15 October 2012

To launch ICBL’s 20th anniversary celebrations and the countdown to the 15th Anniversary of the signing of the lifesaving Mine Ban Treaty we are profiling a selection of our amazing ICBL campaigners and their work. Each week in the run up to the start of the Twelfth Meeting of States Parties on 3 December, we will post an interview with a different campaigner from around the globe, exploring his or her own unique memories and experience of campaigning with the ICBL. We kick off with veteran ICBL campaigner Mary Wareham, who was interviewed by our Norwegian youth volunteers Erlend Daae and Iselin Shaw in Oslo last month. Mary is senior advisor to the Human Rights Watch Arms Division at Human Rights Watch, coordinator of the Aotearoa New Zealand Cluster Munition Coalition. This year, Mary was also final editor of the Cluster Munition Monitor.

Mary’s keen interest in the devastating impact antipersonnel landmines were having worldwide began as a student in her native Wellington, New Zealand, in 1993. Her research for her master’s thesis on landmines took her to round the world to Europe and North America, and linked her up with the founding members of the then fledgling ICBL campaign back. Three years later in 1996 she moved to Washington DC and started working full time for Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) for Jody Williams and Bobby Muller. Since then she has remained actively involved with the campaign in many different capacities, and currently sits on the ICBL-CMC Governance Board.Do you have a most memorable or a favourite moment during your time with the campaign?The most memorable moment would definitely be from Oslo. We did the whole Ottawa process to Mozambique, Belgium and elsewhere and then we wound up in Oslo, Norway for the Mine Ban Treaty negotiations. I did the press for that and the day before the conference opened on the Sunday we all woke up and Princess Diana had died. She was meant to come to the meeting and so all of a sudden all the media in the world were calling us to say that ‘the last thing Diana was going to do was to ban landmines right?’ We said she would have wanted a strong treaty with no reservations, no loopholes and no exceptions. We turned it back and tried to maximize the use of that. That wasn’t my favourite moment, but that was definitely a memorable moment.My favourite moment was when the Mine Ban Treaty was adopted. After basically two and a half weeks of negotiations, and there was this weekend when there was a national election in this building [we were using] and we had to move. Meanwhile the US had said it needed 24 hours to try and get what it wanted. They had wanted to gut the treaty text, but had come into the process very late. Africa had already united and governments had gone through many, many months of discussing the text and when had agreed to run the conference by majority rules and not by consensus. We heard the US was going to make an announcement in the plenary. Only 10 people from the campaign were allowed in the plenary at the diplomatic conference, so me and my friends and colleagues from the campaign went up to the pressroom that looked over the venue, but we couldn’t hear anything. The sound system wasn’t working so a BBC reporter sat there with a thing up to his ear narrating what was happening and the US said it withdraw its proposals because it had not been able to secure the support it know it needed to get them accepted. It was very, very, tense and then the chair Jacob Selebi said to the delegates ‘I take it we can adopt the convention’, and adopted it. I remember running downstairs and into the media room to grab a placard. We’d been out protesting and I had been outside this venue with a Hilary Clinton mask on, and my colleague had worn a Bill Clinton mask, and we were talking to the delegates saying ‘are you going to do the right thing in there or are you going to suck up to us?’ We were very creative and we had a lot of visual aids and really strong messages that we’d been doing and putting on big placards – ‘this is what we want’, ‘no reservations, no loopholes, and no exceptions’. I just flipped one of the placards around and said ‘thank you’. We went and stood on the stairs as all the delegates were coming out and it was a total scene. They were coming out of there and we were cheering. They had never done anything like that in their life before. They had never been congratulated like that. It was fun.What changes have you seen in your country since you started working with the ICBL?It was basically the New Zealand Foreign Minister who was arguing not against banning landmines, but saying it was not a realistic proposition, that the big powers weren’t ready yet, that it was a good idea and they wanted it to happen, but step by step. Then they said yes at the beginning of 1996 and that basically launched New Zealand into the core group when it was established and we were part of the leadership of the Ottawa process and signed the treaty in Ottawa. I was upset at how long New Zealand took to ratify. We were the 64th Country to ratify and I remember sending the same Foreign Minister a letter asking what happened, because everyone was racing to be in the first 40 ratifications and we were number 64. The only notable thing about that is it’s the telephone code for New Zealand!Nowadays our campaigning in New Zealand is about trying to ensure that they are continuing to contribute funds to mine clearance and to victim assistance, and that politically and diplomatically they’re continuing to promote the Mine Ban Treaty. We wrote a letter at the beginning the year with key points in it: more funding, engage in the leadership, and raise this in the Pacific. It’s quite funny as they’ve done all of these things. They’ve contributed a big amount of money to Laos PDR this year for mines and UXO clearance; they have put themselves forward as the co-chair of the general status and cooperation of the Mine Ban Treaty in the next period which is the leadership position on the treaty besides being president of the Meeting of States Parties, and is a central and important thing and something that New Zealand can do well; and they have also been working with the Pacific states to kind of get an initiative going to really tackle the unexploded ordinance problem in the Pacific which is the result of World War II and contamination there. Through that I think we’ll be able to use it as leverage and to try and get the remaining countries that haven’t joined the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions on board.