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Third 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, Managua, 18-21 September 2001

21-09-2001 Statement

Statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) thanks the government of Nicaragua for hosting this Third Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-personnel Mines. Nicaragua is a country which has known not only the scourge of landmines but also the bitter experience of suffering a severe setback to its mine-clearance efforts when Hurricane Mitch struck in October 1998. Your determination to completely eradicate this scourge, as demonstrated by your ongoing clearance work as well as the destruction of anti-personnel mines that we witnessed yesterday, are an inspiration to us all. We hope that the holding of this meeting in Managua will strengthen the commitment of governments in the region and throughout the international community to early achievement of the goal set by the Council of Foreign Ministers of Central America in 1996: to forever free this region of anti-personnel landmines.

The Nicaraguan example is impressive, as is the overall record for implementation of this Convention. 120 States have now ratified or acceded to the Convention;    29 of these have reported the complete destruction of their stockpiles; 19 more are in the process of stockpile destruction; funding for mine action has increased; and 27 States have adopted, and others are in the process of adopting, legislation to criminalize violations of the Convention.

In places where the Convention's comprehensive programme of non-use of anti-personnel mines, clearance and mine awareness is being implemented, the annual number of victims has fallen dramatically. These simple facts confirm that the Convention’s prescriptions to cure the global epidemic of landmine injur ies are correct and effective.

The ICRC, 177 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and their International Federation have committed themselves to long-term work aimed at ending the human tragedy caused by anti-personnel landmines. In the past year the ICRC has expanded its activities in the areas of victim assistance and mine and unexploded ordnance awareness . It has done so largely with resources mobilized by means of the Convention. In cooperation with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, we are now conducting or supporting awareness programmes in 12countries. Seven of these programmes have been set up in the past two years. Recent assessment surveys have resulted in preparations for new programmes in five additional countries. Each of these programmes is community-based, seeking not only to inform people of the dangers but also to closely involve local communities in the search for solutions to the day-to-day problems that force people to engage in high-risk behaviour.

In 2000, for the fourth consecutive year, ICRC physical rehabilitation activities increased, with the number of prostheses and orthoses furnished to disabled people rising significantly and new ICRC-supported projects beginning work in Uganda, Myanmar and Ethiopia. Between 1996 and 2000 the number of patients receiving orthopaedic appliances more than doubled, from some 13,000 a year to around 28,000. In 2000, 11,000 of the patients fitted with orthopaedic appliances were mine victims. The ICRC currently runs or supports 37 physical rehabilitation centres in 14 countries. Through the Special Fund for the Disabled, we are also assisting 58 similar projects in 33 countries. Over the past two years more than 20 training seminars on medical and surgical care for war-wounded people have been conducted or planned in 17 countries infested with mines and unexploded ordnance. Ongoing ICRC medical or surgical assistance for war wounde d extends to some 150 hospitals including in 20 such countries where mine victims are beneficiaries.

In the area of victim assistance, professional resources which address surgical treatment of mine victims and their physical rehabilitation have long been available. However, the lack of guidelines for first aid in the field for victims of mines and other weapons has been noted by the ICRC for many years. This reflected a major gap in terms of guidelines for the full spectrum of essential care, which runs from pre-hospital treatment through surgery to physical and psycho-social rehabilitation. The ICRC is pleased to be able to present to this meeting a recently published booklet for health-care professionals entitled Care in the Field for Victims of Weapons of War . The text, based on a workshop on the subject, was submitted for peer review before being published. We hope that it will enhance the quality of the first aid available to mine and other war victims. Unfortunately, the availability and quality of such care often determines whether the landmine victim becomes a survivor or a fatality.

While we welcome the impressive accomplishments that the Ottawa Convention has made possible, we will for years to come be humbled by the scale of the task before us. The global tragedy of landmine infestation took decades to produce. Ending the epidemic of landmine injuries will require long-term efforts to fully implement every aspect of the Convention in a manner consistent with both its letter and its spirit.

The technical, material and financial resources required for mine action are still painfully slow in reaching mine-affected communities. Commitments made are often for periods too short to enable long-term planning and implementation. In the field of physical rehabilitation, to cite one example, such programmes must be sustained throu ghout the lifetime of the patient. Other challenges include limited access to beneficiaries due to security threats, inadequate health infrastructure, and shortages of trained health staff and volunteers. These problems are exacerbated by the limited resources available to National Societies and others involved in post conflict rehabilitation programmes.

Many of the States Parties will, in early 2003, be facing the four-year deadline for the complete destruction of their anti-personnel mine stockpiles . We urge all those States to ensure that plans are in place to achieve this goal and, where needed, to request assistance to that end.

We also encourage all States that have not yet done so to adopt implementing legislation and other administrative measures to ensure that acts prohibited under the Convention are also prohibited under national law. To assist in creating such legislation the ICRC has prepared an Information Kit on the development of national legislation , in cooperation with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Belgian government. It is available here and on our website in Spanish, French and English, and will shortly be published in other languages. ICRC legal advisers in all regions of the world are prepared to assist States in preparing legislation appropriate to their national contexts and legal systems.

We also believe it of great importance that this Meeting of States Parties reaffirm, in its final report, the understandings concerning certain anti-vehicle mines and mines retained for training purposes which were clearly stated by the Convention's negotiators in Oslo but on which ambiguities in State practice have arisen.

In his statement to the Second Meeting of States Parties, the IC RC President expressed serious concern about certain anti-vehicle mines with sensitive fusing mechanisms or sensitive anti-handling devices which cause them to function like anti-personnel mines. The President indicated that the ICRC views as prohibited by the Convention any mine with a fusing mechanism capable of being detonated by the presence, proximity or contact of a person. Although anti-handling devices are allowed, this is on the condition that they are activated only by tampering or intentional disturbance, and not by innocent or inadvertent contact.

We appreciate the seriousness with which States and the Standing Committee on the General Status and Operation of the Convention have taken this issue and are particularly grateful to those States that sent military and technical experts to an ICRC-sponsored meeting last March to identify ways of reducing the threat to civilians presented by such mines. This meeting, to which the ICRC invited all States Parties during the December 2000 Standing Committee, was welcomed by the Committee as a way forward on the issue. The expert meeting resulted in a summary report, submitted to the May Standing Committee and available here, which presents a variety of " best practices " as regards fusing mechanisms on anti-vehicle mines. It urges that particular attention be given to anti-vehicle mines with fuses sensitive enough to be detonated by a person, including those equipped with low-pressure fuses, tripwires, breakwires and tilt rods. As regards anti-handling devices, the report highlights the need for a review of how the existing sensitivities have been arrived at and for further research and discussion.

The ICRC also recalls and supports the understanding reached during the Oslo negotiations that if States choose to exercise the option provided for in Article 3 to retain anti-personnel mines for training purposes, these mines should number in the hundred s or thousands, but not in the tens of thousands. We welcome the decision of a number of States to conduct training for clearance and destruction purposes without retaining live mines.

We believe that discussions on these issues in the Standing Committee on the General Status and Operation of the Convention have been fruitful and urge this Conference to adopt, among its decisions, the recommendations contained in paragraphs 41 to 43 of the Committee's report. We also call on all States to review their stockpiles of anti-vehicle mines and the numbers of mines being retained for training purposes in light of these recommendations.

At the heart of this Convention is the ambitious programme for mine-clearance and mine-awareness work, stockpile destruction, and assistance and rehabilitation for victims. These will require the sustained mobilization of political will and resources if the programme's promise is to be fulfilled in affected communities around the world. The intersessional work of the four Standing Committees and the Coordination Committee has played a central role in this effort. However, the complexity of the tasks which have been undertaken and the need for consistency and continuity in the implementation process have given rise to a proposal for the establishment of an "Implementation Support Unit" . The ICRC encourages this meeting to support the proposal for such a unit, which will provide crucial support to the implementation process. We welcome the generous offer by the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining to host the unit.

Five months before the entry into force of this Convention, Hurricane Mitch ripped through Central America, not only devastating communities but also setting back clearance efforts for years by dislodging anti-personnel mines – the seeds of death from past wars – and scattering them anew throughout the region. Today we have evidence that the tide has changed, that Nicaragua and its neighbours will, with the help of other States Parties, complete their plans to free the region from the ravages of this pernicious weapon. Achieving this goal will be an example to the world of the Convention's effectiveness and an inspiration for other affected regions. The challenge to this meeting in the coming days is to support and stimulate work on the ground to eradicate anti-personnel mines, to ensure adequate assistance to their victims and to make these efforts sustainable. As this region has learned so painfully, we have no time to lose.