A new report released today raises questions about Canada’s commitment to the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines in Africa. Mines Action Canada’s report “Abandoned Africa? Canada’s Funding for Mine Action in Africa” uses the Government of Canada’s reporting to examine Canada’s support for implementation of the Ottawa Treaty across Africa. Released on International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, the report shows that Canada has not provided any support to humanitarian landmine clearance or victim assistance in Africa since 2014.
“It is disappointing to see that Canada has stopped supporting African countries’ work to end the suffering caused by landmines. African countries were key partners to Canada in the Ottawa Process which led to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (also known as the Ottawa Treaty) and have made great progress towards a mine free Africa since then,” said Executive Director Paul Hannon. “Canada’s absence from the continent since 2014 is a missed opportunity for Canadian humanitarian leadership.”
The impact of landmines on communities in Africa was a major motivating factor behind the negotiation of the Ottawa Treaty and since then Africa has embraced the Treaty with 51 of the 54 states joining the treaty. Since entry into force of the Ottawa Treaty, 12 African states completed clearance of all known landmine contaminated areas under their control. An additional 14 African states still have obligations under the Ottawa Treaty to complete clearance of contaminated land. All three African states outside the treaty (Libya, Egypt and Morocco) are also contaminated by landmines. Landmines continue to extract a deadly toll in Africa with the Landmine Monitor recording 1,229 casualties of landmines and other explosive remnants of war on the continent in 2020.
The new report finds that from 1998 to 2014, a total of CDN $36,902,866 was provided to mine action projects in fourteen different African countries as well as the African continent as a whole. After 2014, Canadian funding has shifted towards the Middle East and South America while no funding towards African countries was provided by Canada from 2014 to 2020.
“From 1998 to 2014, Canadian funding allowed landmine survivors to walk again, farmers to feed their families safely and children to play without fear across Africa. But by focusing support for mine action elsewhere, Canada has abandoned its partners in Africa and left thousands at the mercy of these lethal barriers to development,” added Erin Hunt, Program Manager. “It is important to note that the majority of other large mine action donors have continued to fund work in Africa. Canada should recommit to finishing the job on landmines by supporting mine clearance and victim assistance on the continent again.”
The Ottawa Treaty is a Canadian success story and nowhere is that success more evident than in Africa where countries with massive levels of contamination have recently finished landmine clearance. Unfortunately, the new report from Mines Action Canada shows that Canada has not been able to share in this success due to its inconsistent and now non-existent funding to mine action in the continent.
Canada's House of Commons has convened a Special Committee on Afghanistan to examine the national response to the situation in Afghanistan including the evacuation, special immigration programs and humanitarian response.
Mines Action Canada collaborated with campaign colleagues in Afghanistan to provide written testimony to the Committee to aid in their work.
More information about the Committee can be found on the parliamentary website.
The Convention on Conventional Weapons is meeting this week for its 6th Review Conference at the United Nations in Geneva.
This meeting happens every five years and offers states the opportunity to assess progress made under this treaty and to set plans for the next five years.
Today, MAC's Military Advisor delivered our general statement at the Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons commenting on autonomous weapons, incendiary weapons and the protocols on landmines and explosive remnants of war.
Building on our 2019 statement, MAC asked states if they will take a direct route towards peace and disarmament or will they continue to aimlessly wander through the diplomatic woods?
Read the full statement here.
A Canadian initiative has been saving lives every day for the past 25 years but most Canadians have no idea.
After many years of failed efforts at the international level to adequately address the global landmine crisis, Canada agreed to host a conference in October 1996 to try to make progress on reducing the harm caused by these indiscriminate weapons. The year before formal talks in Geneva failed frustrating many countries, the ICRC, UN agencies and the three-year old International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).
Usually at such international gatherings much is agreed before the meeting takes place, but at the Ottawa Conference then Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy shocked the world by ending the meeting with a challenge to come back to Ottawa in a year to sign a treaty banning the indiscriminate weapons.
Though most in attendance were greatly surprised, the meeting resulted in renewed energy with efforts around the world. On December 3, 1997 over half the world came to Ottawa to sign a newly negotiated treaty banning landmines.
Now 164 countries belong to the Ottawa Treaty also known as the Mine Ban Treaty which prohibits the use, production and stockpiling of anti-personnel landmines and requires states to clear landmine affected areas and assist victims.
To say the Ottawa Treaty saves lives every day is an understatement.
The past two decades have shown that when the treaty is implemented with ambition and support amazing things can happen. Before the treaty, there were an estimated 20,000 landmine casualties a year; in 2020, the Landmine Monitor reported 7,073. Annual casualties are still far too high but clearly the treaty is working.
Thirty-three countries have cleared all the landmines from their territories ensuring everyone can walk and play safely. In 1997 Mozambique estimated that it would take 100 years to clear all of the landmines in the country, today Mozambique is a global success story, free from the threat of landmines.
More than 55 million landmines have been destroyed from stockpiles with millions more cleared from contaminated land.
A global problem we can solve
There are still too many casualties, too much land needs to be cleared of landmines and far too many survivors, who were victimized by the weapon, need support to rebuild their lives, restore their livelihoods and reaffirm their rights.
For those still living in affected communities the Ottawa Treaty means hope for sustainable development and for a safer future. We know what needs to be done.
- Stop the use and production of mines.
- Destroy stockpiled mines so they can never be used.
- Clear mine areas.
- Assist the victims so they can rebuild productive lives in their communities.
All the international community needs is political will and reliable, multi-year funding. Increasing Canada’s funding to these areas of work known as “mine action” to a dollar per Canadian per year would have a huge impact on countries around the world. Investing in mine action will benefit Canadians and the affected communities.
Mines Action Canada was at that 1996 conference and we helped celebrate the treaty signing in 1997 in Ottawa. Today we commemorate that day in December 1997 and recommit ourselves to finish the job.
On June 14, 2021, the Mines Action Canada Board of Directors issued the following statement:
Landmines have killed or injured some 35,000 women, children, and men in Afghanistan, and vastly more around the world. Their presence in any country or region endangers economic and social progress, and can prevent the long term, meaningful development of a peaceful society.
Fortunately, an international effort is underway to eliminate these mines with a key role being played by deminers employed by the HALO Trust, a charitable organization working globally to end the terror of landmines.
Tragically, and senselessly, one of the HALO Trust teams was attacked by armed terrorists in Northern Afghanistan on June 8, 2021, resulting in 10 deaths and 16 injured.
On behalf of the Mines Action Canada Board of Directors, I would like to offer my deepest condolences and sympathy to these victims, their families, friends, and their dedicated HALO Trust colleagues.
Mines Action Canada stands in solidarity with the HALO Trust in our dedication to ridding the world of landmines, unexploded ordnances, and other weapons that indiscriminately victimize our fellow citizens. We know that this criminal act in Afghanistan will only reinforce the resolve of the HALO Trust and our other partners striving for a better world for all.
Chair, Mines Action Canada
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
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.
Mines Action Canada is shocked and deeply concerned by the United States’ new policy on anti-personnel landmines, a weapon so horrific that 164 countries have joined the Ottawa Treaty banning them.
The White House announced today that the Trump administration’s new policy on anti-personnel landmines will reverse an Obama era position that prohibited the United States from using landmines outside of the Korean Peninsula. This shocking change of policy allows planning for and use of anti-personnel landmines in future potential conflicts and states that the American combat commanders can use advanced non-persistent landmines.
“We know that at least 71% of the 6,897 recorded landmine casualties were civilians in 2018 including 1,714 children. Landmines are cruel weapons that are more likely to take the limb of a farmer or the life of a child than they are to have a military benefit.” said Paul Hannon, Executive Director of Mines Action Canada. “Around the world, landmines are lethal barriers to development, threatening the lives and limbs of 60 million people.”
The United States should be working to end these lethal barriers to development instead of creating new ones. 164 countries including Canada and every other NATO member have banned landmines through the Ottawa Treaty because the risk they pose to civilians and friendly militaries far outweighs any perceived benefit. Similarly, most of the countries that haven't joined the Ottawa Treaty do not see landmines as useful and have stopped using them.
It is concerning that the United States wants to align itself with recent users of landmines which include Syria, Myanmar and North Korea plus non-state actors like ISIS and the Taliban. By publicly stating they want the option of using landmines, the United States is providing cover to these states and armed groups’ continued use of these horrific weapons.
“The myth of advanced non-persistent landmines reducing casualties is just that a myth. The problem with landmines is their indiscriminate nature whether they are indiscriminate for a month or a decade is not important,” added Erin Hunt, Program Manager at Mines Action Canada.
In response to the Trump Administration’s new policy, Canada must redouble its efforts in support of the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines. The Ottawa Treaty is Canada’s most successful contribution to global peace and security in the past 25 years. Since the Ottawa Treaty came into force landmine casualties have decreased significantly and 31 states have cleared all landmines from their territory. The shift in American policy is very concerning but it should not undo the progress the rest of the international community has made.
Hunt added, “The Ottawa Treaty is a success in progress. The Trump administration’s policy is a step backwards but Canada has an opportunity to take two steps forward and finish the job we started in 1997.”
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Media Contact: Erin Hunt, Program Manager, +1 613 302-3088, [email protected]
The 4th Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty has come to a close. During this Review Conference, Mines Action Canada hosted 32 young women from 18 countries for the Mine Action Fellows Forum. The Fellows completed training sessions, participated in advocacy activities including lobbying during the meeting and public engagement stunts, spoke at side events and delivered a joint statement to close the meeting.
From February 5th to 8th, Mines Action Canada attended the National Mine Action Directors' Meeting for the first time. The National Mine Action Directors' Meeting is a technical meeting focused on field operations rather than the Ottawa Treaty but this year, our Program Manager, Erin Hunt, was asked to address the plenary during a panel discussion on Building Stronger Communities: Youth and Women in Mine Action. Her presentation focused on our youth programming and on gender equality.
The presentation explored MAC's understanding of empowerment and our TEAM approach to youth engagement before speaking about how masculinity affects who belongs in mine action. This image which includes phrases from over 15 languages all outlining a narrow understanding of masculinity.
The presentation included the following ideas about how the mine action sector can step up for a more inclusive mine action which will be a more successful mine action.
- One take away from our youth program is the importance of mentorship and action –getting to work with a leader who looks like you and seeing your work have an impact in empowering.
- We need to seek out and hear from expertise that looks and sounds different.
- We need to be careful that efforts to highlight diversity are not inadvertently cementing limiting stereotypes. For example, if you are profiling a female staff member, don’t refer to her as one of the few women or one of a select number of women working in mine action. Women in mine action are just regular women doing a job. Making it sound like women have to be special to work in mine action reduces the likelihood a woman would see themselves in the job and answer your job posting.
- Please remember youth and women are not homogenous groups and make sure that all sorts of people from those demographics are consulted and included.
- We should learn and talk about gender/diversity more. We often see the same faces at side events about gender or youth – and usually they are women. It would be great to see more people especially men showing up for these sessions so I’m issuing a challenge for everyone in this room to attend at least one meeting, lecture, side event, panel or training on gender or diversity this year.
- When in doubt talk to the Gender and Mine Action Program.
- Finally, if the structures, systems and environment we work in do not have space for youth, women or anyone else who doesn’t fit the current understandings of who belongs in mine action, we need to think creatively, adapt and change the structures.