Ukraine One Year On
With landmines in the way, there is no safe development
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.
My First Mine Action Fellows Forum
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
New Report: Abandoned Africa? Canada's Funding for Mine Action in Africa
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.
Advice for Canada on the Situation in Afghanistan
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.
You can read the written testimony in English and French.
More information about the Committee can be found on the parliamentary website.
Still Lost in the Diplomatic Woods
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.
Diplomatic Surprise Still Saving Lives 25 Years Later
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.
Board Statement on the Terrorist Attack in Northern Afghanistan
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
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.