"Live-saving norms of the Mine Ban Convention must be upheld and commitments to affected populations met"
Mr President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a privilege to address you today at the opening of the 21st Meeting of the States Parties to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention.
Ahead of the 5th Review Conference, which will take place towards the end of next year, this year's Meeting of States Parties provides a valuable opportunity to reconnect with the humanitarian imperative underlying this landmark instrument, reflect on efforts made in its implementation, guided by the Oslo Action Plan, and tackle challenges to achieving our common goal of realizing a mine-free world.
Since the Convention's entry into force, remarkable progress has been made in protecting lives and livelihoods from anti-personnel mines. Millions of stockpiled mines have been destroyed by States Parties. And vast areas of land have been cleared and returned to productive uses.
The Convention is one of the most successful disarmament instruments. Over three-quarters of UN Member States are bound by its terms. The Convention provides a strong international framework for the elimination of anti-personnel mines, and its norms have contributed to curtailing production of these terrible weapons beyond the circle of States Parties.
However, the ICRC has a number of concerns relating to aspects of adherence to the Convention and progress in its implementation.
Today, hard-won achievements risk being undone as old and newly laid mines continue to take a terrible toll on human lives. The use of anti-personnel mines – both manufactured and of an improvised nature – has grown alarmingly in recent years and casualties have spiked dramatically.
In some affected countries, the ICRC is reinforcing its specialist teams delivering mine awareness programmes to protect civilians from the risks posed by mines. Depending on the context, groups facing particular risks include municipal workers, shepherds or children who simply like to play football. Education and awareness are vital for keeping them safe in the face of the invisible, deadly threat posed by mines.
We urge all who continue to use anti-personnel mines to cease such use immediately. Anti-personnel mines must not be used, by anyone, under any circumstance. States Parties to the Convention must thoroughly investigate allegations of anti-personnel mine use on territory under their jurisdiction or control and take measures to prosecute and punish those responsible.
Another area of concern to the ICRC is progress in the clearance of mines is slow or has stalled in many places, despite repeated commitments made by States Parties. Extensions of clearance deadlines, originally intended for States with massive contamination, have become too routine. Such extensions come at a dire human cost: thousands of people remain at risk of death, injury and loss of livelihoods every day and these risks will remain for many years to come unless firmer action is taken. There is a pressing need to make tangible progress in clearing contaminated lands.
It is critical that we remain true to the life-saving obligations reflected in the Convention and I take this opportunity to call upon States Parties to deliver tangible progress in affected States, mobilizing the required expertise, political will and resources.
The Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention is rooted in international humanitarian law. The ongoing suffering caused by anti-personnel mines underlines the continued need to reaffirm the humanitarian underpinnings of the Convention. The 34th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent which will take place next year offers a unique forum for States Parties to the Geneva Conventions to undertake joint commitments with Movement partners to advance humanitarian action, including efforts to protect people from the scourge of landmines.
The ICRC and the broader International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement continue to work tirelessly to address the impacts of anti-personnel mines, offer support to survivors, and promote the universalization and national implementation of the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention.
We appeal to all States Parties to remain steadfast and uncompromising in their commitment to the goals of the Convention and we call on those States who have not yet done so, to join this landmark humanitarian Convention without delay.
The Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention demonstrates that, through partnerships between States, international organizations and civil society, bold and decisive action can address collective problems. But keeping the Convention strong and ensuring respect for its norms is a shared responsibility.
It is essential that we honour the commitment made to affected populations and those whose lives have been taken or permanently altered by these weapons. We must continue to work together and find new momentum to address the challenges, build on what we have achieved and further advance the Convention's promise of a mine-free world!