FIGHTING LANDMINES


FIRST MEETING OF STATES PARTIES
TO CONVENTION BANNING LANDMINES
3-7 MAY, MAPUTO, MOZAMBIQUE




Backgrounder:
First Meeting Of States Parties
To Convention Banning Landmines:
To Give Added Impetus To International Assistance






UN emphasizes improving data, coordinating assistance


Enhancing international cooperation to help countries deal with landmines and the problems they pose will be prominent on the agenda of the first meeting of States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (the Ottawa Convention). The meeting will take place from 3 to 7 May in Maputo, Mozambique, a country which itself is grappling with a landmine infestation brought about by nearly three decades of civil war.

The meeting is open to all States which have signed or ratified the Convention, and to other States. Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross and non-governmental organizations, such as the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, are also expected to attend. As of 22 April 1999, 135 States have signed or acceded to the convention, which came into force on 1 March 1999.

Recent reports of the laying of new mines in conflict areas are cause for deep concern and highlight the importance of the First Meeting of States Parties. The meeting, which will take place in a country that is both heavily mined and intensely dedicated to mine action, is evidence that a new global norm on antipersonnel landmines is developing. Much remains to be done, but global awareness of the landmine problem and international support for mine action in recent years have helped reduce human suffering.

The destruction of stockpiles of mines has begun. Over 14 million stockpiled mines have been destroyed by 20 countries since 1996. It is hoped that broader and firmer adherence to the Ottawa Convention will further spur the destruction of mines, both by States Parties and by non States Parties.

Mine accident rates have dropped dramatically in most of the world's mine-affected countries. In Afghanistan and Cambodia, the rates of mine accidents have fallen by almost 50 per cent in the past five years. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the accident rates have dropped from 55 per month in 1995 to seven per month in 1998.

Progress has also been made in mine clearance and assistance to mine-affected countries. In Cambodia, for example, 23 per cent of the land thought to be mined has been cleared. In Afghanistan, approximately 64 per cent of mined residential areas and irrigation systems has been cleared. In Mozambique, three new centres to service mine victims have opened over the past three years, and two more are planned. In Bosnia, 38 new mine victim clinics have been set up, as part of the World Bank's war victim programme.

Several sessions of the Maputo meeting will be devoted to informal consultations on international cooperation and assistance. A field visit to a demining area is being organized on 2 May for heads of delegations attending the meeting.

The Ottawa Convention's entry into force on 1 March 1999 gives added impetus to ongoing landmine action in the United Nations system. States Parties have accepted the commitment to destroy their stockpiles of anti-personnel landmines within four years of the date the Convention enters into force for them, and to clear mined areas under their jurisdiction within ten yearsCunless they formally request and are granted an extension by a meeting of the States Parties. Decisions taken at Maputo on reporting procedures, technical guidelines and international assistance will build on landmine-related action already under way in the United Nations system.


Convention places high priority on international cooperation, assistance


Article 6 of the Convention, covering international cooperation and assistance, formally establishes a mine-affected State's right to seek international assistance. The Convention also addresses assistance across the full range of mine-related activities, from assessing the extent of an affected country's landmine difficulties, to preparing mine action plans, destroying mines and building indigenous capacity for dealing with their long-term effects.

The Convention commits States Parties in a position to do so to help with the care and rehabilitation of mine victims and mine awareness programmes. Assistance in mine clearance is also covered, along with the exchange of equipment, material and scientific and technological information that States Parties need to carry out their obligations under the Convention.

As States Parties begin to carry out their obligations under the Convention, improved collection and management of data on landmines, and close international cooperation on landmine-related activities will be among the highest priorities.


UN system plays key role


The Convention gives the United Nations system a key role in data collection and management, and in providing and coordinating landmine-related assistance. A policy paper, prepared by the UN Secretariat and endorsed by the General Assembly in November 1998, outlined the roles played by various parts of the UN system:

United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations is the focal point within the UN system for all mine-related activities. Among the functions UNMAS performs in consultation with other parts of the system are: establishing priorities for assessment missions; coordinating the mobilization of resources; developing and promoting safety standards with UNICEF and WHO; collecting, analyzing and disseminating mine related information; advocating a global ban on landmines; and managing of the Voluntary Fund for Assistance in Mine Clearance.

Department for Disarmament Affairs (DDA) supports the role of the United Nations Secretary-General in relation to the Ottawa Convention, particularly in the areas of transparency measures and in facilitation and clarification of compliance.

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) UNMAS and OCHA efforts complement one another in advocating a global ban and on resource mobilization. OCHA manages the Central Emergency Revolving Fund, which supports rapid response to humanitarian emergencies, and the Consolidated Appeals Process, which supports system-wide requirements for humanitarian intervention.

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) ensures that the needs of refugees and other populations of concern to UNHCR are met. UNHCR attaches special importance to its work with UNICEF on mine awareness programmes, and with the World Food Programme on the safe delivery of food.

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) works with a wide range of partners within and outside the UN system, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross on mine awareness, rehabilitation of landmine victims, and advocacy.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) addresses the socio-economic consequences of landmine contamination and helps build national and local capacity to overcome landmine-related obstacles to normal economic activity, reconstruction and development. Where landmines are not only a humanitarian emergency, UNDP develops integrated, sustainable mine action programmes at the local and national level, working closely with UNMAS.

United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) is the principal Aservice provider within the UN system for integrated mine action and capacity building programmes. In order to speed up response in support of mine action programmes, UNOPS established a Mine Action Unit (MAU) in March 1998 to provide technical, managerial, legal, contracting and purchasing expertise needed for all phases of mine action projects. In addition to supporting country programmes, UNOPS is working with UNMAS, UNDP and the Survey Action Centre on the Global Landmine Survey project.

World Food Programme (WFP) is particularly concerned with: clearance of landmines from access roads for speedy and cost-effective delivery of food assistance in mine-affected areas; clearance of land for safe return of displaced populations; and clearance of agricultural land for local food production.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) contributes to mine action as it relates to humanitarian relief and rehabilitation efforts. FAO also helps define criteria for determining priority sites for mine clearance.

The World Bank works closely with all UN departments and agencies. The Bank shares with UNDP, in particular, a perspective which views mine pollution as a development problem with long-term consequences requiring long-term solutions. With UNDP, the Bank convenes donor groups in reconstruction situations, mobilizes resources and focuses long-term attention on mine action.


UN mine action in the 1990s


Since the start of the first systematic UN mine clearance operation in Afghanistan in 1989, the UN system has helped devise mine action plans and establish national programmes in 13 countries (Angola, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Chad, Croatia, Iraq, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mozambique, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Yemen). Landmine assessments and surveys, clearance of mines and unexploded ordnance, rehabilitation of survivors, development of mine awareness and victim-assistance programmes, establishment of national institutions for mine action, advocacy and economic and social reconstruction are among the tasks performed by UN system partners.


Highlights of recent developments


Reporting guidelines developed Measuring the extent of the landmine contamination in a mine-affected country and, more importantly, its impact, is a major challenge. UNMAS has developed new guidelines for recording and gauging the scope of the landmine problem. These guidelines will be reviewed at the Maputo meeting as a suggested means for countries to format and tabulate landmine-related data, helping implement the reporting requirements under the Ottawa Convention, while improving the data available on the landmine problem.

International Demining Centre established The Swiss Government has established the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD). The Centre will support UNMAS's efforts to improve data collection in mine-affected countries and help establish the United Nations Information Management System for Mine Action. This new system, which will incorporate field modules and a Headquarters Information Processing and Dissemination module, will aid greatly in gathering and structuring landmine-related data for analysis and decision-making.

Mine awareness guidelines published UNICEF is publishing in May 1999 the first international guidelines for mine and UXO awareness education, an essential means of preventing landmine-related casualties. An estimated 2,000 people are killed or injured by mine blasts every month.

Voluntary Trust Fund operations A total of over $48 million has been contributed to the Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Clearance, and more than $45 million of it has been allotted or committed to mine action programmes to date.

United Nations-supported Mine Action Centres are fully operational in eight countries and are under development in six others. Since 1997, United Nations teams have conducted assessment missions in seven countries, and ten are set for 1999. Detailed landmine surveys are soon to be carried out in Yemen and Mozambique. Similar surveys are currently planned for three other countries in 1999, as resources permit.

(DPI/2029)




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