02 April 2008
Geneva, 3 April 2008 – The year 2008 will be critical in the struggle to free the world from antipersonnel mines, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) said today, on the eve of the thirdUN International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action (4 April).
Under the Mine Ban Treaty, States Parties have 10 years to clear all their mined areas. The first deadlines – for 20 mine-affected states – will occur in 2009. States can ask for an extension of the deadline for up to 10 years, and consideration of these requests will take place at the 9th Meeting of the States Parties this November. “Governments need to show that they are taking the Mine Ban Treaty’s clearance obligations seriously,” said Tamar Gabelnick, ICBL Treaty Implementation Director. “The credibility of the treaty’s mine clearance obligation will depend in large part on how extension requests are dealt with this year,” she added.
Mine action worldwide has saved countless lives and made thousands of square kilometres of land safe to work and walk on again. However, in a number of countries, progress has been slower than expected and in some cases unacceptable. Alarmingly, more than three-quarters of the states with 2009 deadlines appear set to miss them, including: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chad, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, Jordan, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Peru, Senegal, Thailand, United Kingdom (Falklands), Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe. Many of these states are likely to request long extensions of their deadlines. In several cases – notably Denmark, Ecuador, Niger, Peru, Senegal, the UK and Venezuela – failure to complete clearance on time is largely due to unjustifiable delays in starting operations.
Especially worrying is the lack of progress by Niger, the UK and Venezuela in even initiating the task of clearing mined areas. “Venezuela has declared it is maintaining its mined areas because of a threat from Colombian insurgents. This is clearly inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the treaty which forbids any use of antipersonnel mines,” Gabelnick added.
Some heavily affected countries still have incredibly high estimates of contaminated areas, and the inability to pinpoint affected areas hinders the effective deployment of clearance assets. “The amount of land cleared has been unacceptably low in countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chad, and Thailand.
After nine years and high expenditure in demining, mine affected communities as well as international donors deserve to see more positive results,” said Stuart Casey-Maslen, Mine Action Coordinator and Final Editor of the Landmine Monitor, the ICBL’s project that monitors compliance with the Mine Ban Treaty. “While it was expected that the most severely mined countries might not meet the treaty-mandated 10-year deadlines, it is crucial that extensions are not given as blank cheques but rather as a result of a transparent and meaningful process with strict benchmarks to be followed,” Casey-Maslen added, explaining that such a process should help mine-affected states plan carefully how to complete their work in the safest and most efficient manner possible.
The ICBL strongly encourages careful consideration of each request for extension, taking into account all available information. This year is also critical for the treaty’s stockpile destruction obligation. The three countries with 1 March 2008 deadlines – Belarus, Greece, and Turkey – failed to destroy their large stocks, and since there is no possibility for an extension, they are now in violation of the treaty. This is the first time that State Parties with millions of mines still in stocks have missed their deadline and they currently have no projected end dates in sight.On the positive front, Burundi and Sudan both finished destroying their stockpiles in time for their 1 April 2008 deadline.
Background Since 1999, a total of 156 states have adhered to the Mine Ban Treaty. All States with antipersonnel mines on their territory – roughly one-third of the total – are obliged to clear and destroy them “as soon as possible but not later than 10 years” after becoming party to the treaty. As part of this process, they are also required to make “every effort” to identify all mined areas and to mark and fence them, pending clearance. A total of 26 States that have declared themselves affected by antipersonnel mines have deadlines by the end of 2009.
To date, only six have reported success: Bulgaria, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Swaziland. Among other countries with 2009 clearance deadlines, Malawi is on target, with Djibouti and France not far behind (their obligations relate to a French ammunition storage area in Djibouti close to the capital). Uganda equally has the potential to fulfill its Article 5 obligations before the deadline. As of 1 April, 83 States Parties had finished destroying their stockpiles, destroying around 41.8 million antipersonnel mines total.
Another 60 states declared no stockpiles; five states have not yet reported on stockpiles but are not believed to have any; and seven states still have stocks to destroy. An ongoing concern is also the provision of comprehensive assistance to landmine survivors, estimated by Landmine Monitor Report 2007 at 473,000 people worldwide.
In all of the most heavily affected countries, from Afghanistan to Cambodia, from Iraq to Angola, victim assistance is still lacking, and is insufficient to have a meaningful and lasting impact on the lives of survivors and their families. Thirty-nine states have not adhered to the treaty yet. These include two states that signed the treaty in 1997 but have not yet ratified it (Marshall Islands and Poland), three out of five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, Russia, USA) as well as regional powers including India, Iran, Israel and Pakistan. ENDS../
** For further information or to arrange an interview, please call the ICBL Geneva office on +41 22 9200325 ** Read here briefings on the impending clearance deadlines and stockpile destruction obligations