The Ottawa Convention

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     In December of 1997, 121 nations gathered together to sign the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction in Ottawa, Canada.  Better known as the Mine Ban Treaty, this agreement involved the efforts of countries, nongovernmental groups and individuals from around the world concerned about the impact of antipersonnel landmines. "Anti-landmine activists worked for six years to not only attract the interest of the public, celebrities, and nongovernmental organizations but also to forge a partnership with governments officials worldwide" (McDonald 21).  


 http://www.icbl.org/lm/2007/maps/prohibition.html

     The Ottawa Convention “is the most comprehensive international instrument for ridding the world of the scourge of antipersonnel mines. It deals with everything from mine use, production and trade, to victim assistance, mine clearance and stockpile destruction” (ICBL.org Treaty).  It became binding under international law in March of 1999. The treaty is still open for ratification by signatories and for accession by those who did not sign before March 1999.  As of February 2007, there are 153 member states of the treaty and  two other signatory countries which have not ratified the treaty. China, Egypt, Finland, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia and the United States are several of the forty states that have not signed the treaty as of yet (ICBL.org Treaty).  
     The United States has not signed the treaty because of the mined border between North and South Korea.  Additionally, the Bush Administration announced that the United States would not join the Mine Ban Treaty "because its terms would have required us to give up a needed military capability" (LM Report 2007).  The argument for many non-signatories is that landmines are needed weapons for their military forces and would compromise their military power.  Although the United States rejected the ICBL, "it expressed commitment to working within the constraints of the CCW," which includes measures to regulate the use of landmines.  "Other major and middle powers including China, Russia, Pakistan, and Iraq followed the American lead" but the ICBL still had great support and strength from NGOs, middle powers, the public and celebrities (Matthew 8).  
     As previously stated, the Ottawa Process began with the "Axworthy Challenge."  "The treaty itself was based upon a ban treaty drafted by Austria and developed in a series of meetings in Vienna , in Bonn , in Bruseels, which culminated in the three-week long treaty negotiating conference held in Oslo in September" (Logue 122).  Following the challenge by the Canadian government, the ICBL mobilized around the world to gather support, educate the public and apply pressure on governments.  "The public space was flooded with statistics and images of mine victims; celebrities such as Princess Diana and Queen Noor lent their support to the  campaign" and in October, the ICBL was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (Matthew 8).  
     The Mine Ban Treaty was considered "a historic victory for the weak and vulnerable of our world" according to Kofi Annan (McDonald 21).  A partnership between NGOs and middle power states such as Canada and Norway "enabled anti-landmine activists to move an issue that had been marginalized in global arms control negotiations to the front of the international political agenda and to develop an international agreement to outlaw landmines even without the backing of major world powers" (Matthews 21).  The Ottawa Convention is significant and historic in that it was the first time smaller powers had come together to work in close cooperation with NGOs.  It was also the first time that these smaller states were not forced to yield to the power or pressure of superpowers to weaken the treaty to appease them.  In fact, negotiations ended with a treaty stronger than the draft on which negotiations were based (Logue 122). 
     The Mine Ban Treaty includes twelve addressing the issues of mine use, production and trade, victim assistance, mine clearance and stockpile destruction. Article 1
outlines prohibitions and "contains the general obligations that clearly and comprehensively ban antipersonnel mines" (ICBL.org)  The second article, provides definitions within the treaty and provides for modifications of these definitions.  It seeks to identify what is included under antipersonnel landmine.  The third and fourth articles refer to stockpiles and their destruction.  Signatories of the treaty have four years to destroy their landmines stockpiles and are allowed to retain a certain amount of landmines for educational and training purposes.  Article 5 is referred to as "Mine Action" or landmine clearance.  States are required to remove all their landmines within ten years of ratifying the treaty.  The remaining articles deal with reporting on progress, compliance, national legislation, and information regarding treaty related meetings (ICBL.org).
     Progress following the treaty has most certainly been made.  "Production of antipersonnel mines has dropped considerably and trade has almost come to a halt" (ICBL.org).  Additionally, widespread stockpile destruction has occurred and vast tracks of land have been cleared.  The most obvious impact is the drop in the number of annual landmine victims.  In 2006, 5,571 people were injured or killed by landmines, a dramatic improvement from 26,000.
     An example of recent success of the treaty is that, "on 31 March, the Republic of Sudan finished destroying its antipersonnel mine stockpile, just ahead of its 1 April 2008 deadline under Article 4 of the Mine Ban Treaty" (ICBL.org).  Eighty States Parties had destroyed their landmine stockpiles before the Landmine Monitor Report of 2007 was published.     
     In 1997, Jody Williams, the recipient of the Nobel Prize on behalf of the ICBL acknowledged that "it is not a perfect treaty- the Campaign has concerns about the provision allowing for anti-handling devices on anti-vehicle mines; we are concerned about mines kept for training purposes; we would like to see the treaty directly apply to non-state actors and we would like stronger language regarding victim assistance" (Logue 122).  Today, these are some of the problems with the treaty and there are others still.  Landmines are still used in conflicts and by non-state actors.  Many countries still possess large stockpiles of mines and have millions of mine in the ground.  
     Afghanistan missed its deadline of March 2007 for stockpile destruction and is unlikely to meet its target for landmine clearance in 2013 at the current rate.  In 2009, the first deadline for landmine clearance, is unlikely to be met by fifteen countries, twelve may meet it, and only five countries have already finished clearance.  "Four States Parties with 2009 deadlines, France, Niger, the United Kingdom and Venezuela, have failed to initiate formal clearance operations, which may be considered a failure to respect the treaty’s requirement to clear mined areas 'as soon as possible'" (LM Report 2007).  France for example, has territory in Djibouti and "in the eight years that France has been a State Party, not one mine has been cleared from La Doudah" (LM Report 2007). 

The Landmine Crisis
History
What are Landmines?
The Ottawa Convention
Objectives
Policy Alternatives
Cost-Benefit Analysis
Landmine Removal
Policy Recommendation
Bibliography

Email: Sarah Keenan
Nazareth College of Rochester
Page last updated on April 14, 2008