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Second Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction

11-09-2000 Statement

Statement by Dr Jakob Kellenberger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva, 11-15 September 2000

We are here to ensure that our Convention is faithfully implemented, that the necessary resources are made available, and that the treaty rapidly gains universal acceptance. The landmine survivors among us, the memory of those who were killed by landmines and the images we saw at the opening ceremony provide compelling evidence of why comprehensive implementation of the Ottawa treaty is so urgent. Indeed, every minute does count.

The development and adoption of the Ottawa treaty in 1997 marked a sweeping change seldom seen in military or humanitarian affairs. A comprehensive programme was established involving the complete prohibition of anti-personnel mines, the destruction of stockpiles, the clearing of mined land and the provision of assistance to mine victims. What remained to be seen, however, was the extent to which governments were ready to commit themselves legally, by ratifying this instrument and taking the demanding set of measures needed to make the terms of the treaty a reality in mine-affected areas.

The extent of that legal and political commitment is now clear. Today, 105 States have ratified the treaty. Another 34 have signed it and are thus bound by its object and purpose. In other words, two-thirds of the world’s governments are committed to the elimination of anti-personnel mines and their consequences. There can be little doubt that the Ottawa treaty has become the international norm governing these weapons. Like that of poison gas, exploding bullets and other prohibited weapons, the use of anti-personnel mines is widely regarded as offending basic considerations of humanity.

The inter-sessional wo rk of the Standing Committees of Experts established by the first annual meeting of States Parties in Maputo has played a useful role in providing a focus for dialogue on all aspects of treaty implementation, in raising and clarifying issues and in preparing the ground for this annual meeting and the next stage of implementation. We support the proposals which will be considered by this Conference to further streamline the inter-sessional work and to encourage more active involvement of participants from mine-affected countries.

The ICRC has always insisted that the success of this Convention must be measured by the results achieved in mine-affected countries. As the treaty has been in force for only eighteen months, it may be difficult to assess, on a global scale, its impact on the ground. But there are clear indications that lives and limbs are being saved. Statistics gathered by the ICRC in Bosnia-Herzegovina show that the average number of casualties per month from landmines and unexploded ordnance has decreased from 52 immediately following the conflict to eight today. A major reduction in casualty figures has also been reported by organizations in Cambodia and Croatia. These developments suggest that where mine use is halted and comprehensive and coordinated mine action is initiated – that is to say where the treaty is being implemented – lives and livelihoods are being saved.

While such success is laudable, recent events also remind us of the urgency of our work and of the challenges ahead. Earlier this year, floods in Mozambique wiped out years of dedicated work by mine-clearance organizations. The recent use of mines in the Kosovo conflict, in Angola and elsewhere brought new stories of death, injury and suffering. Even where efforts have been under way for years, progress is painfully slow.

We urge those that are not yet party to the Ottawa treaty, particularly the 41 that have signed but not ratified it, to adhe re soon. We welcome the fact that a number of States which have not yet adhered to the treaty have nonetheless provided resources for mine-clearance and mine-awareness activities in many affected countries. We call on them to take the additional step of outlawing the weapon which is the cause of the problems they seek to address.

We ask States which have already ratified the Ottawa treaty to ensure that all its provisions are fully implemented, that long-term funding for clearance, mine-awareness work and victim assistance is increased, and that bureaucratic obstacles to this process are removed. Particularly urgent are the deadlines laid down in the treaty for the destruction of stockpiles of anti-personnel mines and the clearing of mined land. The number of actors involved in mine action has grown significantly in recent years. Given the scale of the problem, that is a welcome development. However, the increase in activities demands better cooperation, coordination and exchange of information among those involved. The primary concern for us all should be to ensure that victims and communities whose daily lives are affected by anti-personnel mines receive effective and efficient assistance.

Largely as a result of the resources mobilized through this treaty, the ICRC has expanded its activities in the areas of victim assistance and mine awareness. Today, in cooperation with National Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies, we are conducting mine-awareness programmes in eight countries. In the past year new programmes have been launched in Albania, Lebanon, Kosovo and Chechnya. Our " community-based " programmes seek to address the needs of specific mine-affected communities.

The ICRC is currently providing medical or surgical assistance to all war wounded, including mine victims, in 22 countries. This includes the provision of staff and training and the donation of medicines, supplies and equipment to hospitals, first-a id posts and other health facilities in war-torn areas. We are also providing prostheses, orthoses, walking aids and physiotherapy at 34 rehabilitation centres in 14 countries – including facilities in Ethiopia, Myanmar, Sudan and Sri Lanka opened in the past eighteen months. These services are a first step towards the full reintegration of mine victims and other war disabled into society. In 1999 the ICRC produced over 9,000 prostheses for people injured by mines. Over the past three years approximately 60% of the prostheses manufactured by the ICRC have been for mine victims.

In pursuing the Ottawa treaty's object and purpose it is important that both the letter and the spirit of the instrument be respected. In this regard, the ICRC is concerned about certain anti-vehicle mines with sensitive fusing mechanisms or sensitive anti-handling devices. It is the view of the ICRC that any mine with a fusing mechanism capable of being detonated by the presence, proximity or contact of a person is prohibited by the treaty. Although anti-handling devices are allowed, these devices are permitted only so long as they are activated by tampering or intentional disturbance and not by innocent or inadvertent contact. The ICRC calls upon all States to examine the technical characteristics of existing stocks of anti-vehicle mines, as well as those that may be acquired in the future, to ensure that they are designed in such a way as to minimize the risks to civilians. We look forward to making progress on these issues in the framework of an expert meeting, welcomed by Standing Committee Five, which the ICRC will host early next year.

Although the effects of anti-personnel mines are particularly widespread and severe, it is important to note that this type of weapon is one among the many " explosive remnants of war " which represent a threat to civilian populations. In some cases recently documented by the ICRC – in Kosovo, for instance – other munitions and submunitions have had equally serious consequences. We recently proposed a new Protocol to the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to address this issue. We look forward to working with many of you in the context of next year's Review Conference for that Convention to ensure that the problems posed by other “explosive remnants of war” are dealt with as a matter of urgency.

As we begin the Second Meeting of States party to this unique treaty, let us remember why we are here. Our job this week is to do everything within our power to ensure a comprehensive response to a humanitarian emergency – the global epidemic of landmine injuries. Our work must focus on deepening the roots of this Convention, identifying and removing obstacles to its implementation, and making sure that the tremendous promise it offers is realized on the ground. There is no time to lose.

Ref. LG 2000-094-ENG