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Russian Federation : Regional conference on mines and explosive remnants of war

08-11-2002 News Release 02/45

The ICRC held a two-day conference in Moscow this week on the impact and problems in humanitarian terms of anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war.

The aim was to raise awareness among experts and policy makers of the importance of international law instruments in this area and to promote national accession and implementation efforts in Russia and other member States of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

This was the first time the ICRC had organized such a large-scale event in Russia. The conference brought together officials from the foreign and defence ministries of CIS countries, representatives from the Russian Federation's Ministry for Civil Defence, Emergencies and the Elimination of the Consequences of Natural Disasters (EMERCOM) and national mine-action agencies, and other senior diplomats and international experts.

According to ICRC Vice-President Jacques Forster, “The key characteristic of the 1997 Ottawa treaty, which bans the production, transfer, stockpiling and use of anti-personnel mines, is the spirit of genuine cooperation and mutual assistance in eliminating the peril of mines and unexploded ordnance. Moreover, owing to its dual nature as an instrument of disarmament and of humanitarian law, the treaty is a unique international agreement. Its implementation is supported not only by governments, but also by a broad spectrum of civil society groups and international organizations.”

During the conference, the participants shared experiences and exchanged views on the implementation in the CIS of the Ottawa treaty and the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). They recognized the importance of such legal instruments and praised Moldova, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan for endeavouring to carry out the provisions of the Ottawa treaty. The discussion made it clear that for many CIS members not yet party to certain of these instruments (which nevertheless endeavour to act in the spirit of the Ottawa treaty and the amended Protocol II to the CCW), the major impediment to accession is not a lack of political will but constraints of a financial or defence-related nature. Among the other issues debated were the promotion of universal ratification of these treaties, international cooperation in humanitarian mine clearance and destruction of stockpiles, mine-awareness campaigns, and assistance to mine victims.

The Moscow conference precedes a significant inter-governmental event — the December meeting of the States party to the CCW (Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan among them), which will examine various problems relating to explosive remnants of war.

The problem of landmines and unexploded ordnance remains on the international agenda. The ICRC was one of the initiators of the worldwide campaign to ban landmines that led to adoption of the Ottawa treaty. In addition to promoting adherence to such instruments, it is extremely important to step up efforts to prevent mine-related accidents. In the Russian Federation, the ICRC supports and implements a mine-awareness programme in the northern Caucasus, and also conducts activities on behalf of mine victims. It carries out similar programmes in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.