Today is International Mine Action Day and to celebrate we wanted to introduce you to the new Director of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines-Cluster Munition Coalition (ICBL-CMC), Hector Guerra.
Mines Action Canada volunteer Maureen Hollingworth sat down with Hector to talk about his background and his hopes for the ICBL-CMC.
You bring both an academic and activist background to international human rights issues. Can you speak a bit about how your career has evolved?
My introduction to organized civil society was with Amnesty International-Mexico, where I worked on different aspects of international human rights law. Eventually my work focused on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and disarmament, both with NGOs and academia. I joined global initiatives like CMC, IANSA, Control Arms and ICAN, while giving lectures on disarmament at the School of Political and Social Sciences (National University of Mexico), and collaborating as part of a group of academic advisers with the ICRC delegation for Mexico, Central America and Cuba. I also joined efforts with some of my Latin American colleagues in founding the Network for Human Security in Latin America and the Caribbean (SEHLAC Network).
I took part in the diplomatic processes that resulted in the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Arms Trade Treaty and Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. In the human rights field, I have worked as an intergovernmental policy and advocacy official, covering over 20 regular and special sessions of the UN Human Rights Council, including the Universal Periodic Review, as well as other human rights treaty bodies.
Through these different steps in my career, I have gained an insight on the interconnection between international human rights law, humanitarian disarmament and sustainable development, and also on the interaction between civil society and governments on these issues.
The campaigns that promote humanitarian disarmament seem to be of particular interest. What is it about the ICBL and CMC that sparked this interest and commitment?
We are at an exciting moment in history when multilateral action on disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control has been increasingly based on human security and international law. This evolution has been facilitated by different approaches working collaboratively – something the ICBL-CMC has exemplified by working effectively with like-minded States, ICRC, and other multilateral actors and members of civil society in the creation and strengthening of the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
I value the opportunity of working with such a diverse community, and am proud to be part of an organization with space for women and men to be recognized leaders (e.g. all the previous ICBL directors have been women), and for people of all generations committed to global action. There are campaigners from affected countries; colleagues from countries that have produced, exported and used these terrible weapons; and many more from countries not implicated in landmines and cluster munitions who are willing to fight and mitigate the destruction and suffering these devises cause.
I have also been drawn to ICBL-CMC as an intellectual hub, admiring how it informs State positions and, through the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, how it has been a source of key data and analysis, following the development and performance of the international norms set by the Ottawa and Oslo conventions.
Finally, I have the utmost respect for the solidarity the organization has demonstrated with sister humanitarian disarmament campaigns, specially emerging ones, by offering advice and assistance.
Promoting the rule of law through regulatory mechanisms has been an important part of your career to date. While many governments currently seem to be downplaying the effectiveness of multilateralism, why do you feel multilateral approaches to global problems still have value?
The rule of law, at the national and international levels, has shown its potential in responding to fear and want. Balancing evidence of the evils of unrestricted power against the benefits of moderation, negotiation, agreed rights-based standards and rules, I believe in the democratic creation and implementation of multilateral agreements.
It is clear that from their inception the United Nations Charter, Geneva Conventions, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court, along with other global initiatives, have made a difference for humanity. However, they have also been threatened, in some cases even by the countries that helped create them.
We need to give multilateralism a chance. It has been largely built around the ideal of preventing war and building peace. We need a just, democratic, efficient, inclusive and creative multilateral system in the face of existential threats at the planetary level ― such as global warming, armed violence, pandemics, nuclear weapons and potentially emerging military technologies like lethal autonomous weapons. It is with this in mind that I have chosen to work in the field of international relations.
You are beginning your job as Director of the ICBL-CMC in a time of amplified global tensions. What are the current challenges facing global humanitarian disarmament efforts?
The buildup of geopolitical tensions (e.g. around Korean Peninsula, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, Yemen,) will continue to drive weapons development, production, modernization, transfer and use ― all major obstacles to disarmament and arms control. We are seeing an increased militarization of security and an arms race that is reinvigorated by the consolidation of emerging military technologies. This is a difficult context for the advancement of global humanitarian disarmament efforts, both for current treaties and new initiatives.
Civil society, which is a major catalyst in multilateral disarmament, is facing growing challenges with respect to harassment, threats and interference in their work by certain governments and corporations; a decrease in resources from traditional sources; and, in some countries, competing socio-economic priorities at the local level (e.g. lack of water, health services, food security).
… and what are the specific challenges facing the ICBL-CMC and how will you address them?
Campaigning over so many years poses challenges, both in keeping our membership engaged on our collective limited resources, and in maintaining public attention on landmine and cluster munition issues. Unfortunately the big delegations of sponsored campaigners to MBT and CCM meetings of States Parties are past, although that sort of presence allowed our members to exchange information and good practices, and plan joint projects.
To make up for these limitations we need to scale up our communications through existing and innovative channels. For instance, through the communications; webinars; translation, and through mechanisms that may allow campaigners to have their voices heard directly from their localities in the formal proceedings and informal activities of diplomatic conferences.
I see ICBL-CMC giving continuity to solid advocacy, research and campaigning that builds on our successes in the promotion and defence of treaty universalization and implementation, including our work with survivors and promoting the participation of youth.
I also see an organization that is open to exploring new avenues. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in its thematic diversity and universality, offers an interesting framework to consider in which humanitarian disarmament ― including mine action ― has a place, allowing for linkages with issues such as environmental protection, food security, rights of women and the rule of law. This approach might help open new channels of communication and collaboration, resulting in partnerships with institutions from other sectors and new donors.