02 April 2008

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, Article 5 also requires that the States concerned make “every effort” to identify all mined areas and to mark and fence them, pending clearance.

As far as demining is concerned, the treaty has been a qualified success. The destruction of many millions of emplaced mines has saved countless lives and many thousands of square kilometers have been returned to productive use. But progress in several States has been disappointing, and in a small number it has been unacceptable. The first clearance deadlines occur in March 2009.

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 the remainder, only 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. The remaining 16 States Parties with 2009 deadlines will almost certainly not meet them: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chad, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, Jordan, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Peru, Senegal, Thailand, UK (Falklands), Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe. The treaty allows for extensions of up to 10 years to be granted, but this was intended primarily for cases of particularly heavy contamination.

At the treaty’s first Review Conference in 2004, all States Parties agreed to strive to ensure that “few, if any” of the affected nations would need such an extension. Although this stance was unrealistic, the looming disappointments of Denmark, Ecuador, Peru, Senegal, the UK and Venezuela are largely explained by their failure to initiate clearance operations “as soon as possible”, as the treaty demands.

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 demonstrates behavior clearly inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the treaty. Further, some heavily contaminated countries, despite having prior expectations of a need for a deadline extension, could have made far greater progress in the lead up to 2009. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chad, Croatia and Thailand still have incredibly high estimates of contaminated areas (in excess of a thousand square kilometers, which is considerably more than Afghanistan).

The inability to pinpoint affected areas hinders the effective deployment of clearance assets. With the exception of Croatia, the amount of land cleared has been unacceptably low. After nine years and high expenditure in demining, countries deserve to see more positive results. If momentum is to be accelerated, there needs to be a transparent and meaningful process of analyzing deadline extension requests.

A process must be in place that analyzes and supports the commitment of States to making swift progress in demining in any extension period and ensures that the safe and efficient release of land to the civilian population becomes the norm. Some minimum standards or benchmarks for any period of extension are also worth considering. It is planned that extension requests will be analyzed by a small committee of State Parties, with minimal time allocated for each request. They will then draw conclusions for all the States Parties, who are responsible for deciding whether or not to grant each extension.

The ICBL strongly encourages careful consideration of each request, taking into account all available information. Thousands of square kilometers remain contaminated. The coming five years will be critical if we are truly to rid the world of the scourge of landmines.

States Parties with 2009 and 2010 Mine Clearance Deadlines

Country Mine Clearance Deadline
Bosnia and Herzegovina 01/03/2009
Chad 01/11/2009
Croatia 01/03/2009
Denmark 01/03/2009
Djibouti 01/03/2009
Ecuador 01/10/2009
France 01/03/2009
Jordan 01/05/2009
Malawi 01/03/2009
Mozambique 01/03/2009
Nicaragua 01/05/2009
Niger 01/09/2009
Peru 01/03/2009
Senegal 01/03/2009
Thailand 01/05/2009
Uganda 01/08/2009
United Kingdom 01/03/2009
Venezuela 01/10/2009
Yemen 01/03/2009
Zimbabwe 01/03/2009
Albania 01/08/2010
Argentina 01/03/2010
Cambodia 01/01/2010
Liberia 01/06/2010
Rwanda 01/12/2010
Tajikistan 01/04/2010
Tunisia 01/01/2010