Special Report: The Looming Ottawa Deadlines
by Kateland Shane [ Mine Action Information Center]
Under Article 5 of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction,1States Parties are bound by a 10-year mine-clearance deadline. As the first clearance deadlines approach in March 2009, it is evident that several countries will not be able to meet their Ottawa-imposed deadlines.
Mines Advisory Group community liaison staff present a mine- and unexploded ordnance-risk education session with children from the primary school in Magwi, South Sudan.
All photos © Sean Sutton/MAG
Off the coast of Argentina lies the United Kingdom-controlled territory2 of the Falkland/Malvinas Islands. These beautiful islands are a popular tourist destination and home to many rare species of wildlife. While they may appear peaceful, a 1982 conflict between the U.K. and Argentina over the territory has left the islands contaminated with unexploded ordnance, booby traps and landmines. In fact, the British government estimates 101–120 minefields are within this territory.3
The mines do not pose an immediate threat—fields are marked and fenced, and there have been no human casualties since 1982—but the United Kingdom is a State Party to the Ottawa Convention. It is therefore bound by Article 5 of the Convention to destroy all anti-personnel mines under its jurisdiction or control by 1 March 2009. Although its deadline is 2009, the U.K. has not begun formal clearance operations; moreover, it has not even developed a plan for clearance.3
The United Kingdom is not alone in its lack of compliance. According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, 18 States Parties4 with deadlines in 2009 still have not fulfilled their Article 5 obligations.5 Fifteen of those countries—including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chad, Croatia, Mozambique, Peru, Senegal, Thailand, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe—will not be able to complete their obligations by the 2009 clearance deadline and have submitted a request for more time.6
Under Article 5, States Parties that cannot meet their obligations have the option to apply for an extension. Even if granted an extension, there is debate over whether some of these countries will be able to complete clearance within the extended time.
What is hindering parties from fulfilling their Article 5 obligations? Some States Parties are citing major obstacles, such as ongoing conflict, as the reason for missing the deadlines, while many other parties simply failed to set up clearance operations in a timely manner or at all.5 Campaigners for the Ottawa Convention fear that because so many will miss the first deadlines, those in noncompliance are setting a poor precedent for parties with future deadlines. Supporters warn that parties need to start taking their obligations more seriously.7
Article 5 Obligations
Article 5 of the Ottawa Convention concerns the “destruction of anti-personnel mines in mined areas.” The three main obligations of States Parties under Article 5 are to:
- “destroy or ensure the destruction of all anti-personnel mines in mined areas under its jurisdiction or control, as soon as possible but not later than ten years after the entry into force” of the Convention.8
- “identify all areas under its jurisdiction or control in which anti-personnel mines are known or suspected to be emplaced.”9
- “ensure as soon as possible that all anti-personnel mines in mined areas under its jurisdiction or control are perimeter-marked, monitored and protected by fencing or other means, to ensure the effective exclusion of civilians, until all anti-personnel mines contained therein have been destroyed.”9
A mine-risk education session with people from the Topsa tribe in Kapoeta, South Sudan.
Paragraph 1 of Article 5 sets forth the 10-year deadline for States Parties to complete destruction of all AP mines under their jurisdiction or control. In June 2008, Uganda announced it would meet its deadline and Niger said it was not mine affected.4 Djibouti indicated a couple years ago that it no longer has Article 5 obligations.4,10 Sixteen States Parties with 2009 deadlines still have obligations under Article 5.10
With the first deadlines now just a few months away, it is clear that 15 States Parties (all but Uganda) will not be able to meet their 2009 deadlines and have used the deadline extension provision in Article 5 to request additional time to finish mine clearance.
Article 5.3 states that each extension request must include:
- “the duration of the proposed extension”
- “a detailed explanation of the reasons for the proposed extension”
- “the humanitarian, social, economic and environmental implications of the extension”
- "any other information relevant to the request for the proposed extension”11
After a State Party submits a request for extension, either the Review Conference or the Meeting of the States Parties will determine by majority vote whether to grant the extension. Parties are encouraged to submit extension requests no later than nine months before the Review Conference or Meeting of the States Parties at which the decision for extension is made. Since the 9th Meeting of the States Parties was held in November 2008, this request should have been made in late February 2008 for those with 2009 deadlines. Parties were asked to also submit their national demining plans and a two-to-five page executive summary with the request.11 Parties that miss clearance deadlines will be in violation of the Convention until they submit an extension request.5
Fifteen States Parties have submitted deadline extension requests: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chad, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, Jordan, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Peru, Senegal, Thailand, United Kingdom, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe.6 Prior to the 9MSP, the Ottawa Convention's Implementation Support Unit, located at the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining in Geneva, Switzerland, reported that “the only State Party with a deadline in 2009 that has not yet either submitted an extension request or indicated completion, is expected to announce completion in 2009."10
Parties have cited various reasons for missing deadlines, including insufficient resources, poor minefield records and environmental challenges; however, other States Parties, such as the United Kingdom and Denmark, did not start clearance operations on time or at all. The ICBL reports that “delays in setting up mine action centers, developing strategies and plans, mobilizing resources and engaging in clearance were responsible for many missed deadlines.”5
Some countries that have submitted extension requests are still heavily affected by landmines that threaten their humanitarian, environmental and socioeconomic livelihoods. For Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Thailand and Yemen, landmines continue to be a serious problem, one that will probably not be solved for another five to 10 years. Other States Parties that have applied for deadlines do not have extensive mine problems and should have finished clearance already. Countries such as the United Kingdom (Falkland/Malvinas Islands), Denmark and Venezuela have manageable landmine contaminations but still applied for extensions.
Bosnia and Herzegovina. The mine contamination in Bosnia and Herzegovina resulted from the 1992–95 conflict during the breakup of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. As a result of that conflict, Bosnia is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world and is the most mine-affected country in Europe. Demining officials have submitted a request for a 10-year deadline extension. In the request, authorities point to poor minefield records and a shortened demining season due to climate as obstacles to clearance. BiH originally had a goal of 2009 for finishing clearance operations; now they are requesting an extension mainly due to lack of funding and the large scope of the mine problem. At the end of 2007, 3.42 percent of the total land in Bosnia was still affected by mines, with 921,513 people directly affected. BiH presented a revised plan that would render the country mine-free by 2019.12
Croatia. Croatia also suffered a widespread mine problem from conflicts that occurred during the breakup of Yugoslavia. Although Croatia has identified and marked all suspected or known mined areas under its jurisdiction or control, mines and UXO still currently affect 12 of 21 counties, inhibiting socioeconomic development. Croatia has submitted a request for an extension of 10 years to its 1 March 2009 deadline. In the report, Croatia lists several reasons for an extension request, including environmental challenges, inaccurate and incomplete minefield records and a UXO problem that also needs immediate attention. The remaining total mine-suspected area in Croatia is 997 square kilometers (385 square miles). Croatia has presented a new plan in which it will gradually increase its capacity and clear the remaining suspected areas by 2019.13
Thailand. The mine contamination in Thailand lies mostly in border communities. Last year, the Landmine Monitor reported that Thailand had cleared less than 1 percent of the mine-contaminated area identified during its 2001 Landmine Impact Survey.14 As of September 2008, through new survey work, Thailand estimates that there are really only 527 square kilometers (89 square miles) remain contaminated.4 Thailand is requesting a nine-and-a-half year extension to its 2009 deadline, during which the Thailand Mine Action Center plans to cooperate with local nongovernmental organizations on clearance. Deminers expect to finish clearance by 1 November 2018. The request acknowledged that previous methods of mine clearance were too slow. In 2006 they reported employing a new method, called “Locating Minefield Procedure,” which resulted in “dramatically accelerated" clearance through release of land not found to be contaminated.4,15
Yemen. The country is affected by mines and ERW as a result of several conflicts during 1962–69, 1970–83 and 1994. A survey in July 2000 identified 1,078 mined areas. As of April 2008, Yemen still has 447 mined areas. Landmines in Yemen have killed and injured thousands, and block access to land that could be used for agricultural or socioeconomic development and for oil production. Only 2.6 percent of the land in Yemen is arable and the presence of landmines further limits the amount of tillable land. Yemen has applied for a deadline extension of six years. The deadline extension request identifies financial shortfalls and technical obstacles as the primary reasons for missing the 2009 deadline. The Yemen Mine Action Centre predicts that Yemen will be mine-free by September 2014.16
The United Kingdom. The only mined areas under the control or jurisdiction of the United Kingdom are in the Falkland/Malvinas Islands. While all mined areas have been identified, marked and fenced, the United Kingdom has not started clearance operations. In 2001, the United Kingdom worked with Argentina, which also claims jurisdiction over the islands, to conduct a mine-clearance feasibility study of the islands. They confirmed that there were multiple environmental and climatic challenges to demining.17 In 2005, the United Kingdom also encountered strong resistance among the inhabitants of the islands to conducting of clearance operations. Islanders told The Guardian that they did not want precious funds and demining resources used to clear their land, since the mined areas were fenced off and did not pose a threat to human life.18 According to an article by the Falkland Islands News Network in 2008, however, it was wrongly reported previously that the inhabitants were against demining because they didn’t want lots of strangers on the Islands while demining was being done; “[f]ew people would object to the positive [e]ffect on the economy if a large number of people came to help with demining.”19 The U.K. has requested a deadline extension of 10 years to clear the Falkland/Malvinas Islands.17 At the Intersessional Standing Committee Meetings in Geneva, Switzerland, on 4 June 2008, the U.K. stated, “Let there be no doubt that the [U.K.] takes all its obligations under the Ottawa Convention extremely seriously.”20 The U.K. explained that undertaking demining operations in the Falklands could have negative environmental and socioeconomic consequences.20Denmark. Most of the landmines in Denmark have been cleared, and only a small mined area remains in the marshes and dunes of the peninsula of Skallingen, left behind from World War II. Authorities in Denmark report that the remote area has been fenced and no mine-related casualties have been recorded since 1946. In its deadline extension request, Denmark claims that the delicate nature of the environment of Skallingen has prevented them from moving forward with clearance operations. Denmark states that clearance operations would risk “irreparable damage” to the environment without careful planning.21
Venezuela. Although the country became party to the Ottawa Convention in 1999, according to the Landmine Monitor, the country is still using AP mines and expects to miss its 2009 deadline. In 2007, Venezuela stated that it is still employing the use of AP mines to protect its naval bases from Colombian insurgents. Only a small mine contamination remains, but Venezuela submitted a deadline extension request.22
A mine-risk education program with internally displaced people near Juba, South Sudan.
The Ottawa Convention has certainly been a powerful force for mine action in the international community. Since the entry into force of the Convention, production of anti-personnel mines has decreased and the trade of AP mines is almost non-existent. Millions of mines have been destroyed, and hundreds of square kilometers of land have been freed of landmine contamination. Indeed, the Ottawa Convention has been called a “success in progress,”23 and 156 states have become party to it, pledging to never use, produce, transfer, develop, retain or stockpile anti-personnel mines.24
The Convention has been successful, but it risks losing its force because it appears that States Parties are not taking their obligations seriously enough, whether or not that may be the case.25
Tamar Gabelnick of the ICBL believes that some countries need to rethink their approach to their Article 5 obligations. “For some countries, there needs to be a much greater effort on the part of the national authorities to prioritize clearance and work more efficiently. Though the work is always challenging, where there is a will, there is a way.4,5 She recommends that those parties make more of an effort to mobilize resources to getting the work done as soon as possible. Other parties do not have accurate estimates of the contamination level. According to ICBL, such parties should conduct technical and non-technical surveys first to determine the scope of the problem. Countries will then be able to develop national mine-action strategies better after assessing the situation.5
It is not guaranteed that all States Parties that apply for extensions will receive them. The decision for each State Party that requested and extension was made during the 9th Meeting of the States Parties in November 2008. Whether or not these countries were granted an extension, the 15 States Parties that have applied still face a serious mine problem. The humanitarian and financial costs of the remaining landmines are great.
Not all States Parties with 2009 deadlines will fail to complete clearance on time. For instance, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, France, Djibouti, FYR Macedonia, Guatemala, Honduras, Malawi, Swaziland and Suriname have already fulfilled Article 5 clearance obligations.4,11 The Ottawa Convention's Implementation Support Unit reports that two of the 16 remaining parties with obligations will most likely finish clearance within the specified time: Niger and Uganda.11 The countries that have completed their obligations demonstrate to the world that it is possible to become mine-free within the allotted 10-year period.
This article was researched and written prior to 9MSP. The Journal has done its best to freshen the content prior to publishing. For more up-to-date information about Ottawa extensions, see “The Article 5 Extension Request Process” by Tamar Gabelnick here: http://maic.jmu.edu/journal/12.2/sp/gabelnick/gabelnick.htm.
Kateland Shane started working for the Journal of ERW and Mine Action in May 2006. She graduated from James Madison University in May 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in technical and scientific communication. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts at JMU.
- Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, Oslo, Norway. 18 September 1997. The document was opened for signature in Ottawa, Canada, 3 December 1997, commonly known as the Ottawa Convention. http://www.icbl.org/treaty/text/english. Accessed 12 August 2008.
- The Falkland/Malvinas Islands are a self-governed, overseas territory of the United Kingdom, but they are also claimed by Argentina.
- “United Kingdom (Falkland Islands).” Landmine Monitor Report 2007 (October 2007). http://www.icbl.org/lm/2007/falk_malv.html. Accessed 12 August 2008.
- According to Tamar Gabelnick in an email message to The Journal, 18 November 2008, “This number is a bit tricky. Of the 3 extras, Niger said in June that actually it is not mine-affected (though the ICBL would like it to wait to declare this until it has access to possibly contaminated regions) and Djibouti said a few years ago that it was “mine-safe” but never made a formal declaration of completion. So Uganda is officially the only one that still is working toward completion by 2009.”
- Tamar Gabelnick, email message to author. 26 June 2008.
- “States Parties’ Extensions for Requests.” http://snipurl.com/3fe0. Accessed 25 February 2009.
- Bradley, Simon. “Landmine ban risks losing momentum.” Swiss Info, 4 April 2008. http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics/internal_affairs/Landmine_ban_risks_losing_momentum.html?
siteSect=1511&sid=8929186&cKey=1207297302000&ty=st. Accessed 12 August 2008.
- Article 5.1 of the Convention, see endnote 1.
- Article 5.2 of the Convention, see endnote 1.
- Kerry Brinkert, email message to The Journal. 16 November 2008.
- Article 5.4 of the Convention, see endnote 1.
- “Bosnia and Herzegovina Extension Request.” http://www.apminebanconvention.org/fileadmin/pdf/mbc/clearing-mined-areas/art5_extensions/countries/BosniaHerzegovina-ExtRequest-Revised-27June2008.pdf. Accessed 12 August 2008.
- “Croatia Extension Request.” http://www.apminebanconvention.org/fileadmin/pdf/mbc/clearing-mined-areas/art5_extensions/countries/Croatia-ExtRequest-Received-2June2008.pdf. Accessed 12 August 2008.
- “Thailand.” Landmine Monitor Report 2007 (October 2007). http://www.icbl.org/lm/2007/thailand.html. Accessed 12 August 2008.
- “Thailand Extension Request.” http://www.apminebanconvention.org/fileadmin/pdf/mbc/clearing-mined-areas/art5_extensions/countries/Thailand-ExtRequest-Received-3April2008.pdf. Accessed 12 August 2008.
- “Yemen Extension Request.” http://snipurl.com/3fe3n. Accessed 12 August 2008.
- “United Kingdom Extension Request.” http://snipurl.com/3fe3z. Accessed 12 August 2008.
- Gillian, Audrey. “How Falkland islanders plan to help the world by keeping their landmines.” The Guardian, 11 June 2005. http://snipurl.com/3fe47. Accessed 12 August 2008.
- “Ottawa Convention.” Juanita Brock. South Atlantic Remote Territories Media Association, Falkland Islands News Network. 25 June 2008. http://tinyurl.com/falklands. Accessed 20 November 2008.
- “MC: Summary and Statements.” http://tinyurl.com/5ewcqz. Accessed 17 November 2008.
- “Denmark Extension Request.” http://snipurl.com/3fe4h. Accessed 12 August 2008.
- “Venezuela.” Landmine Monitor Report 2007 (October 2007). http://www.icbl.org/lm/2007/venezuela. Accessed 25 February 2009.
- “The Mine Ban Treaty: A Success in progress.” ReliefWeb, 1 March 2007. http://snipurl.com/3fe56. Accessed 12 August 2008.
- “States Parties.” The International Campaign to Ban Landmines. http://www.icbl.org/treaty/members. Accessed 12 August 2008.
- “Landmine Monitor Fact Sheet: Destruction of Antipersonnel Mines in Mined Areas (Article 5).” The International Campaign to Ban Landmines. http://tinyurl.com/64tyhl. Accessed 25 August 2008.
Journal of ERW and Mine Action
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