Tamar Gabelnick, ICBL-CMC Policy Director
The Mine Ban Treaty’s Third Review Conference will begin one month from today in Maputo, Mozambique, providing a chance not only to look back on past progress, but also to put forward a vision for the years ahead. With this in mind, the ICBL has issued a challenge to the mine ban community: to complete the work of the Mine Ban Treaty within a decade. Our community – the states, NGOs, UN agencies, and other organizations like the ICRC working globally to eradicate antipersonnel mines – has accepted, met, and even thrived upon major challenges in the past. So we expect this one will be no different.
What does it mean to complete the work of the Mine Ban Treaty? To keep things simple and pragmatic, the ICBL’s call mainly relates to the work of current States Parties as regards to stockpile destruction, clearance, and victim assistance. We are also calling for no further use of antipersonnel mines throughout the world, by any actor, within a decade.
For stockpile destruction, meeting the completion challenge means that all current States Parties will have finished destroying all of their stocks of antipersonnel mines, preferably including any live mines they had been retaining for training. For clearance, it means that all current States Parties will have done their best to properly identify all mined areas and to destroy all antipersonnel mines in those areas. As there is always a chance that unknown stocks or mined areas may be discovered after completion is announced, it is understood that those stockpiles or mined areas will be reported on and addressed as quickly as possible thereafter.
Victim assistance is more difficult to “complete” since it must be available for the lifetime of all victims. But States Parties may be said to have completed their Mine Ban Treaty obligations under Article 6.3 when they have ensured that they are adequately and sustainably meeting the needs and protecting the rights of landmine victims, including through broader frameworks such as those for development or disability.
Since progress on these areas often relies on international support, the ICBL calls on affected states and donors to build informal “completion partnerships,” if they are not already doing so. Rather than “funding and forgetting,” donors are encouraged to be a present and engaged partner throughout the support cycle. And affected states should likewise foster a closer relationship with donors, keeping them regularly informed of progress and openly discussing challenges. Establishing broader partnerships, involving all donors, operators and other stakeholders, would also help to fill in any gaps in strategic, political or technical support and to ensure all actors all are working cohesively towards the affected state’s objectives.
Finally, the Mine Ban Treaty will not be “complete” until the ban norm is universally respected and there is no more use of antipersonnel mines by any actors anywhere, nor any production or transfers. This respect is vital to fulfilling the treaty’s promise to “put an end to the suffering and casualties caused by anti-personnel mines…”
Like the challenges that have come before – to agree to a ban of antipersonnel mines, to negotiate the mine ban treaty in a year, to accept deadlines for stockpile destruction and clearance, etc. – there is no guarantee of success. But we strongly believe that with enough hard work and determination, it can be done. And we are asking others to join us in expressing that same faith in our collective capacity.
Many states will have no problem finishing within a decade or even sooner, including all current States Parties with remaining stockpiles. All current mine-affected States Parties have original or extended legal clearance deadlines that fall before 2024, so they should already be planning for completion within the decade even if they have the legal right to seek more time. States are already moving toward integrating victim assistance into broader, more sustainable systems, even if some have a ways yet to go. Given the powerful stigma that already exists against the use of antipersonnel mines, it is plausible that we see no more use anywhere within a decade.
At the same time, we recognize that in some states, things will need to change before a 10-year target can be met, be they adapting methodologies, creating new funding strategies, or increasing national political support. On the other hand, barring prolonged armed conflict that limits access to mine-affected areas, there seems no reason why any state could not meet the 10 year mark if it fully embraces the goal.
Some states have already picked up the challenge and run with it. Mozambique, as President Designate of the Third Review Conference, was the first to suggest completion as a theme for the Conference. Strongly supported by the Netherlands and others, it put in its draft Maputo Action Plan that States Parties “strive to… complete implementation of their respective time-bound obligations under the Convention by 2025.” And Mozambique is doing its best to complete its own clearance program by the end of this year. Other states have told us they will indeed come to Maputo with a promise to complete remaining treaty obligations by a specific date.
On the other hand, there have been a few naysayers arguing that a 10-year goal is not feasible. Or that it will prevent getting more states to join the treaty. The logic of these arguments escapes me, but the lack of vision is even more difficult to understand. Why not aim as high as possible now, while international political and financial support for the treaty is still relatively strong, and our end goals are finally within sight? Why not encourage all current States Parties to work harder and better so all contaminated land can be released for safe use within 10 years? Why not try to ensure that within a decade states have a sustainable system in place to truly meet the needs and protect the rights of landmine victims? Why not try as hard as humanly possible to ensure there is no more use of antipersonnel mines by anyone, anywhere, in as little time as possible?
Fifteen years after the Mine Ban Treaty came into force, its future path is at a new juncture. Progress on the treaty may plod along, or even slowly decline, leaving communities alone to deal with the consequences of new use or past contamination. Or we can all commit to redouble our efforts in order to finish the job within an ambitious timeframe. We owe it to those who dreamed of a ban 20 years ago to see it through. And we owe it to the landmine survivors, to their families, and to their communities to make the promise of the treaty a reality for all, without waiting any longer.