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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 24, March 1998

Workshop on International Mine Action

Workshop on International Mine Action, Ottawa, 23-24 March 1998

Statement by Canada: Opening Session

'Notes for an address by the Honourable Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the opening of the Workshop on International Mine Action,' Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade text, 23 March 1998

Extracts

"Just three months ago, many of you were among the representatives from 122 countries who joined us here in this building to sign the new convention banning anti-personnel mines. On that same occasion, experts from around the world came together for two days of discussions on the challenges of implementing the convention, clearing mines and assisting survivors.

Since then, the 124th country has signed the convention. Five countries have already ratified it. We are working with our partners around the world - governments, NGOs, the UN, especially key agencies such as UNICEF [United Nations Children's Fund], and the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] - to ensure that we get the 40 ratifications necessary to bring this treaty to life this year.

Our top political and diplomatic priority must be to reach that magic number of 40 ratifying countries - and to follow this closely with an intensive effort to bring on board those countries that have not yet signed. Until the treaty enters into force and is adhered to around the globe, we cannot rest on our laurels. When the treaty is translated into law it will set a new humanitarian standard internationally, one that produces concrete results for individuals. Removing mines from the ground and assisting landmine survivors will be a Sisyphean task as long as we have not cut off the supply of anti-personnel mines for good.

The continuing spirit of commitment around the world, from ordinary citizens and from governments, leads me to believe that we will meet these political goals. Universal adherence to the convention will ensure that we eliminate the threat posed by these weapons of mass destruction.

With the millennium almost upon us, now is a good time to set new goals, to begin working in new ways and to deal definitively with old problems that are the legacy of old thinking. I think that we can aspire to beginning a new century in which no new anti-personnel mines are used. I also think that we can commit ourselves to tackling the humanitarian crisis posed by landmines within the first decade of the new century. These are, I believe, realistic goals, not dreams.

Why do I believe this?

  • because the international community has already shown its capacity to act in a concerted and determined way on the anti-personnel mine issue. The convention itself, and the dynamism of follow-up work by NGOs and governments are proof of this;
  • because the UN is already moving forward, quickly, to provide a focal point for concerted global action. And it is not alone. The Organization of American States, the Organization of African Unity, the World Bank and others are working in new ways to meet the anti-personnel mine challenge; and
  • because people around the world, in donor countries and in the mine-affected States, expect and demand global action now that we have a treaty.

When we met in Ottawa in December, governments, NGOs and representatives of international and regional organizations made it clear that the crucial missing link in the global mine effort was co-ordination and integration. ...

The need for co-ordination is all the more clear because the generosity of donors has already provided us with the means to take action. More than half a billion dollars was pledged in Ottawa to future and ongoing mine action. There is money in the system; the challenge is to make the best possible use of it.

It was in response to this widely acknowledged need that we decided to convene this mine-action meeting in Ottawa. These two days of discussions will allow us:

  • first, to determine where greater international co-ordination is most needed to improve the effectiveness of our global mine-action efforts;
  • second, to identify the gaps and areas of duplication in the expanding international response to the anti-personnel mine crisis; and
  • third, to begin developing a global consensus within and among all the players involved on a coherent, consolidated international response.

In the course of the past months, as we have prepared for this meeting, we have begun to see a new optimism among those taking up the anti-personnel mine challenge. The scope of the problem remains enormous. But increasingly the experts in the field, particularly those who live and work in mine-affected countries, are telling us that we can beat the problem. We can do it if we have clear, common humanitarian objectives, if we focus our efforts, and, most importantly, if we set priorities and work together. Those working in the field are now talking in terms of years, not decades, to break the back of the problem and make a definitive difference to the lives of victims. The key is to focus not so much on the number of mines as on the number of victims and the amount of arable land lost to development and productive use - in other words, on the real impact on daily life. ... What does this mean in practical terms?

In the first place, we need to ensure that the global community is working to some commonly agreed standards for mine action, whether in the collection of data, the development of new technologies, or assistance to survivors.

In the second place, we need to know what works. If something works in one place - whether it is a de-mining technique, a mine-awareness program, a stockpile destruction effort or a survey method - we need to share the experience. ...

The recent first meeting of mine action centre co-ordinators hosted by the Swiss government and chaired by the UN is precisely the sort of effort that should be undertaken on a regular basis. It is, quite frankly, incredible that this was the first time that these centres got together to share experiences and learn from one another.

In the third place, we need to ensure what I would call coherence of effort among the many independent actors on the mine issue. Our purpose should not be to put in place bureaucratic structures or approaches that curtail or constrain the very dynamism and initiative that we need. Rather, we should work to channel that energy, to ensure synergies and, to the greatest extent possible, to ensure practical co-ordination. This is not rocket science. It is common sense.

The Ottawa Conference clearly demonstrated that it makes sense to tackle humanitarian issues in an integrated, holistic way. Horizontal issues like anti-personnel mines cannot be dealt with effectively through traditional, segmented approaches and single-dimensional modes of program delivery. They require a new paradigm. ...

We must also ensure sustainability, over the long term, of our mine-action efforts. This means, above all, building indigenous capacity to carry on mine-action work. Our mine-action programs must respond to the real needs of mine-affected States, both in dealing with the most pressing problems and in developing local capacity for the longer term. ...

Sustainability also means engaging the private sector. The Canadian Auto Workers union gave $1 million for mine action during the Ottawa conference. This sort of philanthropy is to be applauded and encouraged. Businesses, particularly those that invest in mine-affected countries, can play an important part in helping eliminate the mine threat.

Longer-term sustainability - keeping the landmines agenda moving - is about mobilizing resources, political will and public consciousness in a coherent way and in a common direction: toward effective mine action.

This is a huge agenda to cover in just two days. I don't pretend that this meeting will provide the definitive answer to mine-action co-ordination. But I think we will consider it a success if we can re-energize and reposition the global community to work on a number of fronts. ...

Let us commit ourselves to cleaning up the last century's problems in the very first decade of the new century. Let us infuse the mine-action process with hope, determination and a new quality of commitment and co-operation. Let us work together for universal adherence to a total and effective international ban on anti-personnel mines. If we do this, we can transform the killing fields of the 20th century into the fields of hope of the 21st."

Statement by Canada: Closing Session

'Notes for an address by the Honourable Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to the Closing Session of the International Workshop of Mine Action Coordination,' Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade text, 24 March 1998.

Extracts

"I would like to thank you all for your active, engaged participation over the past two days. In the true spirit of the Ottawa Process, you - as representatives of governments, UN agencies and international organizations - have set clear objectives and demonstrated strong commitment for future co-operative action.

At the start of this workshop, we set out to identify areas requiring greater international co-ordination, as well as gaps and areas of duplication in the expanding international response to the mines crisis. We also aimed to develop a broad framework to help us set priorities and co-ordinate global mine action. Underpinning these objectives, we recognized the fundamental importance of early and effective entry-into-force and universalization of the landmines convention.

I am pleased to be able to present to you today the Chair's report of this workshop, which shows, I believe, that we have made some impressive progress.

Reflecting your hard work in preparing for the workshop and over the past two days, the report provides a clear picture of where we are now, of the challenges before us, and of what our next steps must be.

The Chair's report also reminds us that co-ordination and co-operation are not an objective, but rather an ongoing process. They demand good will, skilful management of diverse interests and priorities, and plain old hard work if the process is not to be derailed. We did it for the landmines convention - now let's show we can do it for mine action and implementation. Over the past few days you have begun to turn this convention into a real instrument of collective action, one which will have a real effect on the lives of people who must live with landmines every day. You have clearly identified the priorities for such collective efforts:

  • The necessary 40 ratifications of the convention this year, and work towards its universalization;
  • Greater UN capacity to co-ordinate global mine action by helping to match resources with needs in the field;
  • Better global co-ordination of donor activities, working in partnership with NGOs and the mine-affected States themselves;
  • Clear benchmarks for progress such as a global anti-personnel mine incident registry;
  • Greater transparency and standardization of landmines data;
  • Clear mine action standards, codes of conduct and best practices; and, finally,
  • Affordable, accessible, and cost-effective technologies to enhance mine action.

Last December, in Ottawa, we signed a ban convention - a statement of our commitment. Now, four months later, we have developed in Ottawa a vision and a framework by which the convention, and our global mine action efforts, will make a difference on the ground. We have begun to put in place a framework for common action.

Canada stands ready to make its contribution to this historic humanitarian initiative. As you know, our Prime Minister announced last December that Canada would commit $100 million over five years to treaty implementation and global mine action.

Today, I am pleased to announce that my Cabinet colleagues and I have approved a framework for our efforts in global mine action. We have established a partnership between the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Canadian International Development Agency, the Department of National Defence, and Industry Canada to manage the $100 million fund. We will rely heavily on the input of Canadian and international NGOs and agencies in developing mine action policy and in delivering programs. We owe it to the victims to get down to action without delay.

Later this week, I will be travelling to Hungary for a regional mine action conference. There, I will have the pleasure of working once again with our close friends and allies on this issue - Hungary, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines - as we renew our efforts to ratify and universalize the ban convention. From Hungary, I will be travelling to Bosnia, where Canada will launch a $10 million Mine Action Program with an initial focus in northwest Bosnia. ... This is not simply a demining project - it is an integrated program encompassing reconstruction and local capacity building.

I believe that we can, through concerted action with our partners, reduce by 50 percent the number of landmines in Bosnia in five years, including clearance of 50 square kilometres identified as the highest priority for demining.

This program has been designed with co-operation in mind. Under its 'adopt a team' concept, we will be looking for other donors to join Canada in supporting 30-person demining teams. For $500 000 per year, these humanitarian demining teams will be able to operate continuously in Bosnia. This will boost the effectiveness of the on-the-ground demining effort, under a nationally co-ordinated program. I invite our international partners, large and small, to consider joining us in 'adopting a team'. Our hope is that this program will become a model of the co-ordination needed if we are to meet our ambitious mine action goals.

As a further sign of Canada's commitment to collective efforts on mine action, Canada will contribute $2 million this fiscal year to the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Mine Clearance. ...

The title of the report of this conference - Years not Decades - reflects the new sense of optimism we have sensed within the global mine action community. This optimism is firmly grounded in the good work we have done together to chart a course for effective global mine action into the next century. But only, I should add, into the early part of that century. With our course charted for us, and with a clear commitment to action, I believe that we can indeed bring an end to anti-personnel mines in years, not decades. ..."

Statement by US

Speech by Ambassador Karl Inderfurth, Special Representative for Global Humanitarian Demining, Ottawa, 23 March 1998

Extracts

"When we met in Ottawa last December to witness the signing of the Ottawa Convention, we agreed that it was imperative to turn immediately to the task of removing the threat of landmines to the civilian population worldwide, the tens of millions of landmines that are already in the ground. We meet here again to reaffirm that humanitarian demining is the urgent task and that it is time to forge the necessary international coordination to get the task done. ...

United Nations Under Secretary General Bernard Miyet has presented a well conceived plan for reorganizing and coordinating mine action within the UN system. This is the essential first step, because the United Nations and its agencies form the core of our ability to bring relief to mine-affected countries. We must also recognize that the United Nations, especially UNDPKO [United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations], will only be able to coordinate its activities and act effectively as the core of an international coordination mechanism if it gets the full support of the major donor governments and the interested community outside government.

Seven Points of Coordination

Let me now elaborate the elements of support that we believe the international community must bring to implementation of our humanitarian demining objectives. We seek seven essential elements.

First, UNDPKO and other aspects of the UN coordination plan that Under Secretary General Miyet has outlined will require supplemental support from donors to develop a stronger coordinating capacity as expeditiously as possible. It is our understanding that several governments are prepared to offer support of this sort. We believe the list will grow.

Second, the UN coordination mechanism must become a wider clearinghouse for all humanitarian demining activity, not just that of the United Nations. We must work together to define a broader UN-based clearinghouse/coordination mechanism that can bring all interested entities into communication to assess needs, define priorities, and help focus resources accordingly. ... This coordinating mechanism should, working with donor governments and non-governmental experts, develop a catalogue of needs and opportunities with cost estimates, that governments and NGOs could use to determine how to direct their resources toward all aspects of humanitarian demining. ...

Third, the coordination mechanism must have access to a full data base that provides a more reliable and comprehensive view of humanitarian demining needs and conditions. The Swiss government's generous offer to fund improvements to the UN data base is a welcome contribution to this effort. In particular, the data base should focus on information contributing to detailed assessments and inventories of country-by-country demining needs. ...

Fourth, the Mine Action Support Group which was convened in New York by Norway, will be an important channel of communication and consultation between the UN and the major donors. In the nature of a 'Friends to the Secretary General,' this group should also provide a forum for donors to exchange ideas with mine-affected countries and NGOs with experience in demining.

Fifth, there are aspects of resource management that ultimately transcend the ability of a single institution to resolve on its own. The UN clearinghouse mechanism should be supplemented by a consultative group, as was proposed by the EU Ambassador at the December Ottawa Conference, in which representatives of the major donor governments, the UN, World Bank, and other sources of public funds for humanitarian demining can review the catalogue of needs to ensure that donor programs are not inadvertently working at cross purposes. ...

Sixth, the UN clearinghouse/coordination mechanism should also be supplemented by better coordination of humanitarian demining technology research and development. The United States will be convening representatives of other governments investing in technology R&D (Research and Development) immediately after this workshop to explore the possibilities of establishing an R&D coordinating mechanism. If such a mechanism is feasible, it would serve the broader international humanitarian demining community.

Last but not least, we must find creative ways of facilitating private investment and participation in humanitarian demining and landmine survivor assistance. Several interesting new initiatives are already in train. The UN Foundation, which will channel Ted Turner's unprecedented $1 billion ($1,000 million) donation to the United Nations, is developing new mechanisms for directing and monitoring the input of private resources into UN projects, including humanitarian demining. We will undoubtedly be hearing more in the course of the Ottawa Workshop about this promising new partnership between the UN and the private community. The United States UN Association is also engaged in discussions with the UN to develop a similar arrangement to implement its 'Adopt a Minefield' program. Several California winegrowers have conceived a 'Mines to Vines' initiative for funding humanitarian demining in areas that could be developed into vineyards and farms. We believe the opportunities are unlimited.

We look forward to exploring these ideas in the working group discussions that will follow this plenary. ...

...we have a big job ahead of us, but I believe that the international community has the will to achieve it. Our goal for the mine-affected countries should be 'mine-free' status, as we hope will be the case for Central America by the year 2000, and for the entire international community by the year 2010. I am confident that between our deliberations here in Ottawa and those that will follow in Washington in May, we will be able to reach agreed conclusions about how we must organize ourselves to get this job done."

Source: Text - Ambassador Inderfurth on key elements of demining efforts, United States Information Service, 23 March.

Editor's note: From 19-20 March, in Alexandria, Virginia, the US State Department hosted an international conference on Economic Realities of Demining: Value and Compassion. Priscilla Clapp, the Department's Deputy Special Representative for Global Demining, told delegates from 11 countries (Cambodia, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, UK, US) that the US had set the target-date of 2010 to fulfil the main objectives of global demining because "we just need to set a goal for ourselves as a global community and do our best to reach it." The aim, she added, was not to take "every mine out of the ground all over the world," but "reaching a zero-victim objective."

Source: Demining goal should be 'zero victims', US official says, United States Information Service, 20 March.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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