04 December 2017
An opportunity to reaffirm commitments for a mine-free world
The Proud Students Against Landmines – West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines
On 3-4 December the international community commemorate the 20 years since the signing of one of the most important humanitarian and disarmament instruments: the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.
For 25 years, the voice of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines has been at the forefront of efforts to achieve a world free of antipersonnel landmines. We have also been the voice of civil society in the diplomatic arena, pushing for changes in government policies and practices on addressing the suffering caused by landmines. These efforts in partnerships with states, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other actors were responsible for the international process that resulted in the negotiation, adoption and signing of the treaty 20 years ago.
Campaign members have been commemorating those early efforts and achievements that have followed. And as our own activist roots would have it, we have also used this opportunity to call for sustained and committed action. It has also been a call to #FinishTheJob by 2025 and keep the promise made to landmine victims.
In Mozambique for example --- one of the birthplaces of the landmine movement and where our campaign first took a human face --- a survivor network, RAVIM published a press release on 18 September, the day when the Mine Ban Treaty commemorated 20 years of being adopted. In it, RAVIM appealed for sustained assistance to mine victims. In collaboration with government, RAVIM will hold a seminar on the progress of implementation of the national victim assistance plan, PAAV, later this year.
On that same date but in the Netherlands, PAX published a blog in Dutch and English, highlighting the need for the international community to step up efforts to finish the job by 2025. Norway also commemorated the special date and its role in the process that resulted in the adoption of the Mine Ban Treaty in Oslo in 1997. The Permanent Mission of Norway in Geneva organized a reception to mark the date. Some key figures of the process were there including ICRC's Peter Herby and Lou Maresca who has written extensively about the MBT also spoke at the reception. Representing the ICBL, Firoz Alizada was as a key speaker. Ambassador Hans Brattskar also created a video message highlighting the engagement of Norway towards the 2025 goal.
In Kathmandu, the Nepalese Campaign to Ban Landmines (NCBL) gathered at the Basantapur Durbar Square with posters, candles and balloons to commemorate the MBT's adoption. No commemoration would be complete without some campaigning! The NCBL sent letters to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defense and Home Affairs, and to the Ministry on Peace and Reconstruction to encourage the government of Nepal to accede to the convention. In addition, they posted a call to action on their website.
The Human Rights Watch in the United States published the article “Preventing suffering through ‘Humanitarian Disarmament'". Mary Wareham, which at the time was with the ICBL said of her witnessing the adoption of the MBT, "The creation of new international law is a rare and memorable occasion. We cheered the diplomats present for producing such a strong treaty in record time, describing it as “a gift to the world”'. Also in the US, the Proud Students Against Landmines – West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines (PSALM/WVCBL) celebrated the treaty’s and campaign’s anniversaries with awareness events held in West Virginia in September and November. WVCBL sent press releases to area and state newspapers, while PSALM students presented their artistic installation, “the road to Ottawa: the 20th anniversary of the Mine Ban Treaty” and recognized the importance of disarmament work and the International Day of Peace with "peace dove" artworks.
In Baku, the Azerbaijan Campaign to Ban Landmines (AzCBL) sent letters to members of Parliament, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Finance to urge accession to the MBT. They also launched a public awareness campaign in mine-affected regions (Tovuz, Ter-ter, and Fizuli). Representatives from local government, the Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society, mine victims, and local media participated in the campaign.
Meanwhile, on 25 September, it was Myanmar's turn. "The Ottawa Treaty 20 years on: Calling for a Mine-Free Myanmar” was an Op-ed piece written by Eden Social Welfare Foundation in Taipei, urging the government of Myanmar to stop the use of landmines. It further cited the UN Human Rights Chief when he said he was “appalled by reports that the Myanmar authorities have now begun to lay landmines along the border with Bangladesh”.
Belgium, in conjunction with an ICBL co-founder, the Handicap International, commemorated the 20 years since the Brussels Declaration, when in 1997 determined countries signed a declaration engaging to adopt a comprehensive ban on landmines. They did so through a very public exhibit launched by high level and popular representatives. Princess Astrid, the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Axelle Red a famous Belgian singer, attended the event which included dressing an iconic monument as an HI deminer.
On 10 October, ICBL Acting Director Amélie Chayer, remembered the day when ICBL and then-coordinator Jody Williams were awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Award. In the video, Amélie on behalf of the ICBL called for sustained efforts to reach the 2025 goal. In addition, the ICBL produced a video of the 25 years of the campaign and our various members around the world and their work for a mine-free world were featured in it. That same day, the ICBL addressed the UN First Committeein New York, thanking in particular those states not party that seize the opportunity to express support for the humanitarian aims of the treaty.
Two days later in Ethiopia, over 100 people attended a commemoration hosted by Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization (SRARO), in collaboration with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. At the event, the status of the implementation of the MBT was discussed and expectations for next steps of the treaty implementation shared. The Minster of Labor and Social Affairs took part in the event, including lighting the first of 20 candles to mark the anniversary.
A week later in Croatia, the Mine Action Office of the government of Croatia and RACVIAC, a regional security organization, held a high-level event on 17-18 October in Zagreb. ICBL’s representative Firoz Alizada, along with Hon. Lloyd Axworthy, then Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, a key figure in the Ottawa Process, and representatives of Austria and ICRC remembered the Ottawa Process, and the sheer willingness and determination to reach a treaty. Hon. Axworthy wondered if it was time to "shake things up" to get states to recommit and act fast to reach the 2025 goal.
In Italy, it was back to taking on the airwaves. The Italian Campaign to Ban Landmines along with other Italian organizations secured a TV programme featuring Jody Williams and Bea Fihn discussing peace and disarmament. This was particularly well received as the International Campaign to Ban Nuclear Weapons had just been awarded the 2017 Peace Nobel Prize.
On 27-29 November, at the Asia Regional Gathering against landmines and cluster munitions in Siem Reap, hosted by the Cambodian Campaign to Ban Landmines (CCBL), regional campaigners (Thailand, Philippines, Nepal, Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos, Malaysia, and Cambodia) traveled through the history of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines in stories, photos, and artifacts. Sister Denise, one of the pioneers of the landmine movement also led a conversation with operators and authorities to discuss what will be needed to reach a Cambodia free of landmines by 2025.
As the days got closer to the anniversary of the signing, Mines Action Canada through a social media campaign featured 20 campaigners’ messages on the importance of the MBT.
On 1 December, the Canadian Mission to the UN in Geneva together with the MBT presidency Austria, the ICBL, the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights gathered in an event to discuss the MBT's challenges and successes. Speakers highlighted achievements so far, and called for continued efforts to finish the job by 2025.
Also in Geneva, Handicap International Suisse, the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) and the MBT's Secretariat, hosted a public exhibition in Geneva. The exhibition features key moments of the Ottawa Process and the various achievements and challenges that remain to achieve a 2025 mine-free world. A virtual exhibit, featuring ICBL Ambassador, Tun Channareth among others, can be seen here. On 4 December an event was organized in front of the United Nations Office in Geneva, at the Broken Chair where Ambassadors from the Permanent Missions of Canada, Austria joined the director of the Handicap International Suisse and the former President of the ICRC to open the public exhibition and to call on the international community to step up efforts for a mine-free world by 2025.
The same day on 4 December in Ottawa, Canada, the Mines Action Canada along with Canadian Landmine Foundation, Canadian Red Cross, Handicap International, ICBL, the ICRC, Mines Advisory Group and The HALO Trust hold an event (Unfinished Business: The Ottawa Treaty at 20) to mark the signature anniversary of the treaty, in Ottawa, where the treaty was opened for signature on 3-4 December 1997.
On 6 December, the Colombian Campaign to Ban Landmines (CCBL), will commemorate the signing of the treaty in Bogotá together with a national university, and the embassies of Canada and Belgium, A new Award, CaMina, will be given to engaged citizens and organisations working with landmine survivors. A video greeting from Hon. Lloyd Axworthy will be broadcast during the event.
The global launch of the 2017 Landmine Monitor, will take place on 14 December. A briefing for delegates on key findings of the report will take place at the 16MSP in Vienna a few days later. Also, in mid-December in Lebanon, the Landmine Resource Center will hold an event to launch the Monitor and mark the anniversary of the treaty in Beirut. In Bangkok, the Nonviolence International South East Asia in collaboration with other members from Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines and Laos will organize a regional launch and an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the treaty.
In coming days and weeks, a series of anniversary events will be held in Tokyo, by the Japan Campaign to Ban Landmines and in Baghdad, by the Iraqi Alliance of Disabled Organizations, a regional launch of the Landmine Monitor 2017 to take place in Kuwait City by the Protection Egypt and the report will be also released in Kabul, by the Afghan Landmine Survivors Organization.
During the 16MSP from 18 to 21 December in Vienna, ICBL Ambassadors Jody Williams and Tun Channareth, and Princess Astrid of Belgium, and Prince Mired of Jordan will participate in the high level opening of the meeting.
Click here to read what campaigners, partners and friends of the Mine Ban Treaty say on landmine ban process, and their conviction for a mine-free world.