Today, the Mine Action Fellows Addressed the 21st Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in English and Spanish.
Thank you Mr. President.
More than 20 years after the treaty entered into force, we still see States and non State armed groups, using these inhumane weapons. As young activists, we condemn the use of landmines by all actors and we call on all State Parties to do the same. For those who continue to use landmines remember you are not just attacking your enemy, but also the people you want to protect and future generations.
Besides their humanitarian impact, landmines also affect a community’s socioeconomic development. Many people are unable to access their land and essential services such as health care and education. Among us there are Fellows who have had to leave their homes because of mines and still cannot return.
The impacts go beyond humanity to the natural world as well. We want to thank the president of the 21st MSP for the steps taken to include environmental considerations in mine action. We further urge the international community to continue their work and include an environmental mainstreaming approach in their mine action strategies.
We have noticed that funding is often concentrated on clearance but we urgently need global support and funding for Victim Assistance and Mine Risk Education, including for community-based local organizations who are leading these efforts on the ground.
Remember the effects of a mine injury reverberate throughout the international community from individual survivors and their families to global actors. Even after the mines are cleared, we must commit to support for victims and deminers during demobilization.
Like VA, Mine Risk Education (MRE) often receives inadequate attention in many countries, hindering prevention efforts in providing lifesaving information.
Information is at the foundation of this treaty. Article 7 reports are a crucial component of maintaining transparency and providing information. It is the state’s parties’ duty to update these reports annually. By transparency, we mean that you should provide disaggregated data and thorough reporting which will highlight the needs of under-resourced activities, like victim assistance, and help donor countries provide targeted funding.
More transparency through reporting leads to better funding, which should be guided by cooperation between donor countries and mine-affected countries. At the same time, donor countries, states parties or not, are responsible for understanding the needs of mine-affected countries and distributing funding based on these needs.
We know what we have to do but how we do it matters as well.
Queremos destacar el papel que juega el enfoque de género y diversidad en la Convención… La mujer desminadora de Colombia que atraviesa constantemente territorios devastados por el conflicto... El niño que va en bicicleta a la escuela en Zimbabue... La facilitadora que trabaja como voluntaria en las aulas de Camboya y que perdió una pierna a causa de una mina antipersonal… sus experiencias nos da un indicio de los múltiples efectos que las minas antipersonal pueden tener sobre las comunidades. Las políticas nacionales deben tener en cuenta las necesidades diversas de todos los grupos poblacionales y mejorar la accesibilidad a los servicios de la Acción Contra Minas. Necesitamos un enfoque integral que dé respuesta a los efectos de las minas antipersonal en las comunidades en situación de vulnerabilidad, sin dejar a nadie atrás. Debemos asegurarnos de que todo el mundo tenga la oportunidad de contar su propia historia, incluidas las víctimas de las minas.
Además, el enfoque de diversidad debe tener una lógica descendente. Una vez más, reconocemos los inquebrantables esfuerzos por contribuir y fortalecer la representación de las mujeres en el diálogo diplomático y los valiosos aportes del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Género y Diversidad. Sin embargo, este equilibrio de género no significa necesariamente que las voces de todas las personas están siendo realmente escuchadas. Debemos asegurarnos de que el género y la diversidad no sean concebidos como conceptos limitados, por el contrario, deben estar orientados en torno a comunidades con necesidades diversas.
Una mayor sinergia y coherencia política entre la acción humanitaria contra las minas y otros marcos jurídicos de derechos humanos, incluida la agenda sobre mujeres, paz y seguridad, los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible y la Convención de las Naciones Unidas sobre los derechos de las personas con discapacidad, son cruciales para comprender las diversas perspectivas de las comunidades afectadas por las minas antipersonal.
Tanto para los que están en terreno como los que brindan apoyo desde las oficinas, garantizar el enfoque de género y diversidad podría conducir a una mejor apreciación y consideración de las distintas realidades y obstáculos a los que se enfrentan todos los actores de la acción contra minas, generando nuevas ideas y destruyendo barreras para lograr un mundo libre de minas antipersonal. A medida que se acerca el final del Plan de Acción de Oslo, debemos proponer indicadores más específicos que tengan un impacto real en la construcción de una mayor igualdad.
We are here this week because we are already leaders in the field - we recognize and promote the importance of the Mine Ban Treaty and implement its provisions. Among us, some are involved in mine risk education, advocacy, victim assistance and clearance. However, we know that youth are seldom included in these decision making processes but are deeply impacted by mines.
We thank the governments of Canada, Switzerland and the United Kingdom for their support which allows us to be here today.
As young people, we envision a world where state parties follow their obligations and support civil society in our work. Demining is essentially youthful, hopeful, and abolitionist. The act and outcome of demining requires us to think beyond geopolitical and resource constraints in aspiring for realities free of violence, conflict, and suffering. Such a revisionist view brings out the best of humanity – our ability to imagine, rebuild, and maintain peace and is an effort that requires all states to participate and everyone to be included, literally leaving no one behind in mine action.
At this crucial moment with a review conference next year, we must support the treaty and its norms. A mine free world is possible and we will stand with you the states parties as you take the next steps. When things get difficult over the next year refer to the purpose of this treaty; it seeks to put an end to suffering and casualties caused by anti-personnel mines through the pursuit of four core aims: universalization, clearance, destruction of mines, and victim assistance. When all these aims are fully achieved, we will have a mine free world where children can run freely, the environment can be restored, and all people can live in peace.
Check out our new infographic about demining versus other workplace injuries:
Today, Mines Action Canada released a new paper on women's employment in mine action.
Gender and Employment in Mine Action by the Numbers: An Update contains the results of a follow up study on employment of women by non-governmental organizations in landmine clearance and related fields. This new 2023 survey shows an increase in women's employment between 2019 and 2023. Bénédicte Santoire, a PhD Candidate from the University of Ottawa, carried out the research and analysis this year.
Gender and Employment in Mine Action by the Numbers: An Update builds on the results of short survey carried out in the first quarter of 2019 and published in early 2020.
MAC is sharing the results of this survey as the international community meets in Geneva for the 21st Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty.
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 will be officially launched at a briefing event during the 21st Meeting of States Parties on 23 November 2023. An A4 version of the paper is also available for those printing copies internationally.
It’s International Development Week, and we want to share how indiscriminate weapons negatively impact the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
On Day One, we’re looking at how landmines can completely stop development and affect 12 out of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). When thinking about landmine contamination, it is important to think about the area of land suspected to be contaminated, and not how many landmines have actually been laid. Think about your backyard for example: If you thought there was even one landmine there, you would avoid that area - even if there were actually zero landmines, or ten. So, when a community has an area of land that is suspected of contamination, safe development activities cannot happen on that land as it should be avoided. The contamination could be on farmland (SDG #1, Zero poverty & #2, Zero Hunger), at a clinic (SDG #3, Good health and well-being), near a school (SDG #4 Quality Education) or water well (SDG #6, Clean water and sanitation) - wherever there is landmine contamination there are lethal barriers to development.
If land is suspected to be contaminated, or is confirmed contaminated, these important activities cannot take place safely. This means that development is stalled as children are unable to walk to school or families are unable to farm their land. This leads to poverty, hunger, poor health, not receiving a quality education or being unable to access clean water. Of course, people need to eat, access healthcare, go to school, and drink water. Since clearance takes decades, people in affected communities are often left with no choice but to either displace or stay put and go about these daily activities, risking their lives. This risk is not sustainable, as many people lose their lives or limbs in the process. This is clearly not peaceful and too often no one is held accountable for the civilian harm caused (SDG #16, Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions). People experience this risk in different ways, as men, women, boys, and girls have different activities that they perform which either makes them higher or lower risk for an incident (SDG #5, Gender Equality). For example, in many communities it is the men who farm the land which puts them at higher risk for contamination on farmland. Being forced to take these risks, or being unable to and therefore stopped from daily activities increases inequalities (SDG #10, Reduced Inequalities).
When people are risking their lives for daily necessities such as farming, it is easily seen how SDG goals of affordable and clean energy (SDG #7), decent work and economic growth (SDG #8), industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG #9), and sustainable cities and communities (SDG #11) are extremely difficult to achieve. When landmines are contaminating large areas of land, it is impossible to build new infrastructure and invest in clean energy to create sustainable cities without clearing the landmines first.
Landmines stop progress towards sustainable development, this much is clear. Later this week we will talk about the importance of clearance and how this will help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Clearance is step one, development is step two.
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
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.