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.
The conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria) has resulted in extensive landmine, cluster munition and other explosive remnant of war (ERW) contamination. Mines and ERW caused 864 casualties in Syria in 2015 while cluster munition strikes caused another 231 casualties. The contamination will continue to kill and maim people for decades.
At a time when global landmine contamination is dropping, MAC has been very concerned about increasing Syrian contamination.
Today we have some good news though, the Government of Canada announced a $4.5 million CDN contribution to Mayday Rescue to support the Syrian Civil Defence aka the White Helmets. In addition to the post-bombing search and rescue they are famous for, the White Helmets carry out risk education and explosive ordinance disposal/clearance operations in some of the most contaminated areas.
We hope that this support, following the September announcement of $12.5 Canadian over five years to mine clearance in Colombia, is the start of Canada's return to being a top-five donor to mine action. It is time that Canada reasserts its leadership on the Ottawa Treaty and on global efforts to eliminate the suffering caused by landmines, cluster munitions and other ERW.
Landmine report finds global casualties at 10-year high while clearance funding hits 10-year low; but progress toward a mine-free world continues
(Ottawa, ON, 22 November 2016): New use of antipersonnel mines by states is extremely rare due to the ongoing success of a ban treaty encompassing more than 80% of all countries. However, according to Landmine Monitor 2016, armed conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen created harsher conditions for the victims and contributed to a sharp spike in the number of people killed and injured in 2015 by mines, including improvised devices that are triggered in the same way, and other explosive remnants of war (ERW). This latest annual report of the Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) was released today.
“The decade-high number of new casualties caused by landmines and unexploded ordnance, and the continued suffering of civilians, more than a third of whom were children, proves again that these indiscriminate weapons should never be used by anyone,” said Loren Persi, casualties and victim assistance editor of Landmine Monitor. “Assistance is essential for those people and communities victimized by landmines in countries that were already struggling to meet their needs,” Persi added.
For calendar year 2015, the Monitor recorded 6,461 mine/ERW casualties, marking a 75% increase from the number of casualties recorded for 2014 and the highest recorded total since 2006 (6,573). The sharp increase is mainly attributed to more casualties recorded in armed conflicts in Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen. The increase also reflects greater availability of casualty data, particularly from unique systematic surveys of persons injured in Libya and Syria last year. The vast majority of recorded landmine/ERW casualties were civilians (78%) where their status was known—a finding similar to the high civilian casualty rate in previous years. Despite the overall increase, declining casualty rates were recorded in more states and areas (34) than were increases (31).
“At a time when casualties are increasing, it is worrying to find decreasing international and national support to clear mine-contaminated land and assist landmine victims,” said Jeff Abramson, program manager of the Monitor initiative and final editor of Landmine Monitor 2016.
Thirty-five donors contributed $340.1 million in international support for mine action to 41 states and three other areas—the first time since 2005 that international support fell below $400 million. Canadian funding increased C$2,985, 063 or 35%. Canada’s total funding of C$11,447,904 moves it back into the top ten donors to mine action, but is far short of the C$49.2 million in 2007.
Fourteen affected states reported providing $131.2 million in national support for their own mine action programs. Combined, donors and affected states contributed approximately US$471.3 million for mine action in 2015, a decrease of $139 million (23%) from 2014. 2015 was the lowest level since 2005.
In 2016, donors hosted three international pledging conferences, during which they committed resources to support mine action activities, especially in Colombia and Iraq, as well as the treaty’s implementation support unit in Geneva. Separately, new pledges were also announced for clearance efforts in Lao PDR. “Mine action” comprises the clearance of mined area, destruction of stockpiles of landmines, assistance to victims of landmine explosions, mine risk education, and advocacy.
“It is encouraging to see special pledges made this year to address funding issues, but it is too early to determine whether they will turn around the trend in declining support,” Abramson added.
Landmine use occurs in a limited number of countries, clearance continues
New use of antipersonnel mines by states remains a relatively rare phenomenon, with Myanmar, North Korea, and Syria—all states not party to the Mine Ban Treaty—again having the only government forces actively planting the weapons during the past year (October 2015 to October 2016). Over that time, non-state armed groups used antipersonnel mines, including victim-activated improvised mines, in at least 10 countries: Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, Pakistan, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen, as well as Nigeria—the only country joining last year’s list.
The Mine Ban Treaty, which became international law in 1999 and today has 162 States Parties, bans the use of mines that detonate due to human contact, also known as “victim-activated,” and thereby encompasses improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that act as antipersonnel mines, also called improvised mines.
“The continued use of antipersonnel mines by non-state armed groups in today’s conflicts, particularly victim-activated improvised mines, flies in the face of the widespread international rejection of this weapon,” said Mark Hiznay, associate director of the arms division at Human Rights Watch and ban policy editor of Landmine Monitor.
In 2015, countries continued to make previously mined areas safe for use, reporting at least about 171 km2 of land cleared of landmines among the 60 countries (36 of which are treaty members) and four other sovereignty-disputed areas that are known to have mine contamination. As in recent years, the largest clearance of mined areas in 2015 was achieved in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Croatia, which together accounted for more than 70% of recorded clearance.
While 26 States Parties have completed their clearance obligations since the Mine Ban Treaty came into force in 1999, only four of the remaining States Parties appear to be on track to meet their treaty-mandated clearance deadlines (Algeria, Chile, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ecuador).
Ukraine is in violation of the Mine Ban Treaty due to missing its 1 June 2016 deadline for mine clearance without having requested a deadline extension.
In 2014, treaty members set a shared goal of completing landmine clearance by 2025. “This report’s findings should spur all states to commit the national and international resources necessary to achieve their collective ambition of creating a mine-free world by 2025,” said Abramson.
Additional key findings from the report include:
- The Monitor recorded but could not independently verify allegations of new mine use in States Parties Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Philippines, and Tunisia, or in states not party Iran and Saudi Arabia.
- The number of countries confirmed with mine contamination rose in 2015. The increase is due to new use of antipersonnel mines, including improvised mines, in Nigeria, and to the acquisition of new data on pre-existing contamination in Palau and Mozambique.
- The amount of land recorded as cleared of contamination (171 km2) in 2015 decreased from an estimated 201 km2 in 2014. It is not possible to attribute the 2015 decrease in clearance to a single cause, but the severe reduction in funding available for mine action probably played a major role.
- States Parties Niger and Palau are awaiting approval of landmine clearance extension requests at the Fifteenth Meeting of States Parties, in November 2016.
- In 2015, children accounted for 38% of all civilian casualties where the age was known. Women and girls made up 14% of all casualties where the sex was known, a slight increase compared to recent years.
- Most States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty with significant numbers of mine victims suffered from a lack of adequate resources to fulfill the victim assistance commitments of the 2014–2019 Maputo Action Plan. Approximately two-thirds of these States Parties had active coordination mechanisms or relevant national plans in place to advance efforts to assist mine victims and uphold their rights.
- Collectively, States Parties have destroyed more than 51 million stockpiled antipersonnel mines, including more than 2.1 million destroyed in 2015.
- Belarus, Greece, and Ukraine remain in violation of the treaty after having failed to complete the destruction of their stockpiles by their four-year deadline.
- A de facto global ban on the state-to-state transfer of antipersonnel mines has been in effect since the mid-1990s, but the use of factory-produced antipersonnel mines in States Parties Yemen and Ukraine, where declared stockpiles had been destroyed, indicates that some illicit transfers have occurred either internally among actors or from sources external to the country.
- Down from a total of more than 50 producing states before the Mine Ban Treaty’s existence, currently only 11 countries are identified as potential producers, but just four are most likely to be actively producing, namely India, Myanmar, Pakistan, and South Korea.
About the Monitor:
Landmine Monitor 2016 is released by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines in advance of the Mine Ban Treaty’s Fifteenth Meeting of States Parties, taking place in Santiago, Chile, from 28 November–1 December. More detailed country-specific information is available in online country profiles, while the overviews in the report provide global analysis and findings. The report focuses on calendar year 2015, with information included up to November 2016 in some cases.
Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor is the research arm of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines - Cluster Munition Coalition (ICBL-CMC). The ICBL was awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its work to eradicate landmines. The Monitor is coordinated by a Monitoring and Research Committee comprised of ICBL-CMC expert staff, research team leaders, and representatives of four non-governmental organizations: DanChurchAid, Handicap International, Human Rights Watch, and Mines Action Canada.
- Landmine Monitor 2016 landing page, including new maps - http://www.the-monitor.org/en-gb/reports/2016/landmine-monitor-2016.aspx
- Monitor factsheets - http://the-monitor.org/en-gb/our-research/factsheets/2016.aspx
- ICBL website - http://www.icbl.org/
- Mine Ban Treaty - http://www.apminebanconvention.org/
- Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor Twitter - https://twitter.com/MineMonitor
- Mines Action Canada Twitter - https://twitter.com/MinesActionCan
- Press Conference video
For more information or to schedule an interview, contact:
Twenty years ago today Canada’s then foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy issued a surprise challenge at an international conference in Ottawa. Minister Axworthy’s challenge led to an intense and unique diplomatic process that resulted in a ground-breaking treaty banning landmines.
The challenge was issued during the closing session of a three day conference on mine action held at the old downtown railway station in Ottawa that had been converted into a government conference centre. The conference was forward looking and didn’t focus on past failures to effectively address the global landmines crisis. It attracted representatives from 75 countries, international organizations and civil society. Few in attendance expected a consensus on a new treaty to emerge let alone Axworthy’s call for a treaty to ban landmines.
However, many accepted the surprise and unusual challenge and a very vigorous effort began to bring governments together to negotiate a new ban treaty. Canada and a small group of like-mined countries (such as Austria, Belgium, Mexico, Norway, South Africa) led the diplomatic efforts with the International Committee of the Red Cross and United Nations agencies adding their expertise while civil society under the leadership of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) brought the voices of affected communities and landmine survivors into the negotiations. It was an accelerated and inclusive effort that worked. That effort became known as the Ottawa Process and has been widely studied as a new form of international relations.
On December 3, 1997 more than 120 states came to Ottawa to sign the resulting treaty that combined humanitarian and disarmament components into a comprehensive ban on landmines. The treaty signing happened a little less than 14 months after Lloyd Axworthy issued his challenge. Commonly known as the Ottawa Convention or Mine Ban Treaty it has been very successful to date. It is humbling to think of the results of that surprise announcement in a converted train station in our national capital 20 years ago today: countless lives and limbs have been saved, survivors around the world have access to services to live their lives in dignity and thousands of square kilometres of land has been cleared of mines.
Mines Action Canada was at that conference 20 years ago and we are still here working to ensure the Ottawa Treaty achieves its ultimate goal of a landmine free world. We hope you will join us in commemorating this significant event and the remarkable achievements that have resulted from it.
Over the next 20 days on our website and Facebook page, through social media on our Twitter and Instagram accounts and via emails, we’ll periodically share our thoughts on why this was such an important moment in time. We hope you will find it interesting and informative, maybe even inspirational
We were there 20 years ago, we’re here now and we want to finish the job. To do that we’ll need your help.
During this 20 day period we’re hoping at least 20 new donors will join us. Will one of them be you?
If you have supported us in the past perhaps you’d like to make a one-time contribution of $20.00 or more to mark this 20th anniversary.
The promise of a mine-free world began with a surprise on October 5, 1996. After 20 years of hard work we have never been closer to a world without landmines. Let’s make it a reality.
On December 8th 2005, the United Nations General Assembly declared April 4th the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness on mine action and remind the population of the danger that landmines pose all over the world. It is also an opportunity to highlight all the exceptional work that mine action personnel and advocacy groups do around the world; and to point out that dealing with explosive hazards are only one aspect of mine action work. It is also a moment for the United Nation to reaffirm its partnership with states, non-states actors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) to eradicate all anti-personnel landmines across the globe. This year the ICBL is using the slogan: “Finish the Job 2025” and the United Nations official theme of International Mine Action Day is “Mine action is humanitarian action”. Let’s look at both of those themes.
Finish the Job 2025
In 2014, capitalizing on the momentum provided by the Third Review Conference of the Ottawa Treaty in Maputo, the ICBL challenged the international community to fulfill the promises of the Treaty and to realize a mine free world by 2025. The states present at the Review Conference adopted the Maputo Declaration which set the same goal.
The Ottawa Treaty or as it is often called, the Mine Ban Treaty, was signed in Ottawa in 1997 and entered into law in 1999. It is one of the world's most endorsed treaties. Over 80% of world's countries have committed to it. This universalization of the treaty helps reinforce the stigma now associated with the use of landmines; and this tactic is obviously working. To see the success in action we looked at Landmine Monitor 2005 which identified 6,521 new landmine/UXO casualties in calendar year 2004. The Landmine Monitor 2015 identified 3,678 new casualties in calendar year 2014, the second lowest number of casualties since 1999. The drop in casualties alone between 2005 and 2015 is worth celebrating but there are more successes that show it is possible to Finish the Job by 2025.
In the year the Ottawa Treaty became binding international law, there were 45 states parties. Fifteen years later, we have 162 states parties and Sri Lanka has announced they will soon be #163.
Finish the Job 2025 calls for complete worldwide mine clearance by 2025. An ambitious objective, even by NGO standards, but the ICBL strongly believe that with political determination and commitment from the mine ban community, the States Parties of the Mine Ban Treaty are more than capable of fulfilling their obligations within the next decade. As you noted above, the Ottawa Treaty has made excellent progress over the past ten years and we hope to see similar progress over the next ten. The International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action provides an excellent opportunity for the international community to stress to decisions makers the important of fulfilling that objective. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared: "Eliminating the threat of mines and explosive remnants of war is a crucially important endeavour that advances peace, enables development, supports nations in transition and saves lives.”
Mine action is humanitarian action
Mine action is not only about the danger of dealing with explosives, more importantly it is about providing hope and a chance at a better life to thousands of civilians. As the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon affirmed:
“...mine action programmes make an invaluable contribution to post-conflict recovery, humanitarian relief efforts, peace operations and development initiatives. They prevent landmines and other explosive ordnance from causing further indiscriminate harm long after conflicts have ended, and help to transform danger zones into productive land. Mine action sets communities on course toward lasting stability.”
Contamination by landmines and explosive remnants of war prevent civilians from accessing basic necessities such as drinking water. Contaminated lands and farms cripple development of agriculture exacerbating poverty. Thanks to landmine clearance and the hard work of mine action personnel, now communities in the Battambang province in Cambodia can grow produce on their farms and sell them to local markets; while the city of Bentiu in South Sudan now have access to safe drinking water since the local borehole has been cleared of explosive remnants of war.
Mine action also plays a crucial role in relief efforts. For example, in 2014, the World Food Program initiated a project to build a road in South Sudan so that humanitarian assistance could be delivered by road to villages affected by the ongoing conflict. It is estimated that approximately 2.5 millions of South Sudanese were in need of food assistance at that time. However, during the first few days of the project, a bulldozer hit a anti-tank mine. The project had to be suspended while the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) cleared the area of remaining explosive hazards. The team cleared close to 27,000 km of road, allowing vital humanitarian assistance to reach those in need; saving countless lives.
The work that mine action staff do has a concrete and direct impact on the lives of millions of civilians affected by conflict. Every day, countless lives are saved and changed for the better by mine action whether is clearance of land, risk education, assistance to victims or advocacy. One can only hope that in the near future the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action be a day of remembrance of what used to be.
Jean-Philippe Lambert Ste Marie is an undergraduate student at the University of Ottawa and a Mines Action Canada research assistant.
Next Tuesday, April 4th, is the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, as declared by the UN General Assembly in December 2005.
The theme chosen this year is “Mine action is humanitarian action.”
Significant progress has been made since this day was first established, with multiple organisations and governments showing an increased effort to deal with this problem quickly and efficiently.
In fact, today, 162 states are now party to the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines and in 2014 international support for mine action reached $416.8 million (US).
However, while this is a considerable achievement, there remains a significant amount of work to be done. Every day an estimated 10 people are killed or injured by landmines or explosive remnants of war.
Further, there remain 35 countries outside of the Ottawa Teaty and 60 states and areas which are still contaminated by landmines or explosive remnants of war. This means that in 60 areas around the world parents are frightened to send their children to school, people put themselves at risk daily simply by leaving their homes and many people struggle to rebuild their lives after surviving a landmine incident. Just yesterday, three Syrian boys were killed by a landmine they thought was a toy.
In light of this, the issue of landmine and explosive weapons contamination must be addressed through a humanitarian lens, because it is individual people who must face the very real danger of having their lives, or the life of a family member cut tragically short as a result of wars and conflict that they themselves had nothing to do with. With April 4th fast approaching, we have another opportunity to recommit ourselves to ending the suffering caused by landmines and to remind the international community that mine action is humanitarian action.
Claudia Pearson is an undergraduate student at the University of Leeds currently on exchange at the University of Ottawa.