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The 5th Anniversary of the 1997 Oslo Text Negotiations: The Future of Humanitarian Mine Action

13-09-2002 Statement

Statement by Dr. Jakob Kellenberger, President of the ICRC, Oslo, 13 September 2002

Distinguished participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends,

On behalf of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), I would like to thank the Norwegian Red Cross, the International Peace Research Institute, the Norwegian People's Aid as well as the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for hosting this important Conference.

Five years ago, governments and civil society, in an unprecedented effort, joined forces to reach our goal of adopting a treaty to end the scourge of anti-personnel mines in communities around the world. At that time, and during the months preceding the negotiations, the world was carefully following the results of our discussions. Although many new global issues have emerged since 1997, public support for the promises contained in this treaty is undiminished. That support must be re-awakened in time for the 2004 Review Conference when further commitments to mine action over the following five years will be essential.

When the ICRC added its voice to calls for a complete ban on anti-personnel mines, the landscape was quite different. These weapons were almost universally considered to be indispensable and were widely used. ICRC surgeons, medical personnel and delegates were witnessing the untold suffering of mine victims, mainly civilians who had little to do with the conflicts in which the mines had been laid.

Today, landmine injuries are still among the worst injuries treated by ICRC war surgeons. These injuries most frequently occur in the poorest countries of the world where medical care is inadequate or non-existent. In addition to individual tragedie s, anti-personnel mines have a long-term impact on civilian populations and the reconstruction capacity of entire countries. Daily tasks such as fetching water or working in the fields become a perpetual battle for these civilians who often pay the price of their life for attempting to feed their families.

The ICRC has always insisted that the success of the Convention must be measured by the results achieved in mine-affected countries. The ICRC has noted that where the Convention's comprehensive program of non-use of anti-personnel mines, clearance and mine awareness is being implemented, the annual number of victims has fallen dramatically. This is the case in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, and Croatia. These examples illustrate that where the Convention is implemented, lives and livelihoods are being saved.

The Convention has now gathered the support of more than two-thirds of the world's governments. We must do our utmost to ensure that it rapidly gains universal adherence. The ICRC warmly welcomes Angola as the most recent State Party to the Convention. Having worked in Angola for some 30 years, the ICRC has witnessed the horrific toll which landmines take. The ICRC is also encouraged by the recent announcement by the Afghan government that it will accede to the Convention shortly. This step would make Afghanistan — one of the countries most affected by landmines — the 126th State Party to the Convention.

In 1997, the remarkable efforts put forward by all of the actors involved culminated in the adoption of a new international norm totally outlawing anti-personnel mines. Adopting a comprehensive ban on anti-personnel mines was, in a sense, the easiest of our challenges. It is now time to pursue our work, by completely destroying all stockpiled anti-personnel mines, by demining all affected areas and by continuously providing assistance to victims.

As part of its mandate to protect an d assist victims of armed conflicts, the ICRC works to alleviate the suffering of mine victims and mine-affected communities around the world. The ICRC contributes to global efforts through its involvement in three areas of mine action, that is, (1) promoting international humanitarian law treaties relating to landmines; (2) conducting mine awareness programs; and (3) providing medical care and rehabilitation services to the war-wounded, including mine victims.

As guardian of international humanitarian law, the ICRC has a pivotal role in promoting universal adherence to, and full implementation of, a wide range of international treaties, including the Ottawa Convention. The ICRC also encourages adherence to the CCW and all of its protocols, in particular amended ProtocolII which remains an important instrument regulating anti-vehicle mines, booby traps and other devices not covered by the Ottawa Convention.

In order to prevent mine accidents, the ICRC, in close cooperation with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, has conducted or supported community-based awareness programmes in sixteen (16) countries since 1996. In view of the many anti-personnel mines which remain scattered in present and former battlefields around the world, the ICRC is increasingly involved in these programmes. These enable tens of thousands of civilians living in such areas to become aware of and respond to the dangers they are exposed to.

    

The ICRC's work also brings us face-to-face with the severe and long-term consequences of explosive remnants of war. The ICRC greatly appreciates the careful consideration that States have given to its proposal and hopes that a new protocol to the CCW will be adopted in 2003 to address this issue.

While the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is not directly involved in clearance act ivities, our mine awareness teams share information on mine incidents with other organizations to ensure the effective targeting of mine clearance and other assistance. Our mine awareness teams also collect requests from communities seeking to have dangerous areas cleared, marked or re-checked. We then pass these requests along to demining organizations who undertake the clearance work.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend the painstaking work performed by deminers around the world, who — at the risk of their own lives — reclaim the land for present and future generations. Their self-sacrifice inspires and motivates us all.

On the curative side, the ICRC currently provides first aid and medical care to thousands of war-wounded, including mine and UXO victims, in over 22 countries. These include Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Iraq, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tadjikistan, Uganda, and Yugoslavia. Ongoing ICRC medical or surgical assistance extends to some 150 hospitals. In addition, the ICRC trains civilian and military surgeons on most effective treatment of mine injuries as part of an ongoing programme of seminars on medical and surgical care for war-wounded in all regions of the world.

Assistance to mine victims, however, requires more than surgical and medical care. The ICRC is also involved in rehabilitation activities and offers protheses and orthoses, fitting, training and, in some cases, transport and accommodation at its physical rehabilitation centers. It currently operates over 43 projects in some 17 different countries.

Nonetheless, we readily admit that neither our efforts nor those of other agencies and governments are adequate to meet the needs of mine victims or the hopes that this treaty has inspired among landmine survivors. Our challenge today is to renew our commitment to lon g-term mine action projects, including victim assistance. A disabled person is disabled for life and needs physical rehabilitation services for the rest of his or her life. Technical, material and financial resources required for mine action have sometimes been slow in reaching mine-affected communities. Commitments made are often for periods too short to enable long-term planning and implementation.

The ICRC commends the leading role and commitment of the Norwegian Government who has generously contributed to mine action programmes over the last five years. We are also grateful for the support received from several donors who contributed a total of 26 million Swiss Francs during the year 2001. However, the ICRC still requires over 25 million Swiss Francs to carry out its mine action programmes over the next two-year period (2002-2003).

Additional challenges consist of meeting upcoming deadlines for the destruction of stockpiled anti-personnel mines. For many States Parties, 1 March 2003 will represent the four-year deadline for completing this task. We urge all States Parties to identify priorities and establish effective plans to ensure that this goal is fully achieved.

While focussing on the completion of the destruction of their stocks, States Parties must also keep in mind that 2009 marks another important deadline. Indeed, mine-affected areas must be cleared of anti-personnel mines within a period of ten years following the entry into force of the Convention for that country.

This Conference gives us an opportunity to look forward, towards the upcoming Review Conference and beyond. The 2004 Review Conference   will be the first measure of our success; it will allow us to formally evaluate whether the Convention has delivered its promise and what further steps are needed. The ICRC encourages all States Parties to be prepared to come to th e Review Conference with concrete results to share.

To conclude, allow me to reiterate the ICRC's absolute commitment to long-term work to end the human tragedy caused by landmines. We welcome the important and unique process of dialogue and cooperation among governments, international agencies and non-governmental organizations which has been established by this treaty. It is through a determined continuation of these global efforts that the international community will achieve its goal of eliminating anti-personnel mines once and for all.