(Ottawa, 7 July, 2023) –Mines Action Canada, a member of the Cluster Munition Coalition, is appalled by the United States’ plans to transfer banned cluster munitions to Ukraine, as reported today in the New York Times. The transfer of the weapon, prohibited under the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, follows repeated requests by Ukrainian officials for cluster munitions to counter the Russian invasion.
Since the beginning of its invasion of Ukraine in February, Russia has used cluster munitions extensively, causing civilian harm, damaging civilian infrastructure, and contaminating agricultural land. Ukrainian forces have used cluster munitions on several occasions in the war according to the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and other reporting. Russia, Ukraine and the United States remain outside of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
“The Biden administration’s decision to transfer cluster munitions will contribute to the terrible casualties being suffered by Ukrainian civilians both immediately and for years to come. Russia and Ukraine’s use of cluster munitions is adding to Ukraine’s already massive contamination from explosive remnants and landmines,” said Paul Hannon, International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munition Coalition Governance Board Vice Chair.
The exceptional move was authorized by a presidential waiver allowing the US to transfer cluster munitions that have a greater than one percent unexploded ordnance rate.
States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, like Canada, should oppose any transfer and use of the weapon, and urge Russia and Ukraine to not use cluster munitions due to the foreseeable harm to civilians.
Cluster munitions are delivered by artillery, rockets, missiles, and aircraft. They open in mid-air and disperse dozens or hundreds of submunitions, also called bomblets, over a wide area. Cluster munitions not only kill at time of impact, they also leave a lethal trail of unexploded ordnance threatening lives for years to come.
“The humanitarian harm caused by cluster munitions is undeniable. The experience of other militaries also shows that cluster munitions pose a threat to Ukrainian soldiers who will be forced to advance through territory contaminated with failed submunitions,” said Mines Action Canada’s Executive Director, Erin Hunt. “Choosing a weapon that is proven to kill civilians and prevent displaced persons from coming home will not help win the peace.”
Since the Russian invasion in February 2022, Mines Action Canada has consistently and successfully advocated for Canadian support to Ukrainian efforts to clear unexploded ordnance and landmines from their territory. Adding more cluster munitions to the deadly contamination in Ukraine will make the process of making farmland and communities safe much more difficult.
Mines Action Canada and the Cluster Munition Coalition call for an immediate halt to transfers of the internationally banned weapon, and urges the United States, as well as Russia and Ukraine, to join the Cluster Munition Convention as soon as possible to guarantee protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian law.
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To arrange interviews please contact: Erin Hunt, Executive Director, Mines Action Canada, +1 236 638-8188, erin [at] minesactioncanada [dot] org (Victoria, BC)
About Mines Action Canada
Mines Action Canada is Canada’s humanitarian disarmament campaign and a co-founder of the Cluster Munition Coalition. MAC envisions a world in which individual and communal rights and dignities are no longer ravaged by the devastating impact of armed conflict.
On International Mine Action Day, Mines Action Canada is launching our new Strategic Plan 2023-2026. Today is a day to celebrate successes by the mine action community and to recommit ourselves to finishing the job on landmines and cluster munitions so there is no better day than this to launch our Strategic Plan. This plan is our guide for our humanitarian disarmament work over the next three year which will cover a time of transition for both MAC and the agreements we work on. The Ottawa Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions will have Review Conferences, the Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will build strong foundations for implementation and the international community will come together to address the threat from autonomous weapons. There is a lot of change coming and with this plan we will be ready for it.
MAC’s belief in ‘Ordinary people having an extraordinary impact’ has been a key driver of our success thus far and continues to be a guiding principle for this Strategic Plan. We know that embracing inclusivity and empowerment while putting people at the centre of our work will lead to better outcomes. Inspired by our values, our five Strategic Directions encompass our priorities for the future internally and externally.
MAC remains committed to a vision of a world in which individual and communal rights and dignities are no longer ravaged by the devastating impact of armed conflict. This strategic plan is our three-year roadmap to achieving that vision.
Today the first half of the 2023 Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) meeting on autonomous weapons ended. Once again, little to no progress was made towards a new legally-binding instrument on autonomous weapons. Despite growing international momentum for a treaty and excellent statements from some states this week, we are not hopeful those statements will translate into action because the structure of the CCW allows for just one state to block all progress. We need to get out of this stalemate, and make real progress towards a treaty. And you can help!
While we cannot do much about the structure of the CCW, we can call on Canada to lead negotiations under the United Nations General Assembly and for that reason….
We are launching a new autonomous weapons petition to Parliament!
The new petition calls upon the Government of Canada to:
- "Prohibit the domestic development, importation and use of autonomous weapon systems that do not allow for meaningful human control.
- Develop national regulations so that other autonomous weapon systems will be used only with meaningful human control.
- Take an active leadership role in international negotiations to prohibit autonomous weapons systems through new international law under the auspices of the United Nations General Assembly or another inclusive multilateral forum”
If you want our government to take action against killer robots, print out the attached paper petition and encourage 25 people to sign. You can ask your friends, family, co-workers, neighbours - anyone who doesn’t want to see a world where autonomous weapons exist.
Once you have 25 signatures, you can mail the petition to your Member of Parliament for them to present in the House of Commons. If you do not know who your MP is, you can find their name and phone number here. It’s always a good idea to call their constituency office to ask if they will support the petition. If they won’t or you do not want to call them, that’s ok. Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Island, is sponsoring this petition and will present any submissions in the House of Commons.
Mailing letters to MPs is free, so it requires no stamp. Just put the MP’s name and the following address on your envelope and drop the letter in your local mailbox.
House of Commons
Petitions are a great way for supporters, like you, to get involved with our work on killer robots. By signing and sharing a petition, you are making your voice heard to decision-makers. Members of Parliament want to know what their constituents care about, and petitions are an excellent way of showing them that Canadians care about banning autonomous weapons!
We are doing this as a paper petition and not an e-petition because e-petitions are only presented once to parliament, while paper petitions get presented every time at least 25 people sign it.
Get involved with Mines Action Canada by sharing this petition and collecting 25 signatures. Together, we can show the Government of Canada that Canadians are saying NO to autonomous weapons.
Don’t think you can get 25 signatures? That’s ok, get as many as you can and send them in to MP Elizabeth May. Her office can combine your signatures with another petition to make sure your voice is heard!
We're so excited to start 2023 with an important announcement for Mines Action Canada and our community. The Board of Directors is pleased to share that beginning this month, Erin Hunt will take on the role of Co-Director, alongside Paul Hannon.
Erin's journey with MAC started in 2003 as a youth volunteer and over twenty years she's built her career in disarmament, with notable expertise in policy, programs, and gender. Erin's deep commitment to MAC and our partners will offer continuity in this transition and her new ideas for MAC's future will bring opportunity. The Board is inspired by the vision that Erin has presented for Mines Action Canada and we are honored to have her lead the organization forward.
Paul's legacy is represented in this transition. Paul has led MAC with integrity, kindness, and dedication for 25 years. During his tenure, we've proven to be a sustainable and impactful organization. Among his many important contributions, Paul's lasting impacts are seen through his service as a coalition builder and mentor to emerging professionals. Having built exceptional youth programs, half of our board members and Erin have all been trained by the programs that Paul founded and nurtured. After serving in a co-leadership model, we will celebrate Paul's retirement in July and Erin will take on the role of Executive Director.
In the coming months, we look forward to sharing MAC's new organizational strategy. We have so much hope in MAC's future and we can't wait to see the organization build on its strong foundation and grow its impact in fresh and dynamic ways.
Statement from the Co-Directors
As the Co-Directors of Mines Action Canada, we are looking forward to this transition. When Paul informed the board of his plans to retire, the Board undertook a thoughtful and independent succession process, and we are very pleased with the outcome.
Our current co-directorship will ensure a smooth transition building off years of working together. During this time of change, MAC will also be releasing a new strategic plan which will guide our work going forward.
Paul is retiring after career that has an indelible mark on the field of humanitarian disarmament. These next few months will offer an opportunity to ensure his knowledge is passed on and he is able to successfully bring his 25 years in disarmament to a close.
Erin will bring new energy, commitment, creativity, perspective, and drive to the position, in addition to experience and knowledge. These traits and experience will help her and MAC move forward by building on the past successes. Under Erin’s leadership, MAC will continue to a leader on humanitarian disarmament issues and campaigns.
The future of MAC is bright.
Non-governmental organizations convene to launch Campaign to Stop Killer Robots
(London, April 23, 2013) – Urgent action is needed to pre-emptively ban lethal robot weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without any human intervention, said a new campaign launched in London today. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is a coordinated international coalition of non-governmental organizations concerned with the implications of fully autonomous weapons, also called “killer robots.”
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots calls for a pre-emptive and comprehensive ban on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. The prohibition should be achieved through an international treaty, as well as through national laws and other measures.
“Allowing life or death decisions on the battlefield to be made by machines crosses a fundamental moral line and represents an unacceptable application of technology,” said Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. “Human control of autonomous weapons is essential to protect humanity from a new method of warfare that should never be allowed to come into existence.”
Over the past decade, the expanded use of unmanned armed vehicles or drones has dramatically changed warfare, bringing new humanitarian and legal challenges. Now rapid advances in technology are permitting the United States and other nations with high-tech militaries, including China, Israel, Russia, and the United Kingdom, to move toward systems that would give full combat autonomy to machines.
“Killer robots are not self-willed ‘Terminator’-style robots, but computer-directed weapons systems that once launched can identify targets and attack them without further human involvement,” said roboticist Noel Sharkey, chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control. “Using such weapons against an adaptive enemy in unanticipated circumstances and in an unstructured environment would be a grave military error. Computer controlled devices can be hacked, jammed, spoofed, or can be simply fooled and misdirected by humans.”
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots seeks to provide a coordinated civil society response to the multiple challenges that fully autonomous weapons pose to humanity. It is concerned about weapons that operate on their own without human supervision. The campaign seeks to prohibit taking a human out-of-the-loop with respect to targeting and attack decisions on the battlefield.
“The capability of fully autonomous weapons to choose and fire on targets on their own poses a fundamental challenge to the protection of civilians and to compliance with international law,” said Steve Goose, Arms Division director at Human Rights Watch. “Nations concerned with keeping a human in the decision-making loop should acknowledge that international rules on fully autonomous weapons systems are urgently needed and work to achieve them.”
The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Professor Christof Heyns, is due to deliver his report on lethal autonomous robotics to the second session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, starting May 27, 2013. The report is expected to contain recommendations for government action on fully autonomous weapons.
“One key lesson learned from the Canadian led initiative to ban landmines was that we should not wait until there is a global crisis before taking action.” said Paul Hannon, Executive Director of Mines Action Canada. “The time to act on killer robots is now”
“We cannot afford to sleepwalk into an acceptance of these weapons. New military technologies tend to be put in action before the wider society can assess the implications, but public debate on such a change to warfare is crucial,” said Thomas Nash, Director of Article 36. “A pre-emptive ban on lethal autonomous robots is both necessary and achievable, but only if action is taken now.”
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots believes that humans should not delegate the responsibility of making lethal decisions to machines. It has multiple moral, legal, technical, and policy concerns with the prospect of fully autonomous weapons, including:
- Autonomous robots would lack human judgment and the ability to understand context. These human qualities are necessary to make complex legal choices on a dynamic battlefield, to distinguish adequately between soldiers and civilians, and to evaluate the proportionality of an attack. As a result, fully autonomous weapons would not meet the requirements of the laws of war.
- The use of fully autonomous weapons would create an accountability gap as there is no clarity on who would be legally responsible for a robot’s actions: the commander, programmer, or one of the manufacturers of the many sensing, computing, and mechanical components? Without accountability, these parties would have less incentive to ensure robots did not endanger civilians and victims would be left unsatisfied that someone was punished for wrongful harm they experienced.
- If fully autonomous weapons are deployed, other nations may feel compelled to abandon policies of restraint, leading to a destabilizing robotic arms race. Agreement is needed now to establish controls on these weapons before investments, technological momentum, and new military doctrine make it difficult to change course.
- The proliferation of fully autonomous weapons could make resort to war and armed attacks more likely by reducing the possibility of military casualties.
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots includes several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) associated with the successful efforts to ban landmines, cluster munitions, and blinding lasers. Its members collectively have a wide range of expertise in robotics and science, aid and development, human rights, humanitarian disarmament, international law and diplomacy, and the empowerment of women, children, and persons with disabilities. The campaign is building a worldwide network of civil society contacts in countries including Canada, Egypt, Japan, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, United Kingdom, and the United States.
The Steering Committee is the principal leadership and decision-making body for of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and is comprised of nine NGOs: five international NGOs Human Rights Watch, International Committee for Robot Arms Control, Nobel Women’s Initiative, Pugwash Conferences on Science & World Affairs, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and four national NGOs Article 36 (UK), Association for Aid and Relief Japan, Mines Action Canada, and IKV Pax Christi (The Netherlands).
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots was established by representatives of seven of these NGOs at a meeting in New York on 19 October 2012. It is an inclusive and diverse coalition open to NGOs, community groups, and professional associations that support the campaign’s call for a ban and are willing to undertake actions and activities in support of the campaign’s objectives. The campaign’s initial coordinator is Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch.
On Monday, April 22, the Steering Committee of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots convened a day-long conference for 60 representatives from 33 NGOs from ten countries to discuss the potential harm that fully autonomous weapons could pose to civilians and to strategize on actions that could be taken at the national, regional, and international levels to ban the weapons.
Contact information for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots:
- Website – www.stopkillerrobots.org
- Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/#!/stopkillerrobots
- Twitter – @BanKillerRobots
- Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/people/stopkillerrobots
- YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/user/StopKillerRobots
To schedule a media interview (see list of spokespersons), please contact:
- UK media – Laura Boillot at Article 36, +44(0)7515-575-175, [email protected]
- International media – Kate Castenson at Human Rights Watch, +1 (646) 203-8292, [email protected]
- Raw interview footage of Williams, Sharkey, Goose, and Docherty: http://multimedia.hrw.org/distribute/hpgicavqly
- Playlist of precursors to fully autonomous weapons: http://bit.ly/YQe4w8
For more information, see:
- Human Rights Watch “Losing Humanity” report on fully autonomous weapons: http://bit.ly/UQscFA
- Human Rights Watch “Review of the New US Policy on Autonomy in Weapons Systems” briefing paper: http://bit.ly/17FDTTj
List of Spokespersons
The following campaign spokespersons will be speaking at the launch events in London on 22-24 April and are available for interview on request. In addition, raw interview footage of Williams, Sharkey, Goose, and Docherty is available here: http://multimedia.hrw.org/distribute/hpgicavqly
Ms. Jody Williams – Nobel Women’s Initiative, @JodyWilliams97 @NobelWomen
Jody Williams received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work to ban landmines through the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which shared the Peace Prize. In January 2006, Jody established the Nobel Women’s Initiative together with five of her sister Nobel Peace laureates. In an April 2011 article for the International Journal of Intelligence Ethics, Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams calls for a ban on “fully autonomous attack and kill robotic weapons.” In March 2013, the University of California Press published a memoir on her work entitled My Name is Jody Williams: A Vermont Girl’s Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize. Williams can speak on why civil society is coming together and partnering with other actors to pursue a pre-emptive ban on fully autonomous weapons. Longer biography available here: http://bit.ly/JKVvBd
Prof. Noel Sharkey – International Committee for Robot Arms Control, @StopTheRobotWar
Roboticist Noel Sharkey is Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Professor of Public Engagement at the University of Sheffield. He is co-founder and chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC), a group of experts concerned with the pressing dangers that military robots pose to peace and international security. Sharkey can speak on the technology that the campaign is seeking to prohibit and its ethical implications. See also: http://bit.ly/9fJQ7j
Mr. Steve Goose – Human Rights Watch, @hrw
Steve Goose is executive director of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch and chair of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munition Coalition (ICBL-CMC). Goose and Human Rights Watch were instrumental in bringing about the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, the 1997 international treaty banning antipersonnel mines, the 1995 protocol banning blinding lasers, and the 2003 protocol on explosive remnants of war. Goose can speak on why a ban on fully autonomous weapons is necessary and achievable, and explain current US policy and practice. See also: http://bit.ly/USEBZo
Mr. Thomas Nash – Article 36, @nashthomas @article36
Thomas Nash is director of Article 36 and joint coordinator of the International Network on Explosive Weapons. As Coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition from 2004 to 2011, Nash led the global civil society efforts to secure the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Nash can speak about civil society expectations of UK policy, practice, and diplomacy on fully autonomous weapons.
Ms. Mary Wareham – Human Rights Watch, @marywareham, @hrw
Mary Wareham is advocacy director of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch and initial coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. She worked on the processes that created the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Mine Ban Treaty, and has worked to ensure their universalization and implementation. Wareham can speak about the new Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and its initial plans.
Dr. Jürgen Altmann – International Committee for Robot Arms Control
Jürgen Altmann is co-founder and vice-chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control. He is a physicist and peace researcher at Dortmund Technical University in Germany. Altmann has studied preventive arms control of new military technologies and new methods for the verification of disarmament agreements. He can speak about Germany’s policy and practice on fully autonomous weapons.
Dr. Peter Asaro – International Committee for Robot Arms Control, @peterasaro
Peter Asaro is co-founder and vice-chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control. He is a philosopher of technology who has worked in Artificial Intelligence, neural networks, natural language processing and robot vision research. Asaro is director of Graduate Programs for the School of Media Studies at The New School for Public Engagement in New York City. See also: http://bit.ly/73JqBw
Ms. Bonnie Docherty – Human Rights Watch, @hrw
Bonnie Docherty is senior researcher in the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch and also a lecturer on law and senior clinical instructor at the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School. She has played an active role, as both lawyer and field researcher, in the campaign against cluster munitions. Docherty’s report Losing Humanity: The Case against Killer Robots outlines how fully autonomous weapons could violate the laws of war and undermine fundamental protections for civilians. See also: http://bit.ly/103PV4t
Mr. Richard Moyes – Article 36, @rjmoyes @article36
Richard Moyes is a managing partner at Article 36 and an honorary fellow at the University of Exeter. He was previously director of policy at Action on Armed Violence (formerly Landmine Action) and served as co-chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition. Moyes can speak about civil society expectations of UK policy, practice, and diplomacy on fully autonomous weapons. See also: http://bit.ly/103SAuS
Steering Committee members
Human Rights Watch, www.hrw.org
Human Rights Watch is serving as initial coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. Over the past two decades, the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch has been instrumental in enhancing protections for civilians affected by conflict, leading the International Campaign to Ban Landmines that resulted in the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and the Cluster Munition Coalition, which spurred the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. It also led the effort that resulted in the pre-emptive prohibition on blinding laser weapons in 1995. In November 2012, Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic launched the report Losing Humanity: The Case against Killer Robots, the first in-depth report by a non-governmental organization on the challenges posed by fully autonomous weapons.
Article 36 (UK), www.article36.org
Article 36 is a UK-based not-for-profit organization working to prevent the unintended, unnecessary or unacceptable harm caused by certain weapons. It undertakes research, policy and advocacy and promotes civil society partnerships to respond to harm caused by existing weapons and to build a stronger framework to prevent harm as weapons are used or developed in the future. In March 2012, Article 36 called for a ban on military systems that are able to select and attack targets autonomously.
Association for Aid and Relief Japan, www.aarjapan.gr.jp
Association for Aid and Relief, Japan is an international non-governmental organization founded in Japan in 1979. As a committed member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Association for Aid and Relief, Japan played a central role in convincing Japan to ban antipersonnel landmines and join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.
IKV Pax Christi (The Netherlands)- www.ikvpaxchristi.nl
IKV Pax Christi is a peace organization based in the Netherlands. It works with local partners in conflict areas and seeks political solutions to crises and armed conflicts. In May 2011, Dutch NGO IKV Pax Christi published a report entitled Does Unmanned Make Unacceptable? Exploring the Debate on using Drones and Robots in Warfare.
International Committee for Robot Arms Control, http://icrac.net
The International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC) is a not-for-profit organization comprised of scientists, ethicists, lawyers, roboticists, and other experts. It works to address the potential dangers involved with the development of armed military robots and autonomous weapons. Given the rapid pace of development of military robots and the pressing dangers their use poses to peace, international security, the rule of law, and to civilians, ICRAC supports a ban on armed robots with autonomous targeting capability.
Mines Action Canada, www.minesactioncanada.org
Mines Action Canada is a coalition of over 35 Canadian non-governmental organizations working in mine action, peace, development, labour, health and human rights that came together in 1994. It is the Canadian partner of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and a founding member of the Cluster Munition Coalition.
Nobel Women’s Initiative, nobelwomensinitiative.org
The Nobel Women’s Initiative was established in January 2006 by 1997 Nobel Peace Laureate and five of her sister Nobel Peace laureates. The Nobel Women’s Initiative uses the prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize and of courageous women peace laureates to magnify the power and visibility of women working in countries around the world for peace, justice and equality. In an April 2011 article for the International Journal of Intelligence Ethics, Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams calls for a ban on “fully autonomous attack and kill robotic weapons.”
Pugwash Conferences on Science & World Affairs, www.pugwash.org
A central main objective of Pugwash is the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical and biological) and of war as a social institution to settle international disputes. To that extent, peaceful resolution of conflicts through dialogue and mutual understanding is an essential part of Pugwash activities, that is particularly relevant when and where nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction are deployed or could be used.
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom www.wilpf.org
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) is the oldest women’s peace organization in the world. Its aims and principles include working toward world peace; total and universal disarmament; the abolition of violence and coercion in the settlement of conflict and their substitution in every case of negotiation and conciliation; the strengthening of the United Nations system; the continuous development and implementation of international law; political and social equality and economic equity; co-operation among all people; and an environmentally sustainable development.
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Last week, Mines Action Canada and six Mine Action Fellows attended the 20th Meeting of States Parties to the Ottawa Treaty (20MSP) at the UN in Geneva.
The meeting was historic in a number of ways. It comes just before the 25th anniversary of the signing of The Treaty in Ottawa so the mine action community had the opportunity to reflect on our progress thus far and assess what else needs to be done.
The International Campaign to Ban Landmines was also celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and MAC was pleased to see more campaigners at this meeting than had been at any meeting since the pandemic started.
Beyond the anniversaries, 20MSP was historic for the level of youth participation. While the number of Fellows was smaller, their voice was louder.
Along with the Government of Ireland, Mines Action Canada hosted a side event on "Youth Action for Universalization and Implementation" where three of the Mine Action Fellows presented their work in their home communities. Delegates heard from Mine Action Fellows from Colombia, Lebanon and Sri Lanka who shared their experiences and their work on the ground in their countries. One government representative who attended referred to the side event as very "moving". The Fellows also had two private peer learning sessions where they got to discuss key topics of interest for their own work.
We also got to meet with the Colombian presidency of the meeting who shared the importance of hearing from the Fellows and others who can help delegates to think about the realities on the ground. The Fellows also met with five other government representatives as a group and carried out numerous lobbying meetings as individuals or in pairs.
For MAC, the most memorable part of the 20MSP was the statements from the Fellows. For the first time, youth campaigners collectively drafted and delivered statements on individual agenda items. All Mine Action Fellows were able to participate in the brainstorming process for the statements which was
then formed into a draft and each of the six Fellows was assigned one draft to make their own and deliver.
You can read the statements here:
Natalia on International Cooperation and Assistance (on behalf of the Gender and Diversity Working Group)
In addition, the Mine Action Fellows had the opportunity to go to the Canadian Mission and meet with Canada's Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Her Excellency Leslie Norton. All the Fellows (and MAC staff) left Geneva inspired to do more in 2023.
Mines Action Canada congratulates this year's Nobel Peace Prize Laureates! Civil society activism for peace, human rights and democracy is crucially important to creating a safer more peaceful world. We are so pleased that the courageous work of Ales Bialiatski, Memorial and the Center for Civil Liberties is being recognized with this year's Nobel Peace Prize.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Before 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.