Mine action portfolio 2009

Report
from Norwegian People's Aid
Published on 20 May 2009 View Original
Ten years of the Mine Ban Treaty: A Success Story

On 1 March 2009, the Mine Ban Treaty celebrated the tenth anniversary of its entry into force as international law. The treaty bans all Anti Personnel mines, requires that States destroy stockpiles within four years of becoming a party, requires clearance of Anti Personnel mines already in the ground within 10 years, and urges support to the victims of mines.

By Stuart Maslen, NPA

The treaty has proved a major success in stigmatising Anti Personnel mines. Since it came into force on 1 March 1999, use has decreased to such an extent that in recent years only Myanmar and Russia and a dwindling number of non-state armed groups have laid significant numbers of mines. In addition, trade in the weapon has virtually ceased and only about a dozen of the 50 nations that manufactured Anti Personnel mines in the past still retain the capacity to do so.

As a result of the efforts of the international community since 1999, more than 40 million Anti Personnel mines have been destroyed from stockpiles. Almost 1,000 square kilometres of mined land has been cleared and returned to productive use. Demining has led to a dramatic drop in the number of civilians killed and wounded by mines and Explosive Remnants of War each year-from more than 20,000 a decade ago to around 5,000 today.

A total of 156 nations are party to the Mine Ban Treaty- more than three-quarters of the world's nations-and another two states have signed, but not yet ratified. China, India, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States are among the 37 states that have not yet joined. But nearly all of these nations are complying with the core norms set down by the treaty.

The greatest challenges for the treaty, in addition to universalising adherence, is to ensure ever faster release of suspected mined areas, through survey and clearance operations, so that even more lives can be saved and more livelihoods enabled. For those who have already fallen victim to mines, we must continue to strive over the coming years to ensure they receive sustained assistance which gives them both dignity and a chance to contribute to the well-being of their families and communities.

NPAs Land Release Approach

A significant feature of humanitarian demining is the challenge to precisely address its objective; the actual and individual landmine. It is an unfortunate fact of this field of activity that a disproportionate amount of resources have been spent on demining areas where there are no mines. The lack of patterns, logic, absence of minefield maps and the mere task of detecting a small buried object, still remains a political, conceptual and technical challenge.

If we are to meet our humanitarian and political objectives, the operational approaches currently governing demining must be altered. NPAs response to these challenges is the development of our Land Release approach. In short this methodology refers to the measures that are taken prior to deploying full clearance assets. It is obvious that the new approach should not lower the quality of work or safety of affected populations.

The NPA Mine Action Programmes are conducting operations following Land Release principles. Operational procedures are based upon and in accordance with the draft IMAS 08.20 Land Release, 08.21 Non-Technical Survey and 08.22 Technical Survey. The concept ensures a reliable system of information gathering and analysis (Survey) with a clear objective of releasing suspected hazardous areas by other efforts than full clearance. The appropriate use of tools and organisational experience is usually regulated through IMAS, national standards and organisational Standard Operating Procedures, but ultimately the people in the field will make a final analysis of the problem and this is where Land Release becomes more or less efficient depending on who the organisation deploys in the field, and what experience and training these resources have. In this new philosophy the operators' relationship with national and local authorities and the people affected by landmines is of uttermost importance. The job is not only to work in the field but to continuously challenge national authorities to improve its national framework for more efficient operations to take place.

The Land Release concept should ensure that minefield polygons are not exaggerated and that they are more accurately defined, resulting in much improved, targeted and effective use of expensive and slow clearance assets.

NPA therefore strongly supports the recommendations from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on issues pertaining to article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty, adopted by the 8th Meeting of States Parties to the Convention in 2008, namely:

"The States Parties should acknowledge that three main actions can be undertaken to assess and where applicable to release land that has been previously identified and reported as part of a "mined area": through non-technical means, Technical Survey, and clearance.

In order to ensure the expedient, efficient and safe release of land previously reported as part of mined areas reported by States Parties, States Parties in the process of implementing Article 5 should develop national plans that employ, as required, the full range of methods available to assess and where applicable to release land.

States Parties preparing requests for extensions of deadlines for fulfilling Article 5.1 obligations should incorporate into their extension requests indications that the full range of methods of land reassessment and release will be applied in the fulfilment of obligations during the requested extension period.

States Parties providing assistance to mine action activities should ensure that the support provided facilitates the application of the full range of actions for reassessing and releasing "mined areas".