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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 34, February 1999

Ottawa Convention Entry into Force

Entry into Force of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Ottawa Convention), 1 March 1999

Editor's note: the Convention, signed in the Canadian capital in December 1997, entered into force on the first day of the sixth month after the Treaty's 40th ratification, by Burkina Faso (see Disarmament Diplomacy No. 30, September 1998, pp.47-49). As of 1 March, 134 States had signed, and 65 States had signed and ratified, the Convention. Among the notable landmine-possessing States which have not signed are the United States, China, Russia, India and Pakistan.

Statements & Reaction

United Nations

'Struggle to eliminate anti-personnel mines key in effort against weapons which kill and maim civilians indiscriminately, Secretary-General says', statement as prepared for delivery at a 1 March bell-ringing ceremony at the United Nations, UN Press Release SG/SM/6906, 26 February 1999

"Today, 1 March 1999, marks the entry into force of the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel mines. It is a day whose arrival few could have predicted, and whose import to the millions whose lives or limbs may be saved from these barbarous weapons cannot be overestimated. For the global community of conscience who fought against all odds to see this day arrive, it is a milestone indeed.

I would particularly like to pay tribute to the efforts of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the International Committee for the Red Cross, whose visionary advocacy for what seemed a lost cause has made it a reality. They have built the foundation of a new era in the struggle against small arms and all weapons which kill and maim civilians indiscriminately. The struggle to eliminate anti-personnel mines is paramount in this effort, not only for the damage they have done, but for the permanent threat they represent to communities and villages throughout the world, from the Balkans to Africa and Asia.

The battle ahead is to make this treaty fully effective not just in law, but also in implementation; not just in the capitals of the signatories, but also in the fields and forests where mines still exist; not just in principle, but in practice. The United Nations remains deeply engaged in this effort by assisting States in locating and clearing these weapons.

I have invited all States members of the United Nations and observer States to attend the First Meeting of States Parties to this Convention, which will be held in Maputo, Mozambique, from 3 to 7 May, and hope that as many States as possible will be able to join in opening the second chapter in this vital endeavour for humankind."

Austria, Canada, Mozambique, Norway & South Africa

'Anti-Personnel Mine Convention Enters Into Force,' Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Press Release No. 46 1998, 1 March 1999

Editor's note: the five States issued a joint statement by virtue of their respective achievements and continuing responsibilities in the ban-process: Austria contributed the draft text of the Convention; Canada pressed for the conclusion of negotiations before the end of 1997, and hosted the signing ceremony; Mozambique will host the First Meeting of States Parties in May this year; Norway hosted key negotiations in September 1997; South Africa chaired the September 1997 Oslo talks.

"The Foreign Ministers of Austria, Canada, Mozambique, Norway and South Africa today welcomed the entry into force of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.

In addition to banning the manufacture, storage, transfer and use of anti-personnel (AP) mines, the Convention lays the foundations for international co-operation in mine action efforts. With its entry into force, the Convention has started the clock for States Parties to comply with their obligations: stockpiles must be destroyed within four years, and mined areas must be cleared within ten.

Opened for signature in Ottawa on 3 December, 1997, the Convention has been among the fastest to enter into force of any such international agreement. To date, 134 countries have signed the Convention, and 65 have ratified. On 24 February, Ukraine became the most recent State to sign the Convention.

Austria's Foreign Minister, Wolfgang Schüssel, declared: 'Today, the total ban on anti-personnel mines has become a reality under international law. This encourages us in the pursuit of our common goal: no more mine victims. The same unprecedented international co-operation that produced the Convention within a year will allow us to rid the planet of the plight caused by these hidden killers.'

Lloyd Axworthy, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, noted that the degree of international support for the ban is significant: 'The way the Convention was developed broke the rules, and now the speed at which it has entered into force has broken the records. While we celebrate this achievement, we must remember that our objective remains: freedom from the terror of mines. Canada will continue to work with its partners to achieve this goal.'

Knut Vollebæk, Norway's Foreign Minister, noted that this day marks a ground-breaking, remarkable achievement. 'The emphasis must now shift from campaigning to implementation. The convention provides the international community with a framework for effectively resolving the tremendous humanitarian problems caused by AP landmines. We must now respond in a co-ordinated and integrated way, in order to free the world of these weapons within a finite period.'

South Africa's Foreign Minister, Alfred Nzo, welcomed the entry into force of the Convention: 'It will significantly contribute to eradicating this scourge from the African continent, thereby assisting the socio-economic advancement of its people who have been so gravely afflicted by the use of these deadly weapons.'

Church bells will be ringing out in cities around the world today, in celebration of the occasion. Numerous activities have been arranged worldwide to commemorate the event. The next major milestone for the Convention will be the First Meeting of States Parties, to take place on May 3 to 7 in Maputo, Mozambique. In this forum, countries party to the Convention (as well as other interested States and non-governmental organizations) will review progress to date in implementing the Convention and set new goals for increased international co-operation.

Mozambican Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao noted that the Government and the people of Mozambique are honoured to host the First Meeting of States Parties and look forward to welcoming all participants. 'It is our earnest hope that the Maputo Meeting will succeed in devising joint actions against anti-personnel mines, including assistance and rehabilitation of victims as well as raising international awareness of this issue.'

The five 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."


Remarks by Prime Minister Eric Derycke, 1 March

"It's particularly regrettable that in the United States the issue has for the moment become less urgent... We won't convince Russia and China to sign the treaty if we don't convince the United States first."

Source: UN landmine treaty takes effect, Associated Press, 1 March.

United Kingdom

'Landmines: Ottawa Convention Comes Into Force', Statement by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, Foreign & Commonwealth Office Daily Bulletin, 1 March 1999

"I am delighted that the Ottawa Convention has entered into force so quickly. This reflects the international community's determination to rid the world of these dreadful weapons. The UK has been at the forefront of this campaign. We were among the first to sign and ratify the Convention but our work doesn't stop here. We must secure the widest possible adherence to the ban, and the removal of the millions of mines already laid across the world. Our posts overseas have recently carried out a worldwide lobbying exercise aimed at encouraging those countries that have not yet signed and ratified Ottawa to do so as soon as possible."

Remarks by Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development, 1 March

"We really miss [Princess] Diana. She was moving public opinion throughout the world. Are the US or China feeling under as much pressure as when she was campaigning? I fear not."

Source: Pope's plea over landmine ban, BBC Online Network, 1 March.

NGO Reaction

Press release from International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), 1 March: "On the day that the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty becomes binding international law, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) praised the remarkable progress made in eliminating antipersonnel landmines, condemned those who continue to use the weapon, especially treaty signatory Angola, and called for more assistance for mine action and mine victims. The ICBL has organized bell-ringing and other events around the world today to mark the ban treaty's historic entry-into-force.

'The momentum has continued unabated since the signing of the ban treaty in December 1997,' said Jody Williams, ICBL Ambassador and Nobel co-laureate. 'Today, this treaty enters into force more quickly than any other major treaty in history, demonstrating the world's commitment to eradicate this insidious weapon now,' said Ms. Williams.

'While the treaty and the ban movement have already had a huge impact in terms of saving future lives and limbs, we will not have real success until there is effective and rapid implementation on the ground, and more of the recalcitrant governments join in.'

Taking stock of progress, the ICBL noted:

  • to date, 134 nations have signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and 65 have ratified;
  • use of antipersonnel mines appears to be significantly on the wane;
  • some 10-15 million antipersonnel mines have already been destroyed from stockpiles;
  • mine production is greatly reduced; only 15 of the more than 50 countries that have manufactured antipersonnel mines have not stopped production;
  • mine exports have nearly ended altogether; only three of the more than three dozen known past exporters have not announced a halt;
  • more demining programs are underway in more countries than ever before.

'On the downside,' said Tun Channereth, ICBL Ambassador, 'mines are not coming out of the ground as fast as we would like and too much of the increased money pledged to mine clearance is not reaching the field. We may have turned the corner where more old mines are being cleared each day than new mines are being laid, but the daily toll of mine victims remains frightfully high.' Mr. Tun Channereth, a landmine survivor from Cambodia added, 'We hope that the governments hear the bells ringing on this historic day calling attention to the plight of the mine victims!'

'Our biggest disappointments,' said Liz Bernstein ICBL co-coordinator, 'are those who continue to use antipersonnel mines and those who continue to resist the tide of history by not signing, especially China, Russia and the United States. The ICBL condemns users of this coward's weapon. They should be ostracized for behavior unbecoming civilized nations.' The ICBL particularly condemns the government of Angola for signing the ban treaty in December 1997 then resorting to the use of mines in its renewed conflict with UNITA mere months later.

The ICBL also condemns UNITA for its renewed use of antipersonnel mines.

Among the other places where antipersonnel mines are reportedly being laid today, by government and/or rebel forces, are: Yugoslavia (Kosovo), Sri Lanka, Burma, Colombia, Georgia/Abkhazia, Algeria, Somalia and the Congo.

Responding to recent reports about a split between deminers and ban campaigners, Halle J. Hansen, director of Norwegian People's Aid, the world's largest humanitarian mine clearance organization, said, 'We have always viewed demining and the ban as two essential, mutually reinforcing goals and activities. There is no question that a political ban - stopping new production, trade, stockpiling and use - is a pre-requisite to successful, long-term global mine clearance. The attention to the issue generated by the ban movement has been nothing but beneficial to deminers. The number of organizations and individuals in our profession who think otherwise is very small.' ...

ICBL events celebrating the 1 March 1999 entry-into-force of the ban treaty are taking place in dozens of countries from New Zealand to Kenya to the UK and include bell-ringing, ceremonies to remember the victims of mines, demonstrations in non-signatory countries - including one outside the White House in Washington DC, and a seminar at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines is a coalition of over 1300 non-governmental organizations in over 75 countries working to ban antipersonnel landmines, clear them and assist the victims."

Source: ICBL web-site, http://www.icbl.org

Press Release fromHuman Rights Watch, 1 March: "As the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty became binding international law today, Human Rights Watch praised the remarkable progress in eliminating antipersonnel landmines around the world. But it also questioned the sincerity of the United States in reaching its stated goal of signing the ban treaty by 2006.

'The goal of 2006 is already unconscionably distant,' said Stephen Goose, Program Director for the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch. 'But how can we believe the Pentagon is serious about that goal, if it's seeking nearly $50 million from Congress this year for a new mine system that will be banned by the treaty?'

The new system, called RADAM, will package together existing antipersonnel and antitank mines and will cost in excess of $200 million. If the US signs the treaty, it will be unable to use RADAM after 2006, and will then have to spend money to destroy it. Last May the US said it would sign the treaty by 2006, but only if the Pentagon's search for alternatives to mines was successful.

'RADAM is the latest of a growing number of indicators that the Pentagon is not serious about the 2006 deadline, and that it is very unlikely to be met,' said Mr. Goose.

The world is moving rapidly toward a ban without the United States... Ukraine, a nation with a stockpile of 10 million antipersonnel landmines - nearly as many mines as in the US stockpile - signed the treaty last week.

The landmines treaty has become binding international law more quickly than any major treaty in history. Global production is down significantly, global exports have been reduced to a trickle, more than 10 million antipersonnel mines have already been destroyed from stockpiles, and new use appears to be on the wane. There are still serious disappointments: the government of Angola - a treaty signatory - is once again laying mines, and very few nations from the Middle East and former Soviet Republics are willing to sign now. ..."

Source: Human Rights Watch web-site, http://www.hrw.org

Press Release from the International Committee of the Red Cross, 1 March: "On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of mine victims and the millions who live each day in fear of those weapons, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies whole-heartedly welcome the entry into force of the [Ottawa] Convention...

'The treaty represents the standard by which all efforts to deal with this humanitarian tragedy will be judged', said ICRC Vice-President Eric Roethlisberger at a ceremony held at the United Nations' Geneva headquarters to mark the event. Mr Roethlisberger drew attention to the daunting challenges that lie ahead for States, international agencies and non-governmental organizations in ensuring that the treaty becomes binding worldwide and fully implemented in mine-affected communities. He committed the ICRC to doing its share in this regard.

'The task before us - to ensure rapid universalization and implementation of the Ottawa treaty - is a matter of high priority for National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies', said Ms. Astrid N. Heiberg, President of the International Federation. 'Those Societies continue to play a key role by advising their governments on national legislation needed to ensure swift implementation of the treaty's provisions and by keeping the plight of mine victims in the public eye.'

The ICRC is currently running 25 limb-fitting and rehabilitation programmes in 13 countries (Afghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia, Iraq, Kenya, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan and Uganda). Twenty-four ICRC projects in 12 other countries have now been handed over to local or international NGO control, though many continue to receive financial and technical support from the ICRC. In a number of countries, the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, supported by their International Federation, care for mine-injured people through health, rehabilitation and social welfare programmes. ..."

Source: ICRC web-site, http://www.icrc.ch

Other Reaction

Statement from Pope John Paul II, 1 March: "This [moment] signifies a victory for the culture of life over the culture of death. I pray to God to give all people the courage to make peace, so that the countries that have not yet signed this important instrument of international humanitarian law do so without delay."

Source: Pope's plea over landmine ban, BBC Online Network, 1 March.

US Senator Patrick Leahy (Democrat - Vermont), 1 March: "This is a global problem that cries out for US leadership... President Clinton deserves credit for taking some steps to move the policy of his Administration. There has been progress. But the response has been slow and it has been grudging and it has fallen far short of what is needed."

Source: US faulted on landmine treaty, Associated Press, 1 March.

US Representative Jack Quinn (Republican - New York), 1 March: "Any treaty that bans landmines cannot be effective without the United States as a signatory. We are the only nation in the world who has the military, economic, and moral influence to enforce such a ban."

Source: US lawmakers push for landmine treaty compliance, Reuters, 2 March.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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