Mine Action: Actors & Activities
Asia Watch division of Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights collaborated to publish Land Mines in Cambodia: The Cowards War.1 Several months later, the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (now Veterans for America), under Bobby Muller, collaborated with Medico International, based in Germany, and other humanitarian NGOs that had an interest in banning landmines to form a joint advocacy campaign. In October 1992, Handicap International, Human Rights Watch, Medico International, Mines Advisory Group, Physicians for Human Rights, and the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation formed a steering committee that eventually evolved into the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), headed by the well-known activist, Jody Williams. Approximately 1,000 NGOs from over 60 countries joined the transnational campaign. It would be Jody Williams, Bobby Muller, and then-president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Cornelio Sommaruga, who would later play a significant role in lobbying governments globally to support a ban on landmines. Go to Civil Society
The Ottawa modelFrom the outset, ICBL and like-minded states were skeptical about their ability to achieve prohibition under the consensus-driven decision-making process of the United Nations (UN). After a series of review conferences on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), backroom meetings between NGOs and government officials were held with the aim of widening and strengthening the landmines ban. Meetings in January and April of 1996 laid the informal foundations that would evolve into the core tenants of the Ottawa Process.
In October 1996, 50 states, including the United States (US), France, and the United Kingdom (UK) participated in the first international strategy conference, Towards a Global Ban on Antipersonnel Mines, in Ottawa. European Union (EU) member states had committed themselves in advance to the full implementation of the results of the CCW review conferences and to support international efforts to ban anti-personnel (AP) mines. Yet, frustrations over discussions that led to ambiguous conclusions and concerns over pro-ban activists threatened to derail the momentum of the Ottawa conference. Although the Ottawa Declaration was signed by the UK and France, Canada ended the conference by offering unprecedented standalone negotiations that would lead to a comprehensive treaty banning landmines. It invited participants to return to Ottawa in December 1997 for a treaty-signing conference. Thus, the so-called Ottawa Process, a fast-track diplomatic initiative, was launched to negotiate in less than 14 months an international convention to ban the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of AP mines.2
Meanwhile, disagreement arose over whether the official Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva was a suitable venue for landmine negotiations. Due to the complex partnerships forged by states, some feared that using the CD to address the landmines issue would derail the Ottawa Process, while others (e.g., Australia, France, the UK, Germany, Spain, Finland, and the US) felt that it would take the pressure off of signing the Ottawa Convention. In the end, it did not matter what happened in Geneva. The Ottawa Process had already gathered sufficient diplomatic and political momentum to enable a strong coalition in favor of a ban. To this extent, ICBL and its series of regional conferences around the world were vital to building support for the treaty.
By June 1997, proposals to hold the landmine negotiations at the CD crumbled under the deadlock of non-consensus, clearing the path for the Ottawa Process. Austria, which had been assigned the role of drafting the landmines treaty, held experts meetings in February 1997 to discuss the draft text. Belgium hosted the follow-up international conference, the Brussels International Conference for a Global Ban on Anti-Personnel Landmines, from June 24-27, 1997. The outcome document, the Brussels Declaration, was signed by 97 of the 156 states that attended the conference, and affirmed that the essential elements of a treaty to ban AP mines included a comprehensive ban on the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of AP mines, the destruction of all stockpiled and cleared AP mines, and international cooperation and assistance in the area of mine clearance in affected countries.3
One month before the Oslo conference, the US had rather unexpectedly pledged its support for the conference and Ottawa Process. The Oslo conference was convened to solidify the final provisions of the treaty in September 1997. During the conference, the US proposed a number of major changes to the Austrian text including: (1) the right to use AP mines in Korea, given its unique security situation; (2) retention of mixed munitions systems that contain anti-tank (AT) mines and self-destructing AP sub-munitions; (3) strengthened verification and compliance provisions; (4) retention of the principle under customary international law to withdraw from a treaty on short notice; and (5) a transition period for delaying entry into force until alternatives to AP landmines became available. At the same time, NGOs mounted pressure on national delegates to ensure that the treaty did not become watered down during the negotiations. As the US was only able to collect a handful of supporters, it withdrew its proposal. In the end, the US offered a few minor modifications to its original demands, and formerly recalcitrant states (e.g., Russia, Japan, Greece, and Australia) offered their support of the treaty.
Transnational civil society networks collaborating with like-minded governmentsICBL is an international network that has played a key role in campaigning for the Mine Ban Convention, in related advocacy, and in promoting immediate and sustainable support for the needs and rights of landmine survivors, as well as demining and mine risk education to safeguard lives and livelihoods in all affected countries.4 ICBL also plays a lead role as an independent mechanism for monitoring implementation of and compliance with the Mine Ban Convention. Its Landmine Monitor Report is one of the primary publications that documents adherence to and implementation of the Convention and the success of efforts to address the AP mine problem. Go to Democracy & Governance: Civil Society
In 1993, international NGOs such as Handicap International mounted a campaign to lobby the French government to change its policy concerning landmines. This prompted the French to submit officially a request to the UN for a Review Conference of the CCW.5 The CCW Review Conference was held from September 15 to October 13, 1995, and participants discussed ways in which the AP mine protocols could be strengthened. Representatives from 44 countries attended the conference, with a number of NGOs participating as observers. The call for the complete and immediate ban on landmines put forth by the NGOs was supported by a few countries, including Austria, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, and Sweden. Nonetheless, progress on strengthening the amendments to Protocol II proved difficult. Fen Hampson, a scholar on the landmines campaign, argues that one of the reasons for the deadlock is that Western defense establishments believed the humanitarian problem was primarily caused by guerilla and non-professional armies indiscriminately using landmines to target civilians. Additionally, they believed that as older AP landmine systems were replaced with more technologically advanced, smart mine systems (e.g., self-destructing or self-neutralizing AP landmines), the risk to civilians and non-combatants would diminish.6
The issue was further taken up in sessions held in January and April 1996. It was only after last-minute negotiations with Pakistan came through that an Amended Protocol II was adopted by consensus on May 3, 1996, and entered into force on December 3, 1998.7 Hubert asserts that in challenging the reliability of the technology of smart mines and highlighting the indiscriminate nature of such high-tech mines, ICBL made support for this approach untenable for influential European governments.8
The role of the United Nations in banning landminesAs the momentum for international support for banning landmines started to build, the UN General Assembly submitted a resolution in 1993 requesting that the secretary-general submit a report on the problems caused by mines and other unexploded ordnances (UXO).9 The resolution noted that some member states had already put in place a moratorium (e.g., the US) or a suspension or delay in landmine-related activity and on the export, transfer, or purchase of AP landmines. The secretary-general had already expressed concern in the year before regarding the effects of landmines in post-conflict peacebuilding in An Agenda for Peace.10 Although the UN has always supported an international treaty to ban landmines, many actors opted to circumvent the UN as a forum to negotiate the treaty out of fear that the universal consensus process would deadlock or derail the campaign.
The use of experts to establish legitimacyICRC convened the Montreux Symposium in 1993, bringing together a diverse group of experts, including lawyers, mine clearance experts, surgeons, and campaigners, to examine the different facets of the landmine problem.11 The symposium spurred a number of other studies, including a socio-economic study on the impact of landmines by the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation and research on the global production and trade in landmines by Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights.12 After much internal debate, ICRC declared that a worldwide ban on AP mines from a humanitarian point of view is the most effective way to deal with the problem (this will be discussed below). Shortly after, the organization put out a publication titled Landmines: A Time for Action, which called for a total ban on the trade and use of AP mines.13
[Back to Top] UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), which is part of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), is the focal point within the UN system for all mine-related activities. In this capacity, it is responsible for ensuring a coordinated UN response to landmine contamination. UNMAS is also responsible for setting the International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) used by UN agencies, governments, and NGOs. UNMAS, in consultation with its partners, establishes priorities for assessment missions, facilitates a coherent and constructive dialogue with the donor and international communities on the mine issue, and coordinates the mobilization of resources. It is also responsible for: the development, maintenance, and promotion of technical and safety standards (a responsibility that will be delegated to the UN Childrens Fund (UNICEF) with regard to mine awareness and to the World Health Organization (WHO) with regard to the public health aspect of victim assistance); the collection, analysis, and dissemination of mine-related information, including information on technology; advocacy efforts in support of a global ban on anti-personnel (AP) landmines; and for the management of the Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Clearance (VTF).14
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is mandated with the responsibility to address the socio-economic consequences of landmine contamination and for supporting national and local capacity building to ensure the elimination of landmines and UXO for the resumption of normal economic activity, reconstruction, and development. UNDP has developed integrated, sustainable national and local mine action programs with the goal of helping communities and countries resume normal socio-economic activities. It works closely with UNMAS to help lay the foundations for the creation of a national mine action authority and the development of local management capacity. UNDP mine action activities stress a multi-sectoral approach, including rural development, community development, and reintegration programs. Go to Community Reintegration; Disarmament, Demobilization, Reinsertion and Reintegration; and Psycho-social Recovery: Introduction
In 2007, UNDP provided direct technical assistance to 37 national mine action programs; assessed the humanitarian and development impact of landmines in Angola, Cambodia, and Lebanon; assisted national authorities in coordinating mine action programs; supported countries in meeting their treaty obligations under the Mine Ban Convention; and developed, in collaboration with national partners and stakeholders, a plan for the phased withdraw of UN support in Albania, Jordan, Mauritania, and Yemen.15
The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) also has sought to identify a number of specific areas in which mine action can support peacebuilding, including reducing unemployment (particularly among groups that might resort to violence in the absence of alternative livelihoods), coordination and information management, building social capital at local community level, and confidence building at the regional level.16 Go to Employment and Empowerment
More recently, GICHD has begun to develop guidelines to improve the link between mine action and development activities for practitioners and policy makers. These guidelines are aimed at strengthening coordination among mine action and development organizations, aligning mine action with development priorities, ensuring that mine action supports broader development programs (e.g., development plans and poverty reduction efforts), incorporating a more gender-sensitive approach to mine action and development, promoting national ownership, and exploring ways in which mine action can support the prevention and reduction of armed violence.17
The German Initiative to Ban Landmines explicitly notes, Mine action programmes are part of peacebuilding programmes. Beyond victim assistance, they should take into consideration the need for fully reintegrating refugees, displaced persons, and demobilised soldiers. There should be no discrimination of ex-soldiers, particularly of victims of mine accidents and other war disabled.18
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If the national military is contracted by the national Mine Action Center (MAC), the agency needs to be aware of how the military is perceived in light of the conflict. Would using the national military to clear landmines help bring the civilian population and the military closer together or would it be counterproductive to peacebuilding initiatives?
The national MAC generally sets the priorities at the national level and coordinates the various national actors working on mine action activities. Local NGOs are considered the implementation partners of MAC and the UN, since they operate under their coordination.
Mine Action Actors and Responsibilities
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In general, mine action comprises five complementary groups of activities:19
In mine-affected states, the government is responsible for mine action activities. It establishes a National Mine Action Authority (NMAA) that is in charge of policies, regulations, and overall management of the national mine action program. The practical and operational implementation of these policies would be up to a Mine Action Center (MAC), which is in charge of coordinating the day-to-day activities of the various mine action organizations operating in the country.
The various actors working on mine action activities come together in the Inter-Agency Coordination Group on Mine Action and in a Steering Committee on Mine Action, which also includes International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC),, The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), and various other mine action NGOs. ICRC is the lead organization for mine action within the Red Cross Movement. It is engaged in promoting the universalization and implementation of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and the Mine Ban Convention, and it is involved in all five pillars of mine action.25 GICHD focuses on the elimination of anti-personnel (AP) mines and the reduction of the humanitarian impact of other landmines and explosive remnants of war through partnerships with governments, inter-governmental organizations, NGOs, and commercial companies that deal with mine action. Its activities support all the pillars of mine action except for medical assistance.26 GICHD has observer status at states parties meetings on the Mine Ban Convention, and since 1999 has hosted the meetings of the standing committees established by the States Parties.27 It manages the development and maintenance of the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA). It supports work on the IMAS and carries out studies aimed at improving the effectiveness and efficiency of mine action.28
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Mine action is funded by a small number of donor governments, particularly Canada, Norway, Sweden, the UK, and the US. Donors have contributed to mine action activities either through the UN or bilaterally through support for mine action NGOs or commercial companies, in addition to providing equipment, personnel, training, and investment in research and development. ICBL notes that in 2006, more than $475 million of international funding from 26 countries and the European Commission was donated for mine action activities, which indicates an increase of 27 percent from the amount in donations received in 2005.29
The Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action (VTF), which UNMAS coordinates, has been an inefficient mechanism for channeling funds to programs and is generally disliked by donors because of the high overheads retailed by the UN administration and its slow disbursement of funds to field operations. The UNDP Thematic Trust Fund for Crisis Prevention and Recovery provided mine action funding to 23 countries (totaling $21.5 million) in 2006. In addition, the UN Development Group Iraq Trust Fund received funding from Greece in 2006, the UN Trust Fund for Human Security contributed $3.6 million to mine action in Sudan and Lebanon, and the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance received $30.8 million from 15 countries, the European Commission, UNDP, local authorities, government agencies, and private donors in 2006.30 Contributions by mine-affected countries themselves amount to roughly $84.3 million.31 An increase in bilateral funding is aimed at overcoming the bureaucratic bottleneck; however, this method of funding has posed problems for the UNs mine action coordination role.32