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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 30, September 1998

Ottawa Landmines Convention Entry-into-Force Threshold

Statement by UN Secretary-General

'Secretary-General welcomes fortieth ratification of anti-landmines convention allowing entry into force,' United Nations Press Release SG/SM/6712, 16 September 1998

"Today, the world has taken a step towards becoming a safer and more humane place. Burkina Faso became the fortieth State to ratify the 'Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction', allowing for its entry into force in six months' time.

The entry info force of the Convention will have far-reaching implications for both mine-affected and mine-producing countries. It will provide the international legal framework upon which governments who bind themselves to the Convention will be required to take measures to break the chain of anti-personnel landmine use. These measures include an end to development, production, planting, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel landmines.

As called for in the Convention, the United Nations will facilitate its implementation. Also, through the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Clearance, we will continue to play a key role in coordinating the response to combat landmines.

Finally, it is our sincere hope that all of the world's nations will promote universal adherence to the principles of the Convention."

Statement from Canadian Foreign Ministry

'Foreign Ministers welcome 40th Ratification of the Landmine Convention,' Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Press Release, 16 September 1998

"Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy today joined the Foreign Ministers of Austria, Norway and South Africa, along with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, in welcoming the 40th ratification of the [Ottawa] Convention...

On 1 March, 1999, the first day of the sixth month following the 40th ratification, the Convention will become binding international law for every country that has ratified. On that day, the clock starts ticking for States Parties to comply with the obligations of the Convention - in particular, clearing anti-personnel mines from their land and destroying stockpiles. In addition, the Convention provides a comprehensive framework for international co-operation and assistance to mine-affected countries.

The four countries each made important contributions to the successful conclusion of the Ottawa Convention, among which: Austria provided the text of the draft Convention; Norway hosted the negotiations in September, 1997, leading to the adoption of the Convention text; South Africa chaired the Convention negotiations in Oslo; and Canada hosted the signing ceremony for the Ottawa Convention in December 1997.

'This is a significant step toward a world free of anti-personnel mines,' said Mr. Axworthy. 'The Ottawa Convention is now more than a noble document, it has become a permanent part of international law. This has happened remarkably quickly and I commend all the countries that have signed and ratified the Convention for their leadership.'

'This is a major breakthrough for ridding the world from the evil of anti-personnel mines and record speed for a treaty becoming effective,' said Austria's Foreign Affairs Minister Wolfgang Schüssel. 'We will closely watch the implementation of the ban, expose the culprits for the laying of new mines, like right now in Kosovo and Angola, and assist those suffering because of the mines. Our moral obligation has become a legal one.'

'The rapid ratification process is a clear expression of the determination of the international community to overcome the humanitarian challenge posed by anti-personnel mines. Governments, international organizations and non-governmental organizations must intensify their concerted efforts to translate the goals of the Convention into lasting results for the millions of affected people and communities worldwide,' said Norway's Foreign Affairs Minister Knut Vollebaek.

'This marks a major step forward in ridding Africa, the most mine-afflicted continent, from these terrible weapons. The Convention will also promote mine clearance and victim assistance to mine victims thereby contributing significantly to our African renaissance efforts,' said South Africa's Foreign Affairs Minister Alfred Nzo.

One hundred and twenty-two states signed the Convention when it first opened for signature last December. There are now 130 signatories and, compared to many other treaties, the pace of ratification has been very rapid, signalling the continued strong international political and public momentum behind the ban. ...

Entry into force will also lead to the First Meeting of the States Parties, expected in mid-1999. At that meeting, countries party to the Convention will gather to review progress to date in implementing the Convention and set new goals for increased international co-operation to meet the humanitarian challenges of anti-personnel mines.

The four Ministers called upon all countries to join them in becoming States Parties to the Convention and pledged to work together to promote effective global mine action."

Statement from UK Foreign Office

'Landmines: 40th ratification of Ottawa Convention,' UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office Daily Bulletin, 16 September 1998

"Tony Lloyd, Foreign Office Minister of State, today issued the following statement:

'We are delighted that the 40 ratifications needed to implement the Ottawa Convention have been achieved so quickly. This reflects the international community's determination to rid the world of anti-personnel mines, and sends a clear signal to those who have not signed the Convention. Our task now is to persuade those countries to sign without further delay, and to remove the millions of mines already laid across the world.'"

Statement from the ICBL

'Landmine Treaty ratified by forty countries in record time,' International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) press release, 17 September 1998

"The global movement to eradicate antipersonnel landmines reached a major milestone when Burkina Faso became the fortieth nation to ratify the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty late last night. ... 'It is fitting that this treaty will enter into force faster than any other major treaty in history,' said Jody Williams, Ambassador of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines... 'This accomplishment underscores the urgency of dealing with the global landmine crisis and the strength of the new international standard against this insidious weapon.'

... Among the forty ratifying thus far are not only nations that led the Mine Ban Treaty negotiations (such as Austria, Canada, Ireland, Norway and South Africa), but also nations that [had been]...major producers and exporters of landmines (such as France, Germany, United Kingdom, and Hungary) and nations where mines have been used most extensively (such as Bosnia, Croatia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe). Quick entry into force is vital for the crucial treaty deadlines - destruction of stockpiled mines within four years and of mines already in the ground within ten years - to go into effect.

The ICBL expresses grave concern about reports of the continued laying of mines in a number of countries that have signed but not ratified the treaty, such as Angola, Cambodia, Senegal and Sudan. ICBL condemns the use of mines in non-signatory states such as in Kosovo, FR Yugoslavia. At a recent meeting of the non-aligned movement, the ICBL criticized Cuba, Egypt, India, Iran, Pakistan and Syria - all non-signatories - for blocking a resolution in support of the ban treaty. Other non-signatories, including China, Iraq and Libya, remain openly hostile to the ban. The ICBL is also concerned that some signatory countries where the US has mines stockpiled have not ratified - Greece, Japan, Italy and Spain. The ICBL believes that it would be a violation of the treaty to permit the US to maintain those mines indefinitely.

'The test of the treaty is the difference it makes to countries where mines have victimized the population,' said Tun Channareth, ICBL Ambassador and landmine survivor from Cambodia. 'At least eight children and nine adults have died from starvation in villages in Battambang province in the last month. Some villages are heavily mined and others are made up of displaced people who have fled the minefields.' The ICBL is placing increased emphasis on mine action and mine victim/survivor assistance initiatives to ensure greater effectiveness of these vital operations.

The ICBL calls on all those governments that have signed the treaty but not yet ratified to do so without delay because to sign but not ratify sends a signal of insincerity and lack of commitment. The ICBL believes that the Mine Ban Treaty provides the framework for the overall solution to the landmine crisis in that it not only bans the weapon comprehensively, it also requires mine clearance and urges mine victim assistance programmes. The ICBL expresses great concern over the lack of adequate resources allocated for humanitarian mine action programmes. While appropriate demining technology would be useful, resources are being allocated for demining technology research and development programmes which do not seem appropriate (practical, affordable and sustainable) to the needs of communities suffering from mines. ...

The 130 signatories include:

All of the Western Hemisphere except the US and Cuba, all of NATO except the US and Turkey, all of the European Union except Finland, 42 African countries, and 17 in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan.

The ICBL is currently holding an international meeting in Dublin, Ireland 15-18 September to develop the ICBL's 'Landmine Monitor' system for tracking and evaluating implementation of and compliance with the treaty. ..."

Statement from the Red Cross

'Milestone Ratification of Ottawa Treaty,' International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Press Release 98/34, 17 September 1998

"The ratification yesterday of the Ottawa treaty banning anti-personnel landmines by Burkina Faso is a key event in the extraordinary global response to the suffering caused by these deadly weapons. ...

'It is especially encouraging that mine-affected countries on three continents, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Mozambique, Yemen and Zimbabwe, are among the first 40 countries to ratify', commented Cornelio Sommaruga, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross... 'The challenge ahead is actual implementation of the treaty. The setting-up of mine-clearance and mine-awareness programmes and the organization of assistance for victims have only just begun and will require the mobilization of resources at national and international levels for years to come. Real success will be measured in terms of fewer victims, the replanting of fertile farmland, and the resumption of normal life in communities plagued by landmines', he added.

The adoption of the Ottawa treaty was the first time in history that a weapon in widespread use has been outlawed. Its ratification by 40 States less than a year after it was opened for signature is also a unique achievement.

'The Ottawa treaty is the result of a remarkable process, involving the mobilization of public opinion and of a myriad of private organizations, international agencies and governments in response to a humanitarian crisis. It demonstrates that, for once, in the face of atrocious suffering, humanity has been neither powerless nor incapable of achieving results. I congratulate the 40 States which have ratified the treaty for leading the way, and call on other States to sign and ratify it as a matter of urgency, so as to make the treaty universal.' said Mr Sommaruga. ..."

Editor's note: the 40 States to have ratified the Convention, as of 16 September, were:

Andorra, Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, France, Germany, Grenada, Holy See, Hungary, Ireland, Jamaica, Macedonia, Mauritius, Malawi, Mali, Mexico, Mozambique, Niue, Norway, Peru, Samoa, San Marino, South Africa, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, United Kingdom, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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