Senate Testimony for Bill S-225
Today, Mines Action Canada testified to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade regarding Bill S-225. This bill proposes amendments to Canada's Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act. The amendments would make clear in legislation that no Canadian financial institution can invest in cluster munition producing companies. The Bill is being sponsored by Senator Salma Ataullahjan, who spoke on the witness panel today with Co-Directors Paul Hannon and Erin Hunt. Below is a copy of Mine Action Canada's testimony, which was then followed by an engaging question and answer period.
Oral Testimony to Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade
regarding Bill S-225
Paul Hannon and Erin Hunt, Co-Directors, Mines Action Canada
Check against delivery
Co-Director Paul Hannon
Thank you for the opportunity for Mines Action Canada to testify today on Bill S-225.
In April 2003 Mines Action Canada and a small group of NGOs decided that an international campaign was needed to address the increasing harm to civilians caused by cluster munitions.
Cluster munitions are weapons that scatter explosive submunitions across a wide area. Dropped from aircraft or fired from the ground, a container munition opens in the air and releases the small submunitions to explode across the area below. The number of submunitions packed into a container range from fewer than ten to many hundreds.
At the time of use, cluster munitions randomly scatter many submunitions and therefore tend to strike the target and all the surrounding area including civilians and civilian infrastructure. Not all submunitions explode on impact leaving large number of explosives in the post-conflict environment. Often compared to antipersonnel mines these unexploded submunitions impede access to community resources and cause injury to civilians long after conflict has ceased.
The successful negotiations of the Convention on Cluster Munitions concluded on May 30, 2008 and the treaty was signed on December 3 by Canada and dozens of other.
After 2008, Mines Action Canada continued to campaign domestically for Canada to ratify the treaty with the best possible implementation legislation until ratification was completed in 2015. One campaigning event in particular is pertinent to the legislation under consideration now. In 2010 MAC organized an event in Toronto with 25 of the largest financial institutions in Canada. With the assistance of some international colleagues, we provided an overview of the weapon, why it was banned, and the need for Canada to ratify the treaty. We also explained to them the importance of disinvesting from companies which produced these banned weapons. The participants clearly understood both the moral issues but also the reputational risk to their institution to be seen to support the production of banned weapons and this one in particular where studies had shown that 90% of the casualties of the weapons were civilians. However, they all told us that it would be easier to convince their shareholders and boards if Canadian legislation made it clear that such investments was prohibited. This bill does make the prohibition clear.
Domestic implementation legislation is very important for international treaties as it can not only prove a state’s desire to implement and be bound by the treaty but it can augment and expand the international norm that such treaties intend to create. Sometimes they need improvement. Bill S-225 provides improvement in a key area. My Co-Director Erin Hunt will provide more information for your consideration.
Co-Director Erin Hunt
Thank you, Paul, and thank you to the committee for the invitation to speak today.
As Paul has established, cluster munitions are horrific weapons that Canada has rightfully prohibited. During the process to pass the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act, Mines Action Canada was adamant that the understood prohibition on investment in the legislation needed to become explicit to achieve the government’s goal.
Since 2007, 11 States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions have enacted legislation that explicitly prohibits investment in cluster munitions producers including most recently Italy. The key to successful disinvestment legislation is clarity.
We can not expect that in 2014 financial institutions were monitoring the statements by government officials in the Foreign Affairs Committees here and in the other place on a piece of legislation concerning a weapons treaty. The financial sector requires explicit and clear instructions in order to develop the internal restrictions and regulations necessary to fully implement the government’s intention with regards to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in line with shareholder expectations.
Bill S-225 is clear. It explicitly outlines what is permitted and what is prohibited. That clarity will allow financial institutions to adapt and ensure that the letter and the spirit of the law is followed.
The transitional provision in the bill further eliminates concerns about burden on individuals and institutions by providing a year to make any necessary changes to investment or fund portfolios for example.
We know that disinvestment works. Since the Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force Elbit Systems Ltd. of Israel, Singapore Technologies Engineering, and US companies Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, and Textron Systems have all stopped producing cluster munitions due in part to pressure from the financial sector. These companies are not based in States Parties to the Convention but the existence of legislation such as we are discussing put enough pressure on them to decide that these weapons no long made financial sense to produce.
At a time, when we are seeing cluster munitions being used on Ukrainian cities, Bill S-225 is another way that Canada can say that these banned weapons are unacceptable.
We thank you for your kind consideration. And we are, of course, at your full disposal should you wish any additional exchange on this matter.
Ukraine One Year On
Clearance is step one, development is step two
As our Mine Action Fellows stated at the Convention on Cluster Munitions MSP last year, “There is no place for cluster munitions in the future we are building.” International development is about sustainably building a better future for the world. On Day 3 of International Development Week, we will look at how this future can’t exist with explosive ordnance such as cluster munitions blocking progress.
Cluster munitions become de facto landmines because 5-30% of them fail to detonate upon landing. We know how landmines stall sustainable development- when land is contaminated, many development activities cannot take place at all or happen unsafely. In 2021, there were 149 cluster munitions casualties which brings the total number to 23,082 casualties officially recorded by the Cluster Munition Monitor. If we want sustainable cities and communities (SDG #11), clearance needs to happen first. We cannot develop when children are being injured by landmines when they are trying to go to school. We cannot develop when farmland is being avoided because of suspected contamination. We cannot develop when clinics are hard to reach because contamination is surrounding the facility. Clearance comes first. Once the land has been cleared, then we can build schools, hospitals, markets, and clean energy facilities.
Clearance is a legal obligation under the Convention on Cluster Munitions. States who have joined this Convention commit to clearing cluster munitions as soon as possible, but no later than 10 years after their entry. Two states completed clearance before joining, 5 states completed clearance after joining, and ten states submitted extension requests. Donor states need to contribute more to help affected states clear their land. Affected states need to make a firm commitment to clearing the land they are legally obligated to clear.
Only once clearance is completed will other UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) be achieved. Let’s take a close look at the goals clearing explosive ordnance will help achieve:
- SDG #1/ No Poverty: Clearance can open routes to sources of revenue (eg. farmland, access to another city) which will reduce poverty.
- SDG #2/ Zero Hunger: Clearance will make land available for farming again which will reduce hunger.
- SDG #3/ Good Health and Well-Being: Clearance will ensure no future casualties and help with the well-being of communities who no longer have to worry about contamination.
- SDG #4/ Quality Education: Clearance can give access to schools.
- SDG #5/ Gender Equality: Clearance can help ease the gender inequalities seen in casualties. Further, many mine action organizations employ women on clearance teams which contributes to development even after clearance is complete because women have gained valuable work experience and skills which can help them prosper in new roles.
- SDG #6/ Clean Water and Sanitation: Clearance can give access to clean water.
- SDG #7/ Affordable and Clean Energy: Clearance can give access to land where clean energy projects can take place.
- SDG #8/ Decent Work and Economic Growth: Clearance can give community members decent work, and once clearance is completed economic growth can improve because all land will be safely accessible.
- SDG #9/ Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure: Clearance can give access to land to safely build new infrastructure, or access to existing infrastructure that was previously contaminated.
- SDG #10/ Reduced Inequalities: Clearance will reduce inequalities between affected communities and non-affected communities. Likewise if we think about another pillar of mine action for a moment, victim assistance, we see that will reduce inequalities between survivors/victims and the general population.
- SDG #11/ Sustainable Cities and Communities: Clearance is a step towards building a sustainable city or community because the more land that is accessible and safe, the more a community can do for themselves.
- SDG #16/ Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions: Clearance can help bring peace to a community.
Clearing explosive ordnance opens a safe path to development and reaching the UN SDGs without clearance is not possible. Clearance is step one, development is step two.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In Mine Action Every Day Should Be International Women's Day
Mine action is and should be everybody’s concern – and for very obvious reasons. The effects of landmines are felt by men, women and children in different ways, but all are affected and so the solutions to end this problem should be sought and supported by all. Unfortunately, women remain under represented in this field of work. Discussions on the subject are normally dominated by men with little representation from women (unless it’s a discussion about women’s involvement or gender equality but that’s a discussion for another day); when it comes to women’s involvement, a lot still needs to be done to ensure that they, like men, are permitted to add a meaningful voice to inform policy, actions and decisions.
Mines Action Canada has worked since 1998 to train, mentor and empower youth to address the impacts of inhumane and indiscriminate weapons. The Mine Action Fellows Program, started by MAC in 2018, has 45 youth from 25 countries enrolled so far. These are young people who are interested in or are already involved with civil society organizations working in mine action. The 2018 and 2019 cohorts focused on young women and deliberately so, to increase female involvement in mine action. This program brings to life a famous slogan, “Nothing about us without us” originally coined in Latin as; nihil de nobis, sine nobis. Each year the Mine Action Fellows have an in-person assembly at a forum organized to run alongside a global diplomatic meeting that brings together various stakeholders in mine action, including governments and civil society organizations. During the forum the youth undergo various training in topics relevant to their role as youth leaders; they also witness the major international diplomatic meeting in action; as well as meet and learn from fellow campaigners from around the world.
Last year the Mine Action Fellow’s Forum that was held from November 24 to November 29 in Oslo, Norway was attended by 32 female youth from 13 different countries. Among them were three landmine survivors and 22 were from landmine affected countries. Having survivors at this forum was important for us because they hold the lived experience of the harmful effects of landmines and their stories are such a powerful force to compliment all the statistics and data collected and shared to inform policy and decisions. Landmine survivors are truly experts in landmines. The forum took place alongside the 4th Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty. The Review Conference is a formal diplomatic meeting of all states parties to the Mine Ban Treaty that reviews progress made in achieving the treaty obligations and set an action plan for the next five years. These young women were exposed to formal plenary discussions and after some basic training in lobbying, they also got an opportunity to speak with governments that had not yet submitted their annual Article 7 transparency reports and encouraged them to do so. It was interesting to see these young women confidently and in certain instances persistently take on governments and ask them to account for their Article 7 reports. The assertive manner with which they did this could not go unnoticed – they sure did make MAC proud. What I saw in these youth was the future of Mine Action in good hands.
During this time the youth also drafted and presented a statement to the conference delegates, in which they called for increased resources, political will and concrete support by all states parties to finish the job by 2025. They were very clear about having the job done by 2025, and in their call to get this done they stated very boldly; “Our generation is ready to help finish the job on landmines, but in many of our countries we still need your support. We cannot wait forever so we are giving you only 5 (more) years”. The youth statement was the highlight of the Forum and for many, the Review Conference as well. The conference ended on a high with this powerful statement which was read out by four of the young women, each taking a part in one of the UN languages, namely English, French, Arabic and Spanish.
From this unforgettable experience for those involved, MAC sent a strong message to the world; that you cannot leave out such an important group when you discuss something that affects the communities they live in. Young women should be involved at every level of mine action because just as the problem affects them, they should also be part of the solution. And because this year’s theme for International women’s day, Each for Equal is about collective individualism, we believe that each of the young women who represented their community at the conference went back to add their voice and effort to the field for a bigger impact as they clearly put it in their statement:
“Each of us present here is proof that if there is a strong commitment to a better world, whatever language you speak, whatever country you come from, by uniting your strengths you will be able to achieve your goals”
Diane Mukuka is Mines Action Canada's Project Officer
New research project: How many women work in mine action?
Today, Mines Action Canada released a new paper on women's employment in mine action.
"Gender and Employment in Mine Action by the Numbers" contains the results of a pilot study on employment of women by non-governmental organizations in landmine clearance and related fields. A short survey was carried out in the first quarter of 2019 by a graduate student Research Associate and the collected data was analyzed by Mines Action Canada staff later in the year.
MAC is sharing the results of this survey as the international community meets in Geneva for the National Mine Action Directors' Meeting.
In addition to providing some limited answers to questions like how many women work in mine action, Mines Action Canada hopes to shed some light on the success of gender mainstreaming in mine action and highlight areas of improvement for the sector.
The paper is available here and at the National Mine Action Directors' Meeting. An A4 version of the paper is also available for those printing copies internationally.
1325 - a tool to reach 2025
The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda, based on UN Security Council Resolution 1325, and mine action are closely related, but too often the communities working on these two topics are distinct and separate. To achieve the goals of the WPS agenda, the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines, states and civil society need to keep both sectors in mind.
As the 2025 goal set by States Parties to the Ottawa Treaty fast approaches and the States Parties to the Convention Cluster Munitions strive to implement the treaty as effectively and efficiently as possible, it is crucially important to capitalize on all intersections between mine action and the WPS agenda.
Read the short delegate briefing paper on the intersections between the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Women, Peace and Security agenda, released at the 9th Meeting of States Parties of the Convention on Cluster Munitions here.
The expanded paper covering both the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines and the Convention on Cluster Munitions is available here.