12 June 2009

Standing Committee on the General Status and Operation of the Convention (25 & 29 May)

Co-Chairs: Chile & Japan; Co-Rapporteurs: Ecuador & Slovenia; Universalization: no new States Parties but high hopes the tide will turn in the Second Review Conference year

The standstill on the universalization front was mentioned as a regrettable fact by a number of States Parties and other actors. However, Ambassador Jurg Streuli, President of the 9th Meeting of the States Parties reconfirmed that universalization of the treaty remains a high priority for his Presidency and outlined plans for his universalization missions in 2009.

Norway took the approach that the work should now focus on universalizing the norm rather than increasing the number of States Parties. Three states not party took the floor but there were no groundbreaking announcements: Lao PDR said it was looking forward to making further steps such as submitting a transparency report, but made no clear commitment. Mongolia indicated that it was still pursuing a "step-by-step"approach with the view of joining the treaty, without giving any timeline however. Morocco reported on its voluntary submission of Article 7 report and their mine action efforts, but did not provide any update on plans for joining the treaty.

The ICBL expressed its disappointment with the lack of progress on universalization since the 8th Meeting of the States Parties (2007), and outlined specific goals and expectations vis-à-vis states (Parties and not party) for the Second Review Conference.

Transparency and the exchange of information (Art. 7): Very low rate of report submissions. Like at the 2008 ISCs, we are confronted this year with a very low rate of annual report submissions: less than 50%. Three initial reports are still missing: Equatorial Guinea, Cape Verde and Gambia. The ICBL made an intervention asking for additional efforts on transparency reports and giving suggestions for the Cartagena Action Plan on how to enhance the quality of the reports.

Mines retained for development and training purposes (Art. 3): Reporting on past and planned use lagging behind. Several States Parties gave updates on how they have used mines retained under Article 3, including information on the destruction of some of the mines. Norway stated again that it retains no mines and was concerned that states keeping mines without reducing numbers year after year were undermining the prohibition on stockpiling and therefore the convention itself. Switzerland suggested that it was time for recommendations to ensure states report on how the mines are being used, reevaluate the number retained on a regular basis to ensure it is only the minimum number absolutely necessary and destroy those in excess of that number, and explore alternatives to keeping live mines for training.

Exchange of views on Article 1 (ban on assistance of prohibited acts) and Article 2 (definition of antipersonnel landmine). The ICBL made the case again on why the interpretation of these issues are critical for the treaty and called for the Cartagena documents to reflect the prevailing view of States Parties. The ICRC echoed this call relative to Article 2.

Compliance and National Implementation Measures (Articles 8 and 9). Thailand and Canada spoke on the importance of treating cases of non-compliance, with Canada supporting the ICBL's proposal for the Review Conference to recommend such cases first be addressed by the past and future MSP/RevCon presidents and relevant co-chairs. Switzerland expressed concern about the lack of progress on national implementation measures, which it said were essential for ensuring compliance with the treaty. The Philippines reported on the status of its draft national implementation law, which it hopes will be approved before next May.Standing Committee on Stockpile Destruction (25 May).

Co-Chairs: Italy and Zambia; Co-Rapporteurs: Bulgaria & Indonesia.

Stockpile Destruction (Art. 4): No real news from the three States Parties in violation of the treaty. The focus of the session was on the three States Parties that missed their deadline for stockpile destruction in 2008, but none of them provided concrete information on when they would finish destruction. Belarus reported that it agreed on a Terms of Reference document for a cooperation agreement with the European Commission. Greece said it would transfer all of its mines to the destruction plant in Bulgaria by the 2nd Review Conference and hoped - but could not confirm - they would be destroyed as well by that date. Turkey stated that it had 45% of its stockpiles left to destroy and that destruction would not be completed before early 2010. In addition, Ukraine said it did not expect to be able to meet its deadline. Ethiopia did not speak, though it had reported at a national event in April that it completed its stockpile destruction.There was a short discussion on ensuring compliance with Article 4, but only 3 States Parties (Australia, Canada and Norway) spoke.

The ICBL and ICRC voiced deep concern about the lack of compliance as well as the low-key reaction from other states. We suggested that states single out the non-compliant states in the Review Conference's high level political declaration. Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Mine Risk Education and Mine Action Technologies (27 & 28 May)

Co-Chairs: Argentina & Australia; Co-Rapporteurs: Greece & Nigeria.

Mine Risk Education: Sharing good practices. The Co-Chairs presented a non-paper aimed at enhancing discussions on mine risk education (MRE), which was followed by a presentation by a GICHD expert and an exchange on good MRE practices and lessons learned. A handful of states presented their MRE programmes, and interventions were made by the ICBL, Handicap International, the ICRC, UNICEF and UNMAS.

Mine Clearance (Art. 5): States that were granted extensions at the 9MSP have little to report; Tunisia announces it is mine-free; three States present their extension request. States that were granted extensions of their mine clearance deadline in November 2008 reported on progress made, but their reports did not provide much information on progress since the extensions were granted. Nicaragua indicated that it would complete its clearance obligation by December if additional funding was made available by the international community, otherwise by May 2010. The UK reported that it had begun the process of finding contractors for clearing the Falkland/Malvinas Islands with a goal of starting demining by the end of the year. Mozambique and Croatia reported they were largely on track to meeting its new deadline, but Bosnia & Herzegovina explained it had missed the first benchmark of its revised clearance plan. Jordan reported that it had the green light to demine its entire border with Syria even though some parts had not yet been demarcated. Tunisia announced it had completed its mine clearance obligation under Article 5, months before its January 2010 deadline. In addition, six States indicated that they may be able to report completion of their clearance obligation by the Second Review Conference: Albania, Burundi, Greece, Serbia, Uganda and Zambia. Argentina, Cambodia and Tajikistan presented their mine clearance deadline extension requests and, disappointingly, all asked for a ten-year extension - the maximum extension authorized by the treaty. Regrettably, there were very little questions or discussions on the draft requests.

The ICBL shared its critiques of the requests from Cambodia and Tajikistan. We recommended that Cambodia request and be granted a two-year extension to collect accurate and reliable data on its mine contamination, and then submit a second request based on the results of a new baseline survey and subsequent planning. Given Tajikistan's relatively small contaminated area, we asked that its request be reduced from ten to five years with a new plan based on the possibility of greater national and international funding. During the session on International Cooperation and Assistance, Canada said that supporting the work of the ICBL and Landmine Monitor had proven to be a very good investment, crucial for promoting the Mine Ban Treaty. Standing Committee on Victim Assistance and Socio-Economic Reintegration (26 & 29 May)

Co-Chairs: Belgium & Thailand; Co-Rapporteurs: Peru & TurkeyMany states report on specific progress made but funding remains a major challenge. The room was packed and filled with good energy as the discussions on victim assistance started on Tuesday 26 May. Nineteen states with the responsibility to care for significant numbers of survivors provided updates on their efforts and, remarkably, many of these updates included specific & measurable result indicators. For example, Cambodia announced the approval of its Disability Law and Jordan indicated it had completed the creation of its national database on mine/ERW survivors.It was noted that funding remains an important challenge to victim assistance and at least Sudan, Senegal and Yemen highlighted a decrease or a lack of funding. Norway, as President-Designate of the Second Review Conference, indicated that survivors and victim assistance would be at the forefront of the Review Conference and the Cartagena Action Plan. They added: "We want the Action Plan to be focused and action-oriented, with clear indicators to measure progress and achievements of goals and to assure that political and financial support [for victim assistance] is secured."

During the exchange of views on the objectives in the lead up to the Second Review Conference and for the period 2010-2014, the ICBL highlighted five priorities to be taken into account in the Cartagena Action Plan: inclusion, accessibility of services and facilities, financial and technical assistance, planning and coordination, as well as harmonization with relevant international instruments.

Parallel programme on victim assistance: a focus on implementation. A parallel programme for victim assistance (VA) experts included three sessions: inclusive development, coherence between the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Mine Ban Treaty, and challenges and priorities in the lead up to the Second Review Conference and beyond.

When asked to outline their top three priorities, ICBLers answered: 1. implementation, 2. implementation, and 3. implementation! Participants in the parallel programme, which included the ICBL's victim assistance focal points and other ICBL campaigners plus government representatives, provided input and suggestions on a food for thought paper drafted by the VA Co-Chairs, outlining recommendations for the Cartagena Action Plan. The recommendations were presented to the President-Designate of the Second Review Conference.

More information on the ISC meetings: official website of the May 2009 ISC meetings.

ICBL and CMC Side Events

The ICBL organized two meetings on 25 and 26 May for victim assistance focal points and campaign members working closely with survivors. They prepared the ICBL's VA statements, coordinated their lobbying efforts for the week and shared their views on the recommendations for the Cartagena Action Plan. On 26 May, the Cluster Munition Coalition held a campaign meeting to discuss the universalization efforts underway and to share information on the global week of action against cluster bombs (29 May - 4 June).

On 27 May, enthusiastic ICBLers gathered during the lunch break for a briefing on the Second Review Conference and to share views on aims and expectations, including the need to secure high-level participation and to get a strong Cartagena Action Plan. A briefing on the major findings of Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice, the report produced by HRW and Landmine Action for Landmine Monitor, was held on 29 May and generated a lot of interest. A summary of the event was circulated on the CMC mailing list. Photos by Mary Wareham are available on the ANZ Cluster Munition Coalition's flickr page.

1st Preparatory Meeting for the Second Review Conference: On Friday afternoon, the first preparatory meeting for Second Review Conference in Cartagena was held. Norway (as President-Designate) introduced the Review Conference's major goals, draft agenda, and documents to be produced. A small number of other States Parties, the ICBL and the ICRC expressed their expectations for the substance of the conference. Colombia (the host country) and the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs presented logistical information, including events that will take place the Sunday before the Conference, visas, and registration.

More information can be found on the official website of the Cartagena Summit and on the ICBL page on the Cartagena Summit.