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News Review Special Edition

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International Developments, November 15, 2002 - February 1, 2003

Fifth Anniversary of Mine Ban Treaty

December 2 marked the fifth anniversary of the opening for signature of the Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines, also known as the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT). One hundred and twenty two states signed the treaty on that first day; by the date of the anniversary there were 130 states parties.

Progress since 1997 towards the Convention's central objective - the complete and permanent global elimination of anti-personnel landmines (APL) - was heralded by numerous governments and civil society organisations. Previewing the anniversary on November 28, Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham observed: "Five years ago Canada challenged the international community to sign and ratify a treaty that would oblige parties to end the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel mines. I attribute much of the remarkable progress achieved to date to an unprecedented level of cooperation and coordination between governments, international organisations and NGOs. These partnerships have resulted in 130 ratifications of the Convention, millions of hectares of land being cleared of mines, and a significant reduction in the number of new landmine casualties. Canada will continue to play a leading role in ensuring the full implementation of the Convention." On November 29, Graham announced an additional $72 million of funding for the Canadian Landmine Fund. According to a Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade statement, the "new funding, which will be disbursed over a five-year period beginning in April 2003, will support global mine action activities, including mine-clearing projects, assistance to landmine victims and their communities, mine risk education, and the destruction of stockpiled mines. The fund will also be used to promote universal adherence to the Convention and to support the development of Canadian-made mine action technologies."

Two major hurdles remain to be cleared by the MBT regime: ensuring effective implementation, and securing universal adherence. As UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan pointed out in a statement issued on November 29: "[S]erious challenges lie ahead. Many countries have not joined the Convention. Others that have joined will face serious difficulties in meeting their mine-clearance commitments or their four-year deadline for stockpile destruction. And even if every anti-personnel landmine were cleared from the planet, the need for assistance to victims would remain." Nonetheless, Annan was confident of long-term success in "our common struggle against a weapon that has no place in the civilized societies we hope to build for the twenty-first century."

On December 2, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) struck a similarly balanced tone in its assessment of progress achieved and remaining. Overall, an ICRC press release noted, the "situation has changed dramatically since the day when, back in 1994, the ICRC added its voice to calls for a complete ban on these inhumane weapons. At that time, these anti-personnel landmines were almost universally considered to be militarily indispensable and were widely used. Now, however, the prohibition of anti-personnel landmines is a widely accepted norm. This is good news. Yet all is not done. Men, women and children are still being hurt by these devices... Efforts must continue to ensure that the Ottawa Treaty gains complete universal adherence. In addition, states parties currently face two key deadlines : from March 2003 the destruction of all stockpiled anti-personnel mines must be completed for most states; and 2009, when deadlines for the clearance of mined areas of their territory begin to fall due. In the time remaining prior to the Convention's First Review Conference (in 2004), the ICRC encourages all states parties to recommit themselves to this humanitarian endeavour and to ensure that the resources needed for its implementation are made available."

Among the major landmine-possessor non-states-parties to the MBT are the United States, Russia, China, India and Pakistan. A December 3 statement from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) drew particular attention to "India and Pakistan, for their extensive mining of the border between the two countries", and to "Russia, for mine use in Chechnya." The statement also drew attention to the implications for states parties of the possible use of landmines by the United States in any attack on Iraq: "As preparations get underway for an invasion of Iraq, the ICBL has called on the US not to use anti-personnel mines in Iraq or elsewhere. Every member of NATO except the US has joined the Mine ban Treaty, and these member states, plus Australia (another potential ally in a US war in Iraq) have been urged to refuse to take part in any operations involving anti-personnel mines. Treaty states parties and signatories should insist that non-signatories refrain from using anti-personnel mines in joint military operations... The US military previously used anti-personnel mines during the Gulf War in 1991 and is said to have mines stored in Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and elsewhere for possible use in Iraq." On February 6, the ICBL's Stephen Goose, noting that APL were not used in the recent Afghanistan campaign, expressed the hope that the US "wouldn't want to risk the international condemnation that would likely accompany the new use of mines... In a war that is already unpopular in many quarters before it has even started, they may want to avoid using weapons that would be likely to generate a lot of negative publicity for their war effort."

Related material on Acronym website:

Reports: Ministers Graham and Whelan celebrate fifth anniversary of signing of Ottawa Convention, Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade News Release, No. 163 (2002), November 28; Government of Canada announces renewal of Canadian landmine fund, Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade News Release, No. 165 (2002), November 29; Secretary-General, in message for fifth anniversary of Ottawa Convention, looks to total elimination of landmines, continued care for victims, UN Press Release SG/SM/8532, November 29; Anti-personnel landmines - going, going, but not quite gone, ICRC Press Release 02/73, December 2; Campaign celebrates progress on Mine Ban Treaty fifth anniversary, ICBL Press Release, December 3; Campaigners fear use of land mines in Iraq, Associated Press, February 6.

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© 2002 The Acronym Institute.