensure we can continue this unique program developing future leaders in mine action and humanitarian disarmament.

published My First Mine Action Fellows Forum in What's New 2022-07-26 15:31:35 -0400

My First Mine Action Fellows Forum

In June I had the pleasure of taking part in my first Mine Action Fellows Forum only a month after joining Mines Action Canada as the new Project Officer. The Mine Action Fellows program includes a group of over 80 dedicated youth from around the world involved in the mine action sector, who Mines Action Canada (MAC) supports due to their valuable contributions and voices. Specifically, MAC focuses on including young women in disarmament, since historically women have been excluded from this sector. Gender biases exist in many parts of the mine action sector, and our youth program is one way of countering these biases. These Fellows are either working or volunteering for a mine action organization in their home countries, and many are from mine affected communities. Mine action can include supporting victims of landmines, educating civilians on how to avoid landmines, and clearing landmines in affected communities. This on-the-ground experience makes their input extremely important, not to mention the importance of capacity-building for future leaders in this field of work. Youth of today will be the ones who finish the job, so we should prepare them for it!

Gillian (front, left) with the Mine Action Fellows and speakers in GenevaBefore I took part in this trip, I only understood the premise of the Mine Action Fellows Forum: an opportunity for the Fellows to build their skills, increase their knowledge, expand their networks, and meaningfully engage in international meetings related to disarmament. The forums involve participating in relevant international fora, where governments and civil society gather to discuss disarmament, but also much more. In between meetings, our Mine Action Fellows have the chance to network; speaking to countless experts in the field, as well as diplomats from across the world, to build their knowledge and experience on how progress is really made and build connections with people who are also in the field. Mines Action Canada also organizes learning activities to enhance leadership skills, such as learning more about what type of leader you are. But nothing could have prepared me for how amazing the Fellows themselves really are!

They are passionate about ending the use of landmines, and supporting survivors in their communities. I’m walking away with a deep appreciation of what these youth are capable of -and I can’t wait for future forums!

This Mine Action Fellows Forum took place in Geneva and was held alongside the Intersessional meetings of the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines, also known as the Mine Ban Treaty, and the National Mine Director Meeting. The Ottawa Treaty Intersessionals are meetings related to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty signed in 1997, which bans the production, use, and transferring of landmines. Eighty percent of the countries in the world, 164 states, are now Party to this treaty, making it one of the most widely accepted treaties! Part of the treaty includes a yearly meeting to discuss developments, increase transparency, and push for action. This happens in the form of statements read by individual states, and is led by a panel of states. It’s in between these meetings that the Intersessionals take place. The Mine Ban Treaty Intersessionals are a place for States and civil society to be more “messy” and not quite make decisions yet- then they come back together later in the year for the annual Meeting of the States Parties with their decisions mostly made.

The National Mine Director Meeting is very different from the Mine Ban Treaty Intersessionals. The National Mine Directors meeting is a professional development meeting where mine action workers from around the world come together to discuss best practices. Largely, these meetings involve interesting and informative presentations and then some time for questions and answers.

At the Mine Action Fellows Forum some of the items on our agenda for the week included a tour of the International Museum of the Red Cross, panel discussions with civil society experts, and various peer learning sessions. The International Museum of the Red Cross was a place where the Fellows could take their time to explore the history of aid during dangerous times for civilians. The Museum is very engaging, as throughout your tour, there are life-size video recordings of survivors telling their stories. This makes you face the hard truths of armed conflict. Mines Action Canada also organized two panel discussions with civil society experts from The Landmine Monitor, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, The Halo Trust, and Mines Advisory Group. These discussions were really informal and informative; the panelists talked about the work they do and how they are successful, and the Fellows had the chance to ask any questions they had.

The peer learning sessions are a new addition to the forums after the youth expressed an interest to learn what each other are working on. The sessions included Anderson and Angelica’s presentation on their gender focal point initiative among an Indigenous community in Colombia, and Maria’s presentation on explosive ordnance risk education for children in Lebanon. These presentations were only a small, yet interesting, glance into the great work that the Fellows are doing on the daily.

During this Forum, we also had the unique opportunity to host a reception in celebration of five years of the Mine Action Fellows program. Lots of planning went into this event, and most importantly for the youth, this involved inviting diplomats. During the days leading up to the event, the youth were busy engaging in personal conversations with diplomats in which they had the chance to invite diplomats to the reception and share part of their experience with the Mine Action Fellows program. This was an excellent opportunity for the youth to approach states with something positive to offer, which increased confidence in engaging with States later on for advocacy work. It was important that diplomats were involved, as this promotes strong connections between civil society and states which leads to progress and change. Diplomats were pleased to be invited, and it was a nice change for them to be approached with the promise of food and drinks! The reception itself was a great success, as the Fellows circled around the venue and continued to network with diplomats and civil society alike. It was an excellent opportunity for engagement and celebration!

The Mine Action Fellows are already doing amazing work in their home countries; Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Columbia, and Lebanon to name a few. They are innovative, strong-willed, inquisitive, determined, and fun! It only has taken my first Forum with a small portion of the youth to understand this. Mines Action Canada takes these committed, and energetic youth and gives them an opportunity to be where they deserve to be- actively engaging in meetings, discussing with diplomats, and learning from experts in the field. This is an invaluable experience as it gives the Fellows insight on what happens outside of the field work that they are so importantly engaged in. Returning home with this new knowledge creates an impact in their communities and organizations and learning how to be a part of where many important decisions are made is vital to future leaders being created. It was a pleasure to see how much the youth appreciated and learned from the experience.

Here’s to many more Mine Action Fellows Forums!

Gillian Flude is Mines Action Canada's Project Officer

published US Announces New Landmine Policy in What's New 2022-06-21 10:39:53 -0400

US Announces New Landmine Policy

Today the United States announced a new policy on anti-personnel landmines. This new policy reverses the Trump Administration's 2020 policy that garnered world-wide condemnation. 

The White House released the policy during the Mine Ban Treaty Intersessional Meeting and the new position was announced by the US

delegation attending the meetings as an observer.

Now the United States will align its anti-personnel landmine policy with the Ottawa Treaty in all areas except the Korean Peninsula and they will be pursuing materiel and operational solutions to allow the US to eventually accede to the Ottawa Treaty.  

The White House said "These changes reflect the President’s belief that these weapons have disproportionate impact on civilians, including children, long after fighting has stopped, and that we need to curtail the use of APL worldwide." 

Mines Action Canada welcomes this new policy and looks forward to the day when the United States will accede to the Ottawa Treaty. At a time when multilateralism is facing immense challenges, this announcement by the United States strengthens the norm against these horrific weapons and takes a stand for the rules based international order. 

Final Draft of Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas Released

The Government of Ireland released the final draft of a political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas after the conclusion of a three year process. Mines Action Canada participated in the process in person and online over the past three years. We were pleased to be in Geneva for the final meeting and were able to deliver the following statement.

 

Thank you Chair. 

Mines Action Canada would like to thank the Government of Ireland and you Ambassador for your able steering of this process through quite choppy waters.  

We welcome the final text and as a founding member of INEW, we support the comments made by our colleagues but we would like to take this opportunity to add a few comments in our organizational capacity. 

We, of course, would have liked to see a strong commitment by states to avoid the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas but we believe that this political declaration will be a stable foundation for ongoing work to protect civilians from the harm caused by explosive weapons use.  

Mines Action Canada appreciates the recognition of the impact of unexploded ordnance on civilians in paragraph 1.6 and the commitment to undertake “marking, clearance, and removal or destruction of explosive remnants of war” and explosive ordnance risk education in paragraph 3.5. 

We welcome the commitments towards victim assistance. Victim assistance is crucially important as the impact of EWIPA lasts long after the bombs fall silent. The references to gender in 1.10 and 4.5 are also very important as effective policy and practice must recognize the different impacts of EWIPA on people of different genders and ages.  

Mines Action Canada believes that it is always appropriate and feasible to make publicly available disaggregated data on the direct and indirect effects on civilians and civilian objects of military operations involving the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.  

We are pleased that the political declaration recognizes the crucial role that civil society has played in the development of the declaration and will continue to play in its universalization and implementation.  

We join INEW in pledging to support the ongoing work on this declaration. Although Canada has not seen bombing and shelling of our cities and towns, the reverberating effects of EWIPA have shaped countless Canadians. In my family, my 97-year-old aunt still speaks of how “horrid” it was to be sent away from her family in Edinburgh as a child during the Blitz. But she is not alone, Mines Action Canada recognizes that many Canadians are Canadians strictly because they or their parents sought safety from bombing and shelling - whether it is was from Vietnam in the 1970s, Lebanon in the 1980s, the Balkans in the 1990s, Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s, Syria in the 2010s or the Ukrainians who are arriving as we speak. The use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas has impacted hundreds of thousands of people who now call Canada home. 

For more than a decade we have seen a deadly pattern of harm that requires changes in policy and practice to protect civilians and civilian objects. There needs to be stronger restrictions on the use of these weapons. The commitments in this declaration are a good starting point for the international community’s shared goal of reducing civilian harm. To echo the words of you Ambassador Gaffey, we hope the conclusion of these negotiations “is just the beginning rather than the end of this important process.” 

The process thus far has shown that the problem of explosive weapons use in populated areas is a global problem that needs a global solution. So today we call on not just our own country, Canada, but all states to endorse and implement the declaration.  

Thank you. 

The political declaration will open for endorsement in the fall and we hope to see Canada in Dublin to sign on to this important commitment. Canada was one of the few states to not commit to signing the Declaration in today's meeting so we call on Canada to make their support for the declaration clear and sign on in Dublin. Read more about the whole process on the Government of Ireland's website

Complementarity beyond Disarmament and Non-Proliferation

In advance of the First Meeting of States Parties of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), Mines Action Canada is pleased to release a new briefing paper outlining the links between the Treaty and other international agreements.

Complementarity beyond Disarmament and Non-Proliferation details the synergies between the TPNW and other international agreements on human rights, sustainable development and the environment. 

This paper shows that joining and implementing the TPNW will help states meet their obligations under seven other international agreements. Download the paper here.

Overwhelmed: New report released on Ottawa's health care system and nuclear weapons

Mines Action Canada is pleased to release Overwhelmed: Nuclear Weapons and the Health Care System in Ottawa. This report based on the No Place to Hide report from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) examines the potential impact of a nuclear weapons detonation on the health care system in Canada's capital, Ottawa. 

The title "Overwhelmed" is an accurate description of Ottawa's health care system in the face of a moderate sized (100kt) nuclear detonation. The report estimates that every doctor that survives the initial blast will be responsible for 72 injured patients and Ottawa would be left with 1,764 hospital beds, which would be woefully inadequate to accommodate over 200,000 injured people.

This report is being published one week before Ottawa City Council will vote on a motion to endorse the ICAN Cities Appeal. 

Read the full report here

published Canadians Want Canada to Go to Vienna in What's New 2022-05-26 10:13:43 -0400

Canadians Want Canada to Go to Vienna

In advance of the First Meeting of States Parties of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Mines Action Canada and Project Ploughshares hosted a webinar for the Canadian public with Canadian and international experts. Thanks the support from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, this webinar asked "What's Next for Canada and the Nuclear Ban Treaty?"

The message was clear - Canada should be participating in the Meeting of States Parties as an observer. 

You can watch a recording of the webinar here. 

Comments on Draft Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons Use in Populated Areas

In light of the ongoing events in Ukraine, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, this week's consultations on a Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons Use in Populated Areas are very important.

MAC is a member of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) and we strongly support INEW's position on the draft declaration but since we are unable to travel to Geneva this week for the consultations, we have submitted some short written comments to the chair. Read our comments here.

published Cluster Munition Use in Ukraine Condemned in What's New 2022-03-03 13:35:37 -0500

Cluster Munition Use in Ukraine Condemned

Internationally banned cluster munitions causing civilian casualties

Mines Action Canada strongly condemns the ongoing use of cluster munitions in Ukraine. The confirmed use of cluster munitions has resulted in civilian casualties in multiple Ukrainian cities. Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, human rights organizations and investigative journalists have documented multiple cluster munition strikes in civilian areas. Mines Action Canada is deeply concerned about the humanitarian impact of these banned weapons and calls for the immediate end to their use.

Cluster munitions are weapons that contain multiple smaller submunitions that are released in the air to land randomly over an area the size of a football field. Civilians often make up over 90% of the casualties of cluster munitions at the time of use and when they fail to function as intended becoming de facto landmines. Over 100 countries including Canada have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions which prohibits the possession and use of these weapons because of their unacceptable humanitarian impact. Russia and Ukraine remain outside the Convention.

“We know that when cluster munitions are used civilians pay the price. It is shocking to see these inhumane weapons used in Ukrainian cities. The bombing and shelling of cities is never acceptable, but the reported cluster munition strikes on a hospital and a pre-school bring a new level of horror to this conflict” said Program Manager, Erin Hunt. “The civilian harm caused by Russia’s use of cluster munitions in Eastern Ukraine from 2014 to 2015 and in Syria from 2015 has been well documented. Mines Action Canada calls on Russia to stop the use of this internationally banned weapon before more civilians are killed.”

The use of cluster munitions in Ukrainian cities over the past week will have a long term impact on life in Ukraine. Photos from Ukraine indicate that unexploded submunitions now contaminate residential areas in Kharhiv and other cities putting civilians at risk of death or injury. The threat from unexploded submunitions, which are more lethal than landmines, will linger for years to come preventing Ukrainians from living safely in affected areas and costing lives and limbs.

“Shopping mall parking lots, city streets and residential areas are now contaminated with unexploded submunitions. Canada can take action to help Ukrainian communities affected by cluster munitions by funding humanitarian mine action operators to carry out risk education and eventually clearance operations” added Paul Hannon, Executive Director of Mines Action Canada. “Risk education, which warns people about dangerous explosive remnants of war like submunitions, is an urgent need as most civilians in Ukrainian cities have never seen these weapons before. These life-saving messages can be shared during the conflict through social media, radio and television so there is no time to waste. Canada has a long history of funding mine action operations in Ukraine which needs to continue throughout the war and into peace time.”

In addition, Mines Action Canada calls on the Government of Canada and all States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions to continue to condemn the use of cluster munitions and strengthen the global stigma against these inhumane weapons.

Canadians should urge all family and friends in Ukraine to not touch any unexploded munitions or unknown items found after bombing or shelling and to alert local emergency services to the presence of dangerous items. Please do not share videos or photos of people picking up such lethal items.

published Civilians must be protected in Ukraine in What's New 2022-02-24 15:19:59 -0500

Civilians must be protected in Ukraine

Mines Action Canada is deeply concerned about the humanitarian consequences of the conflict in Ukraine. The reported use of explosive weapons in towns and cities, and of cluster munitions pose a high risk of harm to civilians now and in the future. We call on all parties to avoid using indiscriminate weapons such as landmines and cluster munitions. Russia should immediately accede to the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines and all parties should join the Convention on Cluster Munitions. We urge all parties to respect international law and protect civilians.

Mines Action Canada stands in solidarity with the civilians who are already suffering due to this conflict.

Please also see statements from the International Network on Explosive Weapons and the Cluster Munition Coalition

 

Les civils doivent être protégés en Ukraine

Mines Action Canada est profondément préoccupé par les conséquences humanitaires du conflit en Ukraine. L'utilisation signalée d'armes explosives dans les villes et d'armes à sous-munitions pose un risque élevé de blessures pour les civils, maintenant et à l'avenir. Nous appelons toutes les parties à éviter d'utiliser des armes d’emploi aveugle telles que les mines terrestres et les armes à sous-munitions. La Russie devrait immédiatement adhérer au Traité d'Ottawa interdisant les mines terrestres et toutes les parties devraient rejoindre la Convention sur les armes à sous-munitions. Nous demandons à toutes les parties de respecter le droit international et de protéger les civils.

Mines Action Canada est solidaire avec les civils qui ont déjà souffert au cours de ce conflit.

Advice for Canada on the Situation in Afghanistan

Canada's House of Commons has convened a Special Committee on Afghanistan to examine the national response to the situation in Afghanistan including the evacuation, special immigration programs and humanitarian response.

Mines Action Canada collaborated with campaign colleagues in Afghanistan to provide written testimony to the Committee to aid in their work.

You can read the written testimony in English and French.

More information about the Committee can be found on the parliamentary website

Time to seize the opportunity to be better

The Convention on Conventional Weapons Protocol III on incendiary weapons was discussed today at the 6th Review Conference. 

On behalf of a group of 8 organizations, Mines Action Canada delivered a statement urging states to close the loopholes in the protocol. The statement notes that Protocol III was inspired by the suffering caused by incendiary weapons like napalm but calls on delegates to the Review Conference to be inspired by the resilience of survivors like Kim Phuc who survived a napalm attack as a child and now believes that "[e]very single day, we have the
opportunity to be better people." Closing the loopholes in Protocol III is a way to be better. 

You can read the full statement here

You can learn more about incendiary weapons here.

published Still Lost in the Diplomatic Woods in What's New 2021-12-14 09:55:53 -0500

Still Lost in the Diplomatic Woods

The Convention on Conventional Weapons is meeting this week for its 6th Review Conference at the United Nations in Geneva. 

This meeting happens every five years and offers states the opportunity to assess progress made under this treaty and to set plans for the next five years. 

Today, MAC's Military Advisor delivered our general statement at the Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons commenting on autonomous weapons, incendiary weapons and the protocols on landmines and explosive remnants of war.

Building on our 2019 statement, MAC asked states if they will take a direct route towards peace and disarmament or will they continue to aimlessly wander through the diplomatic woods?

Read the full statement here.

Diplomatic Surprise Still Saving Lives 25 Years Later

A Canadian initiative has been saving lives every day for the past 25 years but most Canadians have no idea.

After many years of failed efforts at the international level to adequately address the global landmine crisis, Canada agreed to host a conference in October 1996 to try to make progress on reducing the harm caused by these indiscriminate weapons. The year before formal talks in Geneva failed frustrating many countries, the ICRC, UN agencies and the three-year old International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).

Usually at such international gatherings much is agreed before the meeting takes place, but at the Ottawa Conference then Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy shocked the world by ending the meeting with a challenge to come back to Ottawa in a year to sign a treaty banning the indiscriminate weapons.

Though most in attendance were greatly surprised, the meeting resulted in renewed energy with efforts around the world. On December 3, 1997 over half the world came to Ottawa to sign a newly negotiated treaty banning landmines.

Now 164 countries belong to the Ottawa Treaty also known as the Mine Ban Treaty which prohibits the use, production and stockpiling of anti-personnel landmines and requires states to clear landmine affected areas and assist victims.

To say the Ottawa Treaty saves lives every day is an understatement.

The past two decades have shown that when the treaty is implemented with ambition and support amazing things can happen. Before the treaty, there were an estimated 20,000 landmine casualties a year; in 2020, the Landmine Monitor reported 7,073. Annual casualties are still far too high but clearly the treaty is working.

Thirty-three countries have cleared all the landmines from their territories ensuring everyone can walk and play safely. In 1997 Mozambique estimated that it would take 100 years to clear all of the landmines in the country, today Mozambique is a global success story, free from the threat of landmines.

More than 55 million landmines have been destroyed from stockpiles with millions more cleared from contaminated land.

A global problem we can solve

There are still too many casualties, too much land needs to be cleared of landmines and far too many survivors, who were victimized by the weapon, need support to rebuild their lives, restore their livelihoods and reaffirm their rights.  

For those still living in affected communities the Ottawa Treaty means hope for sustainable development and for a safer future. We know what needs to be done.

  • Stop the use and production of mines.
  • Destroy stockpiled mines so they can never be used.
  • Clear mine areas.
  • Assist the victims so they can rebuild productive lives in their communities.

All the international community needs is political will and reliable, multi-year funding. Increasing Canada’s funding to these areas of work known as “mine action” to a dollar per Canadian per year would have a huge impact on countries around the world. Investing in mine action will benefit Canadians and the affected communities.

Mines Action Canada was at that 1996 conference and we helped celebrate the treaty signing in 1997 in Ottawa. Today we commemorate that day in December 1997 and recommit ourselves to finish the job.

Mine Ban Treaty Meeting Concludes with Youth Statement

The 19th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty took place this week virtually due to rising COVID-19 cases in the host country, The Netherlands. Although we were not able to meet in person, the ICBL and the Mine Action Fellows were able speak up and be heard. 

You can read the ICBL statements to the Meeting here. The 2021 Landmine Monitor was also released providing in depth information on the impact of landmines around the world and the progress made towards a mine free world. You can access the Landmine Monitor here.

Throughout the week Mines Action Canada hosted a Mine Action Fellows Forum online to promote youth engagement and leadership in the Mine Ban Treaty and disarmament more broadly. In addition to trainings on specific topics related to the Ottawa Treaty, the Mine Action Fellows also wrote and delivered a video statement at the closing of the Meeting. Watch the statement below.

MAC Congratulates 2021 Nobel Peace Prize Winner!

Mines Action Canada congratulates Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov on being awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for "their courageous fight for freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.” We are very pleased to see the Nobel Committee recognize the importance of journalism and free expression to peace. Journalists are key to disarmament because they expose the humanitarian impact of weapons and tell the stories of those affected by conflict and violence.

published CCW Must Make a Decision in What's New 2021-09-27 12:52:57 -0400

The CCW Must Make a Decision

Military Advisor, Lode Dewaegheneire, addressed the Convention on Conventional Weapons Group of Governmental Experts meeting on Lethal and Autonomous Weapons Systems. 

Here is his statement: 

Thank you Chair. Mines Action Canada is pleased to take the floor as a member of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and as MAC’s military advisor, I would like to share a few comments on this topic.

A few months ago, I did a television interview in which I was asked “why are you, as an ex-military person, advocating for a ban on Killer Robots?” Indeed, many of you might be surprised to see an ex-military officer who served for more than 30 years including quite a few years here at CCW and in other disarmament forums in this seat.

“Ex-military” means to me a human being trained and formed under military ethical and moral standards with a genuine respect for International Humanitarian Law and civilian lives. Military personnel who have experienced combat situations understand and appreciate the need for human judgement and values in conflict. With that perspective, abrogating life and death decisions to a machine is morally, militarily ethically and legally unacceptable.

Mines Action Canada and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots are currently reaching out to veterans and finding strong support for an open letter calling for a ban on autonomous weapons because quote: “the decision to kill (by a robot) would not be the result of the skills, knowledge, intelligence, training, experience, humanity, morality, situational awareness and understanding the laws of war and international humanitarian law that men and women in uniform use to make such decision in battle” unquote. This support echoes the public opinion polls which have shown the public wants action here to ban autonomous weapons systems with high levels of support among veterans and military families.

As MAC has said before, these discussions about autonomous weapons systems seem to underestimate the skills, knowledge, intelligence, training, experience, morality, and humanity that men and women in uniform combine with situational awareness and IHL to make decisions during conflict. The Campaign works closely with roboticists, engineers, and technical experts and despite their expertise and the high quality of their work, we do not believe an algorithm could replicate this complex human decision-making process.

We know that technology can help save lives and prevent unnecessary suffering but there is a line that should never not be crossed. We must begin negotiations to prohibit autonomous weapons systems that cannot be used with meaningful human control.

The Chemical Weapons Convention is a clear example of the international community’s ability to prohibit indiscriminate and inhumane weapons while promoting scientific advancement for peaceful use of new technologies.

In just a couple months, this body will have to make decisions on the future of autonomous weapons systems. One option is to adopt a mandate to begin negotiations on a legal instrument on autonomy in weapons systems; the other option is to continue discussing this issue as the technology advances and our window for action continues to rapidly close. Those who would build this technology, those who would use this technology and those who would have this technology used on them are all calling for a prohibition on autonomous weapons systems. This year the Review Conference must choose to listen to them by adopting a negotiating mandate.

Thank you.

published Youth Address Cluster Munition Convention in What's New 2021-09-21 08:27:56 -0400

Youth Address Cluster Munition Convention

Today, the Mine Action Fellows addressed the 2nd Review Conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions via a video statement.

The full text of the statement can be found here. Thank you to the Swiss Presidency for working with the Mine Action Fellows over the past two years and to all our donors for supporting youth engagement in disarmament.