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DC/2722
12 September 2000

SECOND MEETING OF STATES PARTIES TO MINE BAN TREATY OPENS AT GENEVA

12 September 2000


Press Release
DC/2722


SECOND MEETING OF STATES PARTIES TO MINE BAN TREATY OPENS AT GENEVA

20000912

Speakers Urge All Countries to Adhere to the Convention

(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 11 September (UN Information Service) -- The second 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 opened this afternoon at the Palais des Nations.

A message from United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan was read out on his behalf by Vladimir Petrovsky, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva. The Secretary-General said the meeting was taking place against the backdrop of marked progress in several areas. The number of casualties from anti- personnel mines had dropped in key countries, global use and production were on the wane and transfers had almost completely halted. However, he added, the challenge ahead was enormous. The countries most severely affected by mines were often the ones least able to deal with the situation by clearing mines, educating the population and providing adequate assistance to mine victims and ensuring their reintegration into society.

In his own remarks to the meeting, Mr. Petrovsky said the urgency conveyed by the theme chosen for the meeting, 'Every Minute Counts', was all too apt as 27 people were killed by landmines every day and 41 were seriously injured. One out of two victims was a child. As the human being should remain at the centre of everything being done, assistance to the victims should be accorded the highest political importance.

The President of the Swiss Confederation, Adolf Ogi, stressed in a statement that efforts in favour of mine awareness, demining and victim assistance were crucial and should be stepped up. Mr. Ogi said his country had destroyed its landmine stockpiles after ratification of the Convention. He urged States to join the Mine Ban Treaty, which he said had prevented death, mutilation and tragedy against human beings. Switzerland supported the victims of landmines and their social reintegration and continued to be deeply committed to the objectives of the Convention.

The President of the first meeting of the States parties to the Mine Ban Convention, Leonardo Santos Simao, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mozambique, said the Maputo meeting had been a triumph. As a community of concerned States and organizations, the international community had demonstrated to the world its unwavering commitment both to the total eradication of anti-personnel mines and to addressing the insidious effects of those weapons.

- 2 – Press Release DC/2722 12 September 2000

The newly elected President of the second meeting of the States parties, Steffen Kongstad of Norway, said the international community had to focus on a complete and efficient implementation of the provisions of the Convention in order to give it the required credibility. The inter-sessional work programme adopted by the first meeting of States parties in Maputo last year had been designed to promote and develop practical measures to realize the objectives of the treaty and to help mobilize the resources necessary and facilitate the best possible allocation of those resources. The landmine victims should be at the centre of the efforts, preventing new victims and assisting the survivors. The Treaty was the instrument one had to reach this goal.

Also speaking during the meeting were Martine Brunschuig Graf, State Counsellor of the State and Canton of Geneva; Alain Vaissade, Mayor of the Canton of Geneva; Princess Astrid of Belgium; Elizabeth Reusse-Decrey, President of the Swiss Campaign for the Ban of Landmines; Sir Paul McCartney; Heather Mills; Jakob Kellenberger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross; Jody Williams, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines; Daniel Liversmore, Ambassador for Mine Action of Canada; and Mitja Drobnic, State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia.

During the afternoon meeting, victims of landmines from 13 countries appeared before the participants to talk about how they had survived being victims of landmines. Also children from different countries demonstrated their efforts in the struggle against landmines by distributing flowers which they said should replace landmines.

After Mr. Kongstad was elected as President, Cambodia, Canada, France, Hungary, Mali, Mexico, Mozambique, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Switzerland were elected as Vice Presidents. Christian Faessler was elected as Rapporteur.

The meeting will continue at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 12 September, in room XVIII to continue the general exchange of views.

VLADIMIR PETROVSKY, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, said he was encouraged by the many strides made towards the total eradication of anti-personnel mines which provided the international community with a good example of disarmament efforts in all directions.

Mr. Petrovsky said the overwhelming commitment of the international community towards the goal of the complete eradication of the scourge of landmines and the full implementation of the Convention was evident today. Governments and the public at large were increasingly recognizing the vital importance of success in this humanitarian undertaking and the costs of failure. The urgency conveyed by the theme chosen for the second meeting, 'Every Minute Counts', was all too apt as 27 people were killed by landmines every day and 41 were seriously injured. One out of two victims was a child. As the human being should remain at the centre of everything being done, assistance to victims should be accorded the highest political importance.

Mr. Petrovsky said that the United Nations was deeply engaged in the work and was gratified that to date, more than 100 States had signed the Ottawa Convention, reaffirming their unwavering commitment to the total eradication of anti-personnel mines. It was one of the core group of treaties for which the United Nations Secretary-General had made a sustained effort during the Millennium Summit to encourage further adherence. ADOLF OGI, President of the Swiss Confederation, said that since the entry into force of the Convention, the international community had achieved a lot. Millions of landmines had been destroyed and the world had started to be free of this scourge. Suffering had been relieved, but much remained to be done.

Mr. Ogi said all agreed that the efforts in favour of mine awareness, demining and victims assistance were crucial and should be stepped up. He urged States to adhere to the Mine Ban Treaty. The Convention prevented death, mutilation and tragedy and it supported the victims and their social reintegration. Switzerland was deeply committed to those objectives; it had also taken an active part in the follow-up to the Ottawa process. Following the signing of the treaty, Switzerland had destroyed its stock of landmines.

Mr. Ogi further said that his country considered mine action a key of reconstruction, peace building and victim assistance. The needs of the affected countries held centre-stage in this approach. They wanted to make Geneva the world's headquarters in the global battle against mines. The battle was a humanitarian struggle par excellence. And Geneva had established itself as the focal point of international cooperation in the humanitarian field. The victims deserved special attention.

MARTINE BRUNSCHUIG GRAF, State Counsellor of the State and Canton of Geneva, said young people in community schools had been struggling against landmines and campaigns had been carried out for many years. The campaign was far from being implemented. Geneva would offer its cooperation and would remain part of the effort to ban landmines. Geneva had a long tradition to host such meetings and the Swiss campaign against landmines would put up three-legged red chairs around the lake, similar to the one standing in front of the United Nations Office at Geneva.

ALAIN VAISSADE, Mayor of the Canton of Geneva, said this second meeting of the States parties to the Mine Ban Convention would open a new chapter in the struggle to prohibit landmines. Geneva, which was hosting this meeting, would like to be a symbol for the campaign and would like to defend the elementary human right of walking with two legs. Every 20 minutes, that right was being violated. Over the course of the meeting and every 20 minutes, a three-legged red chair would be installed at the Quai Wilson, symbolizing every new victim of the landmine tragedy.

PRINCESS ASTRID OF BELGIUM said considerable progress had been achieved in the struggle against landmines during the last decade. A decade ago, the elimination of landmines seemed to be a dream. However, it had been a human strategy related to the consequence of that killing machine -- the landmines. The campaign against landmines had made very rapid progress together with the treaty.

Princess Astrid said since the entry into force of the treaty, considerable regression had been obtained in the production, stockpiling and transfer of landmines. Also, the number of victims had considerably decreased and the prohibition provided for the treaty was really being implemented. She had personally witnessed the efforts made in Mozambique in the campaign against landmines.

ELIZABETH REUSSE-DECREY, President of the Swiss Campaign for the Ban of Landmines, said that an hourglass was erected before the Palais des Nations to remind all that 'Every Minute Counts' in the fight against landmines and in the rehabilitation of landmines. She said that children were among the main victims of landmines.

SIR PAUL McCARTNEY called for the total eradication of landmines and urged for assistance to victims of landmines.

HEATHER MILLS urged Governments to assist victims of landmines and to take measures to save their lives. She spoke about her own accident in the former Yugoslavia and called for assistance to those who struggled to continue to survive. She appealed to the American people to put pressure on their two presidential candidates to address the issue of landmines. If every voter claimed that no candidate would get a vote if the question of landmines was not treated, the result would be different. It was a means to force the United States to ratify the Convention.

LEONARDO SANTOS SIMAO, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mozambique and President of the first meeting, said that the Maputo meeting had been a triumph and a celebration. As a community of concerned States and organizations, the international community had demonstrated to the world its unwavering commitment both to the total eradication of anti-personnel mines and to addressing the insidious effects of those weapons. Calls to those who continued to use those weapons to cease immediately had been reinforced.

Mr. Santos Simao further said that the Maputo experience had undoubtedly had an impact in highlighting both the terror faced by individuals and communities as a result of land polluted by mines and the hope and optimism that flew from the collective efforts to clear land of its deadly bondage and assist landmine victims.

STEFFEN KONGSTAD (Norway), President of the second meeting of States parties to the Mine Ban Convention, said the theme of the meeting was 'Every Minute Counts' and that message seemed indeed appropriate. During this week alone, more than 300 people would step on landmines. The impact of the ongoing tragedy was immense. At the outset of this meeting, it was important to remember that the landmine victims should be at the centre of all efforts. One should prevent new victims and assist the survivors. The treaty was the instrument one had to reach this goal. The Ottawa process and the Convention had made a significant and measurable difference.

Mr. Kongstad said that the Ottawa process had reached a stage where the mode had shifted from the spectacular to the practical. The international community had to focus on a complete and efficient implementation of the provisions of the Convention in order to give it the required credibility. The Intersessional work programme adopted by the first meeting of States parties in Maputo last year had been designed to promote and develop practical measures to realize the objectives of the Convention and to help mobilize the resources necessary and facilitate the best possible allocation of those resources.

VLADIMIR PETROVSKY, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, reading out the message of KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the Secretary-General had noted that since the meeting in Maputo, over 100 States had ratified the Convention. He was glad to add his voice to the unanimous call made by the Heads of State and Government gathered in New York for the Millennium Summit for all States to consider acceding to the Mine Ban Convention. Some States had seized the occasion of that unique meeting to respond to that call by presenting their legal instruments of adherence to the Convention. The Secretary-General stated that the meeting this week would address the full range of mine action issues, ranging from mine clearance to victim assistance to socio-economic reintegration and mine awareness, and to stockpile destruction and technologies for mine action. This was taking place against the backdrop of marked progress in several areas. The number of casualties from anti-personnel mines had dropped in key countries, global use and production were on the wane, and transfers had almost completely halted. The challenge ahead was enormous. The countries most severely affected by mines were often the ones least able to deal with the situation by clearing mines, educating the population and providing adequate assistance to mine victims and ensuring their reintegration into society.

The need to maintain a capability to plan for and implement mine action activities in support of humanitarian emergencies and UN peace-keeping operations was of key importance, the Secretary-General's statement continued. The ability to act quickly during the early phases of an emergency was essential. Equally important was the need for mine action responses to be implemented in such a way as to lay the foundation for a rapid return to peace and stability, and to facilitate reconstruction efforts in a post-conflict environment.

JAKOB KELLENBERGER, President of International Committee of the Red Cross, recalled that six years ago, when the Committee added its voice to the calls for a complete ban on anti-personnel mines, the landscape was quite different. Those weapons were almost universally considered to be indispensable and were widely used. Their effects had been spreading like an epidemic, leaving a tail of death, injury and suffering mainly among civilians who had little to do with conflicts in which the mines had been laid.

Mr. Kellenberger affirmed that the development and adoption of the Ottawa Convention in 1997 had constituted a sweeping change seldom seen in military or humanitarian affairs. A comprehensive programme was established involving the complete prohibition of anti-personnel mines, the destruction of stockpiles, the clearing of mines and the provision of assistance to mine victims. What remained to be seen, however, was the extent to which governments were ready to commit themselves legally, by ratifying the instrument and taking the demanding set of measures needed to make the terms of the treaty in mine-affected areas.

Mr. Kellenberger said the ICRC was currently providing medical or surgical assistance to all war wounded, including mine victims, in 22 countries. That included the provision of staff and training and the donation of medicines, supplies and equipment to hospitals, first-aid posts and other health facilities in war-torn areas.

JODY WILLIAMS, International Campaign to Ban Landmines, said that new issues could be introduced to the treaty without any attempt to renegotiate it. Landmines would be finally eradicated when all countries of the world ratified the treaty and implemented its provisions to the letter. All government officials should be able to contribute to the eradication of landmines. Only signing the Convention and remaining uncommitted by not ratifying it was not enough. Governments could step beyond bureaucracy and make a difference by eradicating landmines.

LEONARDO SANTOS SIMAO, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mozambique and President of the first meeting of States parties in Maputo, said the challenge in addressing the landmine issue was to marshal the necessary human rights and financial resources, to coordinate national, regional and international initiatives and to raise the profile initiated in the first meeting of States

parties held in Maputo, in May 1999, of the issues to gain the active support from all sectors of the society in the long-lasting struggle against landmines.

The second meeting should provide an increased political will from all States parties for future actions and cooperation to combat landmines, Mr. Sanstos Simao continued to say. To that end, the meeting should reaffirm its recognition that landmines issue should be dealt with and from an inclusive perspective of post-conflict, peace building, conflict prevention, socio-economic development and natural disaster preparedness.

DANIEL LIVERMORE, Ambassador for Mine Action of Canada, said progress over the past year had indeed been remarkable; when the first meeting took place last year, 78 States had ratified the Convention; and today, it stood at 105, with every prospect that the number would grow. Over the past year, support for the principles of the Convention had yielded tangible results. Those were enormously significant trends. The work programme of the inter-sessional meetings was already proving its worth. Placing the management of the Convention in the hands of the parties had impacted a sense of global collegiality.

Despite those positive tendencies, a great challenge remained, Mr. Livermore said. In the first place, the issue of non-respect had to be mentioned. Canada was seriously concerned by the reports that Angola, a signatory to the Convention, continued to deploy new landmines, and by allegations that Burundi and Sudan, both signatories of the Convention, still used landmines. The same concern was expressed about the Democratic Republic of the Congo which also deployed landmines. The use of landmines by Russian soldiers and Chechen forces in Chechnya should also be mentioned.

MITJA DROBNIC, State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia, said that the full and timely implementation of the provisions of the Convention and the harmonization of the national legislation were indispensable elements in the endeavours to eradicate landmines. Slovenia had been an active participant in the process of speedy entry into force of the Convention. It was also undertaking an active approach to the commitment.

Mr. Drobnic said that his Government would continue to make efforts towards achieving consistent implementation of the Ottawa Convention and towards successful operation of the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance. Countries that hade not yet joined the Convention should do so as soon as possible and join others in efforts to permanently eliminate the 'hidden killers' and make the world safe for everyone.

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For information media. Not an official record.