18 September 2017 was the 20th anniversary of the adoption in Oslo of the Mine Ban Convention.
Norway is one of the five largest donors to mine clearance efforts, together with the US, Japan, the EU and the Netherlands. Our high level of engagement relates to our commitments under the Mine Ban Convention and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the importance we attach to mine clearance as a humanitarian concern, and our partnership with Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA). With funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NPA has become one of the three largest humanitarian mine clearance organisations in the world.
The main priority for Norway is humanitarian mine clearance to protect civilians. This means that our funding is channelled through humanitarian organisations rather than commercial or military actors. We also work in direct partnership with mine clearance operators at country level rather than through multilateral channels. This year we are supporting efforts in a total of 20 countries through the HALO Trust (Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Colombia), the Mines Advisory Group (Iraq, Syria, Laos, and Lebanon) and Norwegian People’s Aid (in 18 countries).
A great deal has been achieved over the past 20 years. But at the same time, land mines and cluster munitions, both of which have been banned, have been used in new conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Eastern Ukraine and Yemen.
During the course of 2016, new, large-scale projects were launched in Colombia and Iraq. In February 2016, Norway and the US spearheaded a global anti-landmine initiative in Colombia as part of the peace process, and co-hosted an international donor conference in New York in September 2016 that mobilised pledges totalling about USD 100 million.
An increasing proportion of Norway’s efforts is directed to mine clearance in parts of Iraq and Syria that have been liberated from ISIL. The number of civilian victims is particularly high due to the widespread use of homemade explosives. Activities supported by Norway include identifying hazardous areas, training the local population in risk management, and clearing mines and explosive remnants of war to make it possible for internally displaced people to return.
Mine clearance in these parts of Syria and Iraq is extremely challenging, and depends on a long-term commitment on the part of donors and close coordination of international efforts.