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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 55, March 2001

2nd Anniversary of Ottawa Convention Entry-into-Force

The Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel landmines entered into force on March 1, 1999. Marking the second anniversary, ban supporters stressed both the success of the accord so far and the need for further action. As of March 1, 139 states had signed the Convention, 110 of which had ratified. 54 states remain outside, including significant landmine-possessors such as China, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Finland, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, North and South Korea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, the United States, and the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. According to Jody Williams, co-recipient with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize: "While we still find instances of anti-personnel mines, the Mine Ban Treaty is having a significant impact on alleviating the global mine problem... The past two years have seen many countries take great steps to comply with the total ban including destruction of millions of stockpiled mines. To ensure that the world moves rapidly to embrace this new standard of behaviour against this weapon of terror, we urge the states that have not yet signed to join the treaty now." An ICBL statement noted:

"Among those governments apparently actively laying anti-personnel mines on the treaty's anniversary are Russia, Burma, Sri Lanka, and [signatory state] Angola. It is also likely that rebel groups are using the weapon in about a dozen conflicts. ... The ICBL has identified the United States as a special [campaign] target country, and nearly 200 campaigners from 90 countries will be descending on Washington, D.C. next week for the ICBL's first ever global meeting in the US. The Bush administration has not yet made any policy statement on the banning of anti-personnel mines; current policy calls for the US to join in 2006 if alternatives have been found. The anniversary is being celebrated with activities around the world in dozens of countries... In addition, youth in over 40 countries have collected hundreds pf thousands of signatures to be delivered to the US government..."

Canada marked the anniversary by announcing $475,000 of new funding for demining activities in Thailand, the Balkans, and Uganda.

Also on March 1, the UK Landmine Action group issued a report strongly critical of Western governments engaged in stockpiling anti-tank mines armed with anti-handling devices designed to trigger an explosion upon human contact or even close proximity. According to Landmine Action Director Richard Lloyd: "The military thinking behind these systems is that they will be targeted at civilians." The anti-tank mines, and their anti-handling devices, are not covered by the scope of the Ottawa Convention, and UK Armed Forces Minister John Spellar argued on March 1 that the issue was a diversion. According to the Minister, Landmine Action "are actually undermining their own campaign work, which I think is very unfortunate given the very good work they've done previously."

On March 7, Queen Noor of Jordan, together with a number of victims of landmine accidents, met with members of the US Congress to urge US accession. Addressing journalists and politicians at the National Press Club, Queen Noor argued: "Without the support of regional powers like Russia, China, India, Pakistan and especially the United States, the treaty will never achieve its aims. Everyone who cares about this issue is deeply concerned that the United States has not joined the ban. ... We need your influence to stigmatise landmine-owning nations. We need your example and energy to rally the resources for the task."

Reports: Manley announces new landmine initiatives on the second anniversary of the Ottawa Convention, Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade News Release No.28-01, March 1; Two years on, landmines campaign marks ban anniversary by urging adherence by all, ICBL Press Release, March 1; Western nations accused over landmines, BBC News Online, March 1; Congress looks at land mine victims, Associated Press, March 7; Queen Noor urges US to lead on land mine ban, Reuters, March 8.

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.