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.”
*** ENDS ***
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.
As Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un meet in Singapore, humanitarian disarmament organizations are highlighting the importance of disarmament more broadly to a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. Both nuclear weapons and anti-personnel landmines will need to be addressed by the states involved.
The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula has been a topic of much discussion. Working behind the scenes for the last month, a group of the world’s foremost nuclear disarmament experts have mapped out the best pathway for total denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, determining that the existing international treaty framework is the most appropriate solution.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for efforts to promote denuclearization through a treaty-based solution, presented the “Korean Peninsula Denuclearization Roadmap” at a press conference in Singapore ahead of the historic meeting between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump.
The plan begins by recognizing the horrific loss of life and suffering that would be caused by any use of nuclear weapons. Experts agree that even a limited nuclear engagement on the Korean Peninsula would see upwards of 30 warheads detonated causing massive loss of life and cataclysmic environmental damage in North Korea and South Korea, as well as the entire Northeast Asia region. Any solution to the crisis requires all parties to reject nuclear weapons outright on humanitarian grounds, through the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
The roadmap outlines a solution to the question of how the Korean Peninsula will be denuclearized where states recognize the unacceptable humanitarian risk of nuclear weapons; reject weapons by joining the TPNW; remove existing weapons with verifiable and time-bound plans; ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); and rejoin the world community through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
“The existing treaty frameworks are the only way to make Korean denuclearization permanent,” said Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN. “There has been little talk as to what an agreement could look like. This roadmap answers the question at the heart of negotiations: How do North Korea and South Korea denuclearize in a way that is verifiable, irreversible and won't unravel?”
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is the central point of the plan and joining the Treaty would oblige North Korea to immediately cease any development, production, and manufacture of nuclear weapons. North Korea would also be obliged to eliminate its nuclear-weapon programme, to resume implementation of its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) comprehensive safeguards agreement, and to conclude and implement an Additional Protocol with the IAEA.
The plan also calls on South Korea, which has not had nuclear weapons on their soil since the early 1990s, to denuclearize. South Korea must formally reject the United States’ extended nuclear deterrence in order to guarantee nuclear weapons will not be used on their behalf. This would not change existing military treaties between the US and South Korea, and the current “nuclear umbrella” security arrangement would be transformed to a general “security umbrella.” For its part, the US would take a practical step towards denuclearization by finally following through on its commitment to ratify the CTBT. North Korea and China would join the US in this step. Ultimately, ICAN calls on the US and all states to sign and ratify the TPNW and join the 122 nations who adopted the Treaty at the UN last July in moving towards a global nuclear weapons ban.
The plan at a glance:
1 Recognize the risk of nuclear use and unacceptable humanitarian consequences of such use.
2 Reject nuclear weapons by joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
3 Remove – a verifiable and irreversible plan for disarmament
4 Ratify the CTBT and verify through the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization
5 Rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the world community
The full Korean Peninsula Denuclearization Framework is available for download here: http://www.icanw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/ICAN-Korean-Peninsula-Denuclearization-Roadmap.pdf
Beyond denuclearization, the issue of anti-personnel landmines should be on the agenda not just at the Kim-Trump summit but at other talks aimed at building peace on the Korean Peninsula. The Korean Peninsula is one of the most heavily landmine contaminated places on the planet. The Landmine Monitor has received reports of between 500 and 3,000 landmine casualties in South Korea but has no estimate of the number of casualties in North Korea. Despite the threat to civilians living near the Demilitarized Zone, landmines have not received much attention during this process.
Should this summit start a serious peace process, the United States of America, North Korea and South Korea will all need to deal with the landmines in the Demilitarized Zone. Similar to the calls from ICAN for North Korea and South Korea to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, both North Korea and South Korea should join the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines together. Acceding to the Treaty together will be a confidence and peace building measure. There is a proven track record of the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines being used to build confidence between states - Greece and Turkey joined the treaty simultaneously to further political trust between the two states. After joining the Ottawa Treaty, North and South Korea will have to demine the Demilitarized Zone. Working together to clear the landmines can further build trust and peace between the former adversaries as seen by the close cooperation between Ecuador and Peru to clear their formerly contested border of landmines. By joining and implementing the Ottawa Treaty together, North Korea and South Korea can begin to work towards a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Mines Action Canada hopes that the Trump-Kim Summit in Singapore will bring renewed attention to the disarmament of the Korean Peninsula. We call on both parties to join the Ottawa Treaty and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as an immediate peace dividend. It is time to take the first in a number of steps towards a nuclear weapons and landmine free peaceful Korean Peninsula.
At the 16th Meeting of States Parties to the Ottawa Treaty, Mines Action Canada hosted a Women in Disarmament Youth Leaders
Forum supported by the Governments of Australia, Canada and Ireland.
After four days of training, mentoring and participation in the meeting, the 12 young women leaders addressed the plenary on the final day of the meeting.
In December it will have been 20 years since the world came to Canada to sign the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines. The Ottawa Treaty is a success in progress with a huge amount of land cleared of landmines, a significant decrease in the number of casualties, millions of stockpiled mines destroyed and 80% of the world belonging to the treaty. However, there is still work to do – 64 states and other areas are contaminated by landmines and other explosive remnants of war and there were over 6,400 casualties in 2015.
The States Parties to the Ottawa Treaty including Canada have set a goal to finish the job by 2025. This goal is ambitious but achievable with political will and consistent funding.
As a State Party to the Ottawa Treaty with the means to do so, Canada has an obligation to provide assistance to landmine affected states to implement the treaty under Article 6 of the Treaty. At the moment, Canada has not been meeting this obligation to a level expected of the home of the treaty and a global leader on peace and human rights.
Canada’s current support for the Ottawa Treaty
According to Canada’s Article 7 Report submitted as required by the Ottawa Treaty, Canada contributed $17.55 million Canadian to mine action projects in 2016. This $17.55 million represents an increase from 2015 contributions and is the highest total amount since 2012. However, $17.55 million is significantly lower than the all-time high of $62.83 million in 2007 and considerably lower than the 22 year average of $21.53 million.
With the contribution of $17.55 million Canadian, Canada is the 9th highest donor to mine action in 2016.
In 2016, Canada funded mine action projects in five countries: Afghanistan ($8,000,000), Colombia ($3,235,000), Iraq ($4,513,425), Sri Lanka ($569,386) and Ukraine ($1,232,817).
There are five pillars of mine action: victim assistance, mine clearance, stockpile destruction, risk education and advocacy. Canada’s 2016 funding was concentrated on one of these pillars – mine clearance. Some funded projects included risk education alongside the clearance operations. The only funding to include victim assistance and advocacy was the $8,000,000 CDN to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in Afghanistan. The description of this project listed all aspects of UNMAS’ work so it difficult to ascertain how much of the Canadian funding went to each pillar of mine action specifically.
Gaps in Canada’s support for the Ottawa Treaty
Canada’s support for the Ottawa Treaty currently has a number of gaps that leave some members of the international community questioning Canada’s recent commitment to its greatest contribution to global peace and security in the past 50 years.
Canada has not been very active on the Ottawa Treaty diplomatically in recent years. There has been a slight increase in engagement since early 2015 however, in general, there is little evidence that Canada has been speaking out on the issue publically or privately.
Canada’s funding support for the Ottawa Treaty, as it is currently implemented, contains large geographic gaps. Structural barriers have made it almost impossible for Canada to assist key states in dire need of support to meet their goals under the Ottawa Treaty, for example, Angola, Cambodia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These barriers also prevent Canada from assisting other states with heavy contamination such as Vietnam. If a state is not one of Canada’s development target countries or a state in need of stabilization, it is unlikely that Canada will be able to provide mine action assistance regardless of the need or our treaty commitment. The new Feminist International Assistance Policy is supposed to end the Countries of Focus program. However, the lack of details on how such a change will be implemented raises questions about how effective the new policy will be in closing geographic gaps in Canada’s support of mine action and the Ottawa Treaty. Indeed without specific recognition of how mine action meets Canada’s feminist foreign policy, connects to the SDGs, and addresses particular development needs of affected countries, it is not clear how removing the countries of focus approach will contribute to increased funding for the pillars of mine action.
As the table of data from Export Development Canada below indicates, all four of the countries mentioned above have business ties with Canada, as well as cultural ties, ensuring that support for mine action including clearance, victim assistance and advocacy in them would be of benefit to Canadians in addition to ensuring that Canada meets its obligations under the Ottawa Treaty.
Canada companies assisted by EDC
International buyers insured by EDC
Business Volume (CAD)
In addition to geographic gaps, Canada’s support for mine action has significant gaps in terms of the pillars of mine action that are supported. As mentioned above, Canadian funding in 2016 focused very heavily on mine clearance and contained little support for other crucial pillars such as victim assistance and advocacy which includes research and monitoring of the treaty. Without funding for victim assistance and advocacy, it will be difficult to meet the 2025 goal. The lack of Canadian support for advocacy and victim assistance is curious considering the direct links between those two pillars of mine action and the feminist approach to international assistance taken by the government.
A renewed commitment
During the 2015 election, the Liberal Party of Canada pledged that “A Liberal government will re-engage on this important treaty and lobby non-signatory states to join the treaty” when asked about the Ottawa Treaty. In order to truly re-engage with the Ottawa Treaty, Canada should:
Ensure that diplomats, Ministers, parliamentarians and other representatives of Canada advocate for the universalization and full implementation of the Ottawa Treaty when engaging in bilateral and multilateral discussions on international peace, security and development issues;
Recognize the important contribution mine action makes to the Sustainable Development Goals, gender equality and peacebuilding;
Support research and evidence based decision making within Canada’s mine action work and in global efforts towards the 2025 goal;
Mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Ottawa Treaty as part of the Canada 150 celebrations;
Include victim assistance and advocacy programs in Canadian funding for mine action; and
Increase Canadian funding for mine action to $1 per Canadian per year. This achievable target would put Canada in the top five donors on mine action; allow Canada to contribute meaningfully to the goal of a mine free world by 2025; support grassroots organizations and meet our obligations under the Ottawa Treaty. By dedicating specific funding to mine action, Canada would have more flexibility to assist states which need support to implement the treaty.
Canada has the resources and the capacity to be a leader on landmines again by making a few small adjustments. The funds and the diplomatic resources required to make this re-engagement a reality are there, all that is needed is political will. With Canadian leadership, it is possible to end the suffering caused by landmines by 2025.
April 4th is International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. This year there were some very exciting events to mark the day.
We were very pleased to see Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Crystia Freeland, announce support for mine action in Sri Lanka and Ukraine. This announcement follows soon after an announcement of funding for clearance activities in Iraq. Each of these projects will save lives and limbs for years to come.
Minister Freeland also attended a reception at Kensington Palace hosted by our colleagues Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and The HALO Trust. At the reception, Prince Harry delivered a keynote speech highlighting the progress made since his mother, Princess Diana, spoke out about the issue in 1997 and the importance of finishing the job.
You can see Prince Harry's full speech in the video below or read it online.
Elsewhere around the world, the President of the Ottawa Treaty, Austria's Foreign Minister released an excellent statement to mark the day. In Tunis, the Canadian Embassy hosted a reception. The UN Mine Action Service in South Sudan held a photo exhibition. Our colleagues in Iraq held a large event (see photo below). Campaigners in Albania, Yemen, the United States and more met with their governments, held public events and raised funds. The Secretary General of the United Nations reminded the world that "Peace without mine action is incomplete peace" in a statement. That is a fitting reminder of why this day is so important. Without all the pillars of mine action (clearance, risk education, victim assistance, advocacy and stockpile destruction), conflicts will continue to claim lives and limbs long after the peace agreement is signed.