by Zach Wall [ Center for International Stabilization and Recovery ]
At the heart of the Argentine landmine/ unexploded ordnance issue is a territorial dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom. Argentina acknowledges that contamination exists in the U.K.-occupied Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), 480 kilometers (300 miles) off the South American country’s coast. However, the government challenges British claims to the islands, and has asserted its sovereign rights over not only the Falklands, but also South Georgia, the South Sandwich Islands and surrounding areas.1 The Falkland-Malvinas Islands were mined by both Argentine and British forces during the 1982 conflict between the two nations. Because both nations claim sovereignty over the contaminated areas, both share responsibility in complying with the Ottawa Convention’s2 guidelines for mine clearance. According to a Cranfield University field survey of the Islands, Argentine forces laid approximately 20,000 anti-personnel and 5,000 anti-vehicle landmines during the conflict.3
On 1 March 2000, Argentina became a State Party to the Ottawa Convention, and under Article 54 of the Convention, Argentina is required to complete clearance of all mined areas by 1 March 2010.1 Argentina’s mine-action program is conducted by the Humanitarian Demining Office under the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. However, clearance efforts on the Falkland-Malvinas Islands have generally been hindered by the ongoing dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom. At the Ninth Meeting of States Parties to the Ottawa Convention in November 2008, the United Kingdom—claiming full jurisdiction over the Falklands—submitted an extension request for 10 years, the maximum period allowed by the Convention.5 The International Campaign to Ban Landmines criticized this request, calling the lack of demining progress to date “extremely disappointing.”6
The United Kingdom and Argentina signed an agreement calling for a study on the feasibility of mine/UXO clearance on the Falkland-Malvinas Islands in October 2001, and, in 2006, Cranfield University answered that call by undertaking an environmental impact assessment in the Islands. Sponsored by the British-Argentine Joint Working Party, the study received 90 percent of its funding from Argentina.1 The results of the Cranfield EIA were published in a final report in late 2007.
The Cranfield EIA concluded that 117 minefields on the Falkland-Malvinas Islands remain active today.3 Despite the humanitarian outcry for landmine clearance, certain invasive demining techniques can cause adverse effects on the local ecology. With this consideration in mind, environmental precautions for demining in the Falkland-Malvinas Islands—home to several rare species, including penguins and other seabirds—will be necessary. Remediation methods for more invasive demining techniques will need to be developed and tested before wide-scale clearance will be possible. In a few sites, penguin colonies might be particularly problematic for demining efforts, and these areas will require special attention.3
During the 1982 Falklands conflict, BL-755 bombs7 were deployed by British forces against the Argentine troops at Port Stanley, Port Howard and Goose Green, marking the first use of cluster munitions in the Western Hemisphere. Since then, cluster bombs have been utilized in just one other instance in the Americas (during the U.S. invasion of Grenada in 1983).8
Argentina, briefly a cluster-munitions producer, officially became involved in the international campaign to end cluster-munitions use in 2007 in Oslo, Norway. The Oslo Conference culminated in a resolution to establish a convention prohibiting the production, transfer and use of cluster munitions by the end of 2008. In May 2008, Argentina was one of the 107 countries represented at the Dublin Conference to adopt the Convention on Cluster Munitions.9 Argentina was also represented in Oslo in December 2008 when the CCM opened for signature.
Argentina’s foray into cluster-bomb production was short: the Institute of Scientific and Technical Research for Defense developed a prototype 155-mm artillery projectile with 63 dual-purpose improved conventional-munition grenades. However, military officials have reported that the prototype never went into widescale production. Furthermore, Argentina completed destruction of its cluster-munitions stockpile, consisting of the BLG-66 Beluga and Rockeye air-dropped bombs,7 in 2005.8
Small Arms and Light Weapons
In June 2007, the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the United Nations issued the comprehensive Report of the Argentine Republic onthe Implementation of the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its Aspects.10 This document outlines the recent legislative and law-enforcement efforts to curb arms trafficking in Argentina. The report also highlights the national campaign to raise awareness about SA/LW and promote disarmament.
In December 2006, the government enacted Act No. 26,216, which declared a “national emergency in relation to firearms, explosives and controlled substances,”11 and called for a national arms-control awareness campaign. The ongoing National Program for the Voluntary Surrender of Firearms was established, resulting in the collection of more than 70,000 weapons and 500,000 rounds of ammunitions in its first year alone. Participation in the program is anonymous, and the government offers economic incentives for handing over personal firearms. According to Andrés Meiszner, Director of the National Arms Registry (RENAR), while men make up 97 percent of gun users in Argentina, women are far more likely to hand over firearms.12 RENAR has recognized that women have thus far been more receptive to the awareness campaign. The challenge will be to reach out to more men.
At an event co-hosted by RENAR and the Argentine Network for Disarmament in October 2007, more than 20,000 of the collected weapons were melted down at a steel plant in Campana, a city in the province of Buenos Aires.13 The destroyed weapons were collected from local RENAR posts throughout the country. The national disarmament program has been widely hailed as a success: since the end of 2007, RENAR has collected close to 100,000 voluntarily surrendered weapons.
Despite the existing landmine-contamination problem on the disputed Falkland-Malvinas Islands, the Argentine government remains committed to weapons reduction both domestically and on the international stage. The country’s cooperation with international initiatives against cluster-munitions use and the illicit SA/LW trade are evidence of a multi-faceted approach to minimize the legacy of conflict.
Zach Wall worked for the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery as an Editorial Assistant from September 2007 until May 2009. In May 2009, he completed a Bachelor of Arts in sociology at James Madison University. He is on tour with his band for the summer.
- “Argentina.” Landmine Monitor Report 2008. http://www.icbl.org/lm/2008/countries/argentina.php. Accessed 3 April 2009.
- 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 23 October 2008.
- Field Survey to Examine the Feasibility of Clearing the Landmines in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas). Cranfield University. 9 July 2007. http://www.apminebanconvention.org/fileadmin/pdf/mbc/MSP/8MSP/day1/8MSP-Item10-18Nov2007-Cranfield-IV-en.pdf. Accessed 3 April 2009.
- “Article 5 of the Ottawa Convention requires that signatories: identify all mined or mine-suspected areas; ensure these areas are marked, monitored and protected to protect civilians; and destroy or ensure destruction of all mines in these areas as soon as possible and no later than 10 years after the Convention’s entry into force.” The Ottawa Convention is available at http://www.icbl.org/treaty/text/english#5. Accessed 23 October 2008.
- “AP Mine Ban Convention: Article 5 Extension Requests.” Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining. http://www.apminebanconvention.org/meetings-of-the-states-parties/9msp/what-was-decided/article-5-extension-requests-analysis-of-requests/. Accessed 21 April 2009.
- "United Kingdom." Comments by the United Kingdom on Day Three of the Ninth Meeting of States Parties to the Ottawa Convention. Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. http://www.apminebanconvention.org/fileadmin/pdf/mbc/MSP/9MSP/day3/9MSP-Item11-26Nov2008-ICBLonUK.pdf. Accessed 21 April 2009.
- For more information each of these munitions, see the Mine Action Information Center’s “Munitions Reference.” Available at http://maic.jmu.edu/journal/supplemental/munitions/munitions.asp. Accessed 3 April 2009.
- Cluster Munitions in the Americas and Caribbean. Human Rights Watch. April 2008. http://www.hrw.org/legacy
/pub/2008/arms/CMC.ClusterMunitions.Americas.2008.pdf. Accessed 3 April 2009.
- Convention on Cluster Munitions, Dublin, Ireland, 19–30 May 2008. Also referred to as CCM. Complete ban on cluster munitions with victim assistance and decontamination information standards. The convention opened for signature, Oslo, Norway, December 2008. www.clustermunitionsdublin.ie. Accessed 23 October 2008.
- Report of the Argentine Republic on the Implementation of the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its Aspects. Permanent Mission of the Argentine Republic to the United Nations. Buenos Aires, 20 June 2007. http://disarmament.un.org/CAB/nationalreports/2003/Argentina-e.pdf. Accessed 23 October 2008.
- Conte, Gabriel. “Assessment of the Arms Control Process in Argentina in 2007.” En la mira – The Latin American Small Arms Watch. 10 March 2008. http://www.comunidadesegura.org/?q=en/node/38538. Accessed 23 October 2008.
- “Over 20,000 Weapons Destroyed.” The Association for Public Policy. 24 October 2007. http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.app.org.ar%2F&hl=en&ie=UTF-&sl=es&tl=en. Accessed 23 October 2008.
- “97 Thousand Arms Handed over in 319 Days.” National Program for the Voluntary Surrender of Weapons. http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http://www.desarmevoluntario.gov.ar/&hl=en&ie=UTF-&sl=es&tl=en. Accessed 23 October 2008.
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