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Conference on Disarmament (CD)

CD BULLETIN, September 11, 2001

By Jenni Rissanen


The 887th plenary meeting of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) heard numerous statements on the Ottawa Landmines Convention. In addition, Ambassador of Britain, Ian Soutar bade farewell his CD colleagues. Ambassador Roberto Betancourt Ruales of Ecuador chaired the CD's proceedings for the fourth week.

Plenary Proceedings

Chile announced that it had deposited its instruments of ratification to the Ottawa Convention with the UN Secretary General the previous day (September 10). Fulfilling its obligations under the Convention would constitute "an enormous task" for the country, which had "sowed thousands and thousands of mines along its frontiers" during the 1970s and 80s, a time when anti-personnel landmines (APL) had been considered as "decisive" in securing its borders. However, Chile now welcomed "the radical change brought about in South America with the restoration of democracy, which in turn [had] changed the picture of the security in our hemisphere". Renouncing APLs meant that Chile was "exorcising the geopolitical demons that prompted [the country to] sow them in the first place". However, the task was huge so Chile appealed for financial help in mine clearance and destruction. In Chile's view, the Convention demonstrated that medium- and small-sized countries could generate a critical mass of political energy to produce constructive international results. Such a realisation could also help inspire the CD to exorcise its own demons and move into a new era.

Ambassador Jean Lint of Belgium, co-Chairman of the standing committee on the Ottawa Convention's status and general functioning, welcomed Chile's announcement and briefed the CD on the growing support the accord was commanding. Chile had become the 120th state party. Four more countries - Algeria, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Turkey - were expected to join soon. Lint noted that although 31 CD member states had either acceded or ratified of the Convention, 25 members of the Conference remained outside. As for implementation, Bulgaria, Spain, Malaysia, Slovakia and Zimbabwe had destroyed their stockpiles since the last meeting of states parties took place in Geneva in September 2000, bringing to 28 the number of states parties to have done so. Such progress, in Lint's estimation, was establishing a firm international standard, reinforced by the fact that the trade in APLs had virtually ceased, while the production of new mines - with only 14 producers left worldwide - had been significantly reduced. Most encouragingly, the number of victims was falling. Lint invited all CD members to attend the third annual meeting of the states parties, taking place next week in Managua, Nicaragua.

A number of other countries took the floor to address the topic. Algeria said it had recently ratified the Convention and was about to deposit its instruments with the UN. The country was "particularly affected" by APLs, most of which dated from the colonial period. Algeria argued that victims had the right to seek compensation from those responsible for laying the mines. Algeria further saluted the NGO contribution to the campaign to ban the weapons. Argentina expressed deep satisfaction at Chile's ratification, noting that, in accordance with the Rio Group's aims, the Ottawa Convention was an important guarantee of security in Latin America. Canada welcomed the 2001 edition of the Landmine Monitor compiled by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), detailing the important progress being made in implementing the Convention. However, Canada added it could not ignore the continued use of APLs in some regions of the world. Mexico said the Convention had managed to make an "unquestionable impression" in a short period of time, making clear that APLs were "not acceptable" to the international community. Like others, Mexico called on the 52 countries outside the Convention to enter the fold. Norway said it would maintain its commitment to allocate funds to assist demining activities over a five year period. Like Canada, however, Norway was concerned about continued landmine use and the demonstrable risk this posed to humanity. Thus, victim assistance remained a priority. Peru announced it would complete the destruction of the 321,368 APLs in its stockpile on September 13.

Britain's Ambassador Ian Soutar bid farewell to the CD after four years in Geneva. Soutar said he had enjoyed being a member of the 'CD Club' dedicated to the pursuit of multilateral disarmament measures. However, he was disappointed that the past four years had been a "fallow period". Soutar expressed particular dissatisfaction that his investment in learning about fissile material issues had "borne no practical rewards". Nevertheless, Soutar drew some consolation from the fact that he had contributed in "keeping the engine…well oiled and ticking against the day when, we all hope, it will be possible once more to step on the accelerator." Soutar shared some of his thoughts on what was now required for the CD to pick up speed again. There was a need for "transparency in relationships" in the CD, as the Conference's effective functioning required a high level of credibility and predictability. In addition, Soutar stressed the virtue of patience and, even if one thinks one has heard a point of view before, a "willingness to keep talking, long after bedtime if need be".

The CD convenes for its final plenary of the year on Thursday September 13, 2001 at the Palais des Nations, Geneva. Ambassador Roberto Betancourt Ruales of Ecuador will chair the meeting.

To see the speeches, please visit the website of WILPF at http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/cd/thisweek/thisweekindex.html

Jenni Rissanen is the Acronym Institute's Analyst attending the CD in Geneva. For her latest, in-depth assessment of developments see Geneva Update in Disarmament Diplomacy No. 59.

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.