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Netherlands concludes global anti-landmine meeting in midst of rising Covid cases in Europe; Colombia assumes presidency

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*The Hague 19 November 2021 *– The Netherlands has concluded a week of work leading the Nineteenth Meeting of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines, under the chairmanship of H.E. Robbert Jan Gabrielse, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the Geneva Conference on Disarmament.

Over 500 delegates representing 101 States (89 Parties, 12 not party) and over 20 international and non-governmental organisations, registered to attend, 34% of them women. In a sudden change, the conference had to be held virtually, 15-19 November, from The Hague due to an unexpected rise of Covid-19 cases in the Netherlands.

“During this week we heard from implementing and donor countries and their partners in the field providing general consensus that this landmark instrument is resilient, but that this cohesive machinery is being tested due to shortage in funding and new contamination in countries which had already declared completion of their mine clearance commitments,” said the Convention President as he concluded his mandate. “Only national ownership, compliance, transparency, sustained funding, and growth of the Convention membership can reverse this worrying trend”, concluded the Ambassador.

For the Vice President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Gilles Carbonier “the needs of mine victims must always be placed at the centre of efforts”, and “lifelong needs of survivors and their families must be duly addressed.” As the rights of survivors are addressed in tandem with other domains, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities Gerard Quinn called on states to provide this assistance in conjunction with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The Vice Minister for International Cooperation of the Netherlands H.E. Kitty van der Heijden led a panel discussion on localisation defined by some as a process where international humanitarian actors shift power and responsibilities toward local and national actors. Representatives from Colombia, Iraq and Sweden, and civil society actors Global Mentoring Initiative and, the Mines Advisory Group participated.

The Meeting welcomed the participation of States not party Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, India, Israel, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Myanmar, Republic of Korea, Syrian Arab Republic, and United States of America as Observers. This is the first formal meeting for the Republic of Georgia in 12 years.

Following the meeting, Colombia was elected as the new Convention President for calendar year 2022. TheAmbassador of Colombia to the UN in GenevaH.E.Alicia Arango Olmos listed some of the priorities for her presidency including fostering synergies and cooperation among all Convention members, fostering the treaty norm and denouncing violations, further developing technical cooperation and assistance including among mine-affected States Parties, fostering mine risk education, and strengthening the participation of mine survivors.

Germany, one of the world’s top mine action donors registered their strong consideration of candidacy for the presidency of the Twenty-First Meeting of States Parties in 2023.

Other notable news:

  • Chad reported that in spite of the challenging circumstances and low funding, it declared large swaths of land no longer contaminated, releasing it for productive use.
  • Sri Lanka reported ongoing progress in the destruction of anti-personnel mines, both in mined areas and stockpiles. Sri Lanka declared over 200 square kilometres as free of anti-personnel mines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW), with 833,435 anti-personnel mines having been destroyed. In addition, it declared having fulfilled its Article 4 stockpile destruction obligation a year earlier than its deadline.
  • Colombia noted that 138 municipalities were no longer deemed contaminated.
  • Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, and Turkey made contributions to the fund that allows mine-affected and other States Parties that require support to attend meetings of the Convention.
  • The Group of African States Parties welcomed the contribution of African countries to the work of the Convention, noting that 51 of 55 African Union member States are also party to the Convention, and expressed hope that the last four would become States Parties. It also noted the devastating effects that landmines inflict, “rendering mined areas unusable, and entrenching poverty in affected areas decades after armed conflicts.”
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina is responding to increased population movement by increasing capacity for mine risk education activities within migrant camps and announced that Sarajevo had been declared mine-free.
  • Netherlands spoke of its multi-annual Mine Action and Cluster Munitions Programme for the period 2020 – 2024, valued at EUR 51 million.
  • Finland and Italy announced having increased their mine action budgets in comparison with the previous year.
  • Zimbabwe noted that, with increased funding, they would be on track to achieve a mine free Zimbabwe by 2025 after decades of work.
  • Progress in national legislation: Philippines and Ukraine reported having national legislation to prevent or supress prohibited activities; while Sri Lanka announced that the Cabinet of Ministers had approved the publication of the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines Bill in the Government Gazette, and would soon submit it to Parliament for approval.

Seven countries were given new mine clearance deadlines under Article 5 as follows,

  • Cyprus 1 July 2025; Democratic Republic of the Congo 31 December 2025; Guinea-Bissau 31 December 2022; Mauritania 31 December 2026; Nigeria 31 December 2025; Somalia 1 October 2027; and Turkey 31 December 2025.

Challenges:

  • The Meeting regretted that cooperative dialogue with Eritrea has not been achieved and that Eritrea remains in non-compliance with the Convention.
  • Some States Parties voiced concern that no clearance was recorded or reported for 2020 in some mine-affected States Parties.
  • Some of the most mine-affected countries in the world including Angola and Cambodiasay funding will still be needed to complete their work, amounting to a combined of over 550 million USD.
  • Some States Parties have not reported on anti-personnel mines retained for permitted purposes.
  • Greece and Ukraine, two States Parties still have outstanding stockpile destruction obligations. However, both announced new tenders for the destruction of the remaining anti-personnel mines and that they would soon report on these efforts under the Convention’s roadmap, the Oslo Action Plan