Why the CCW had to take on the Killer Robot question

This month the Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) met to discuss the operations of the Convention and consider new issues. On the forefront of new issues is the question of Lethal Autonomous Weapons or, colloquially, Killer Robots.  We are not in the realm of science fiction here, either.  Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or, colloquially, drones) are used throughout the world and in many combat situations.  Equipped with missiles, drones have been used in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia in recent months to attack and killed terrorists. The US military’s drones are operated out of bases as far away from the theater of war as Arizona, thousands of miles away, by soldiers using video game controllers and looking at large computer monitors.  The monitors display high resolution images captured by cameras on board the drones.  When the pilot identifies a threat, he or she can fire a missile at the threat (if the drone is so equipped) or call in armed air support.

As of today, a drone cannot initiate an attack.  Only the human controllers (“pilots”) can do so.  However, with companies, including seemingly benign ones like Facebook, developing more accurate facial recognition software, there is the possibility that, in the not-too-distant future, a drone could be programmed with a particular individual’s face and set loose in the sky.  The drone would fly around and upon finding its target, be able to attack and kill the target with a missile.  Technologically, we’re probably only a couple of years from being able to do this: pre-program a drone with a pre-authorized kill list, have the drone identify individuals on that list, and then let the drone launch a missile strike.  No warnings, no confirmations.  Just push “start,” sit back and wait for the bad guys to get blown up.

A little more than a year ago, Human Rights Watch published its report, Losing Humanity. The report described the human rights and legal arguments in support of a ban on autonomous weapons.  The report provided the spark for the April 2013 Launch of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of 45 organizations, including the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, Human Rights Watch and other civil society organizations from 22 countries calling for a ban on lethal autonomous weapons.

The argument against killer robots is that they are indiscriminate weapons.  Unlike humans, a killer robot could not make a judgment call about a particular situation or may launch an attack against a target when the target is in the presence of non-combatants.  Or the killer robot could falsely identify a target, killing an innocent.  These are all valid points, but I’m sure programmers would say that a nearly flawless facial recognition software is possible, eliminating the chances of a robot targeting the wrong person.  Also, drones have killed hundreds of non-combatants whilst under the control of human operators; both by mistake and when non-combatants were in the presence of a verified target.  Humans are prone to mistaken identification and could order an attack on an innocent.  Armed drones have been used in “signature” strikes where a human evaluated the actions of individuals viewed through the computer monitor and determined that the individuals on screen were engaged in activities that fit a “signature” of terrorists.  So while the arguments against killer robots are valid, they could, and should, also be made about the current state of drone warfare which I am certain is part of the issue.  By seeking a ban on killer robots, the disarmament community can start to rein in the use of drones, or at least define some limits on their use.

The question of a ban or regulation on lethal autonomous weapons was referred by the United Nations to the CCW as the “appropriate venue” for discussions.  But the CCW was not the only possible venue.  The issue of killer robots was first raised at the United Nations by the Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial Killings within the context of the UN’s Human Rights Council and some states would have been supportive of the issue being taken up by the Council (the Council will be one of the frameworks to address drone warfare more broadly as some, especially those circumstances mentioned above, fall under the definition of extrajudicial or arbitrary killings).  The other alternative would have been to take the issue entirely out of the United Nations framework, just as had been done when the CCW was seen by member states to fail on the issues of landmines and cluster munitions.

The Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines for finding an alternative means to achieve international disarmament, outside of the UN system.  The ICBL and several countries went outside the UN system when the CCW’s Amended Protocol II on landmines was seen by the ICBL and those countries as insufficient protection from the humanitarian harm of landmines.  A decade later when the CCW produced Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War, civil society (represented by most of the ICBL membership) partnered with supportive states to draft, sign and ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions.  Both the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions have more signatories than the corresponding CCW Protocols, making the Protocols increasingly irrelevant.  Why would a country sign and be obligated to a weaker standard when it has already agreed to the higher standards of the Mine Ban Treaty or the Convention on Cluster Munitions?

In addition to the threat of pursuing a ban on killer robots through the Human Rights Council, campaigners suggested that another negotiating framework could have been pursued outside of the UN system had the CCW failed to take up the issue.  The Campaign the Ban Killer Robots, with the support of many of the ICBL’s members, would have been able to partner with supportive states, including France, Egypt and the Holy See (think about how many times you would put those three in a room together), to draft a multi-lateral treaty banning lethal autonomous robots.  That option remains should the CCW fail to achieve a ban in the coming year.

The success of the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions has put significant pressure on the CCW to remain relevant.  Under the leadership of the French delegation, the CCW has agreed to address the emerging issue of killer robots, which maintains the CCW’s position as a relevant and timely negotiating forum, but should talks drag on (and considering the speed with which the issue has developed and achieved a spot on the agenda, even a short delay by the negotiators could be seen as too long), a civil society-led process could be in the offing.

Michael P. Moore

November 27, 2013

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Landmine action in one graphic

The United Kingdom, through the Department for International Development (DfID), released a policy paper, Clearing a path to development, describing its mine action policies.  The paper describes why and how DfID will support mine action, focusing on landmine clearance and mine risk education.  The paper lays out four reasons for the UK to continue supporting mine action: 1) to reduce casualties from landmines and explosive remnants of war; 2) to meet the UK’s commitment as a donor country under the Mine Ban Treaty; 3) mine action supports other UK strategies; and 4) the UK has experience in the field that should not be lost.  The prioritization scheme for investments builds upon these reasons to achieve an overall goal “to build peace and security and support development in countries affected by landmines.”

The policy paper makes two caveats.  The first relates to survivor assistance, and says that while the UK seeks to “affect change” across all mine action pillars, survivor assistance is “best provided through broader social and economic development programmes in affected countries, rather than through targeting particular groups.”  This is in line with other European Union donors’ policies on survivor assistance.  The second is the “value for money” proposition which will set metrics for evaluating the effectiveness of mine action programming.  The value for money imperative is not a straitjacket for mine action operators, but it does require robust monitoring and evaluation systems, which the policy paper provides for, and a clear understanding of how the UK defines effectiveness.  Fortunately, the paper also provides, in a single graphic, the UK’s theory of change for mine action which I reproduce here without comment, except to say this: I appreciate the clarity of the graphic and believe it would be very helpful to operators developing proposals for DfID’s review and approval.

From "Clearing a path to development," the UK's Theory of Change for Mine Action

From “Clearing a path to development,” the UK’s Theory of Change for Mine Action

Michael P. Moore

November 25, 2013


Points of Interest at the 13th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty

Frequent readers of Landmines in Africa will be interested in several items at next month’s 13th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty being held in Geneva.  For those that cannot attend, information and documents can be found on the Implementation Support Unit’s website: www.13MSP.org. In addition to the specifics highlighted below, many countries will provide updates about landmine issues and comments on issues of interest to the community as a whole.

 

Demining Progress

Four African states, Chad, Mozambique, Niger and Sudan, will be requesting additional time to complete clearance of anti-personnel landmines in their territory.   We’ve covered the Mozambique situation elsewhere (After the last mine is cleared) and that request is almost certain to be approved, so let’s focus on three Sahelian states.  Niger had previously declared itself to be free of anti-personnel landmines but recently discovered a previously unknown minefield and four possible minefields.  Per the Treaty’s requirements, Niger has brought this discovery to the attention of the Meeting and requests two years to complete the survey and clearance work.  There are two possible complications which would impede Niger’s ability to complete the work: first, sandstorms have and possibly will move landmines from their current location; and second, the security situation around some of the suspected minefields is poor as a result of ongoing instability.  The total anticipated cost of the work in Niger is US $800,000 of which about a third will come from the Nigerien government; the balance will be raised from international donors.  Barring any unforeseen issues, this request is likely to be approved.

Sudan has requested a five-year extension to complete its demining work with several caveats.  To date, Sudan has cleared almost 2 billion (yes, with a “b”) square meters and destroyed 450,000 pieces of ordnance.  Another 40 million square meters of land remains to be cleared and while the actual amount of land to be cleared sounds low relative to the amount already cleared, the concentration of ordnance in the remaining minefields is believed to be very high.  Also, of the known minefields that remain, half lie in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states which are in a state of near-civil war and completely inaccessible to deminers.  Sudan’s plan to complete demining assumes that the conflict will abate, but the work will begin in areas that are currently peaceful and as soon as is possible, demining assets will be transferred to the restive states.  Sudan also recognized that most international demining organizations had withdrawn from the country (TDI, The Development Initiative, is doing great work still) and so the national mine action authority intends to train several national organizations to conduct survey and landmine clearance work.  Sudan would also welcome other international operators, but could not guarantee the safety of their staff.  Sudan appears to be able to support a significant portion of the cost of the remaining work, but would not commit to a figure; the total estimate cost is US $93 million and historically Sudan has provided $7.5 million annually.  Recognizing the security issues and the possible additional delays should the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile continue, this request is likely to be approved.

Chad is submitting its third request for an extension.  Chad’s second extension, which expires on January 1, 2014 allowed for the development of a national strategy to address the landmine contamination.  That strategy has now been developed and serves as the basis for the current request.  Chad is requesting a five year extension that will cost US $40 million of which the Chadian government will contribute almost 60%.  Chad believes that surveys conducted during the previous extension periods provide a reliable estimate of the remaining contamination, although areas along the border with Libya and in the southern region of Moyen Chari on the border with the Central African Republic require further evaluation.  246 areas covering over 61 million square meters are known to be contaminated by explosive remnants of war and of those a quarter or 65 have landmines.  Technical and human capacity in Chad is being increased with the support of the United Nations Development Programme and Chad should be able to meet its obligations within the requested time frame.  This request is likely to be approved.

 

Third Review Conference

If everyone knows that the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty is to be held in Maputo in June and July of 2014, does it really need to be approved?  Yes, yes it does.  So one of the easier decisions in Geneva will be to confirm Maputo as the site of the Review Conference and Mozambique’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mozambique, Henrique Banze, will be appointed to preside over the Conference.

 

Side Events

On December 2nd, the major findings of the 2013 Landmine Monitor will be discussed.  The Monitor is the most comprehensive monitoring and verification tool for the Mine Ban Treaty and its findings and reports are usually taken as gospel within the community.  A couple of things to look for in the briefing: 1) Are casualty figures going up, going down or holding steady?  2012 saw a lot of conflict in the aftermath of the Arab Spring which may have driven the casualty numbers up.  In 2010 and 2011, casualty figures crept up from 2009’s low of just under 4,000 casualties. 2) Has the funding for mine action gone up, gone down or held steady?  Mine action funding in 2011 was at its highest ever, but support for direct victim assistance programming was down. 3) Has the number of rebel groups using landmines gone up, gone down or held steady?  The number of states using landmines is down to a handful, so most new usage is by rebels.

On December 3rd, the Government of Sudan will host an event to discuss the mine clearance progress to date and share information about its request for an extension to complete the remaining clearance work.

On December 5th, the United Nations Mine Action Service and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo will discuss the DRC landmine survey and its findings.  DRC will be preparing an extension request for submission and review at the Third Review Conference and this event will be an opportunity to initiate conversations about that request.  DRC will also discuss the impact MONUSCO’s intervention or “peace-making” brigade will have on mine action in the country.

Also on the 5th, the US Campaign to Ban Landmines will host a session on US government’s landmine policy review and hopefully be able to present the outcome of that review and discuss next steps.

On the 6th, the last day of the Meeting, Handicap International will present the findings from its nine-month survivor assessment in Mozambique, conducted in partnership with the Mozambican survivor association RAVIM.  The assessment documents the needs and living conditions of survivors and their families and will present recommendations for how to meet those needs.

Two non-country specific events will cover operations and outcomes measurement within mine action.  Similar themes were covered in our survivor assistance thought-piece, so we’re glad to see these initiatives moving forward. In the first event, on December 4th, the Implementation Support Unit will present its findings from research sponsored by Australia around the sustainability of survivor assistance programming with a focus on mainstreaming survivor assistance into other frameworks (like disability programming or poverty eradication schemes).  On December 6th, Mine Advisory Group, Norwegian Peoples Aid, Danish Demining Group and Danish Church Aid will launch the Outcome Monitoring Initiative, a collaborative project to unify indicators for mine action and shift to an outcome-based monitoring system.

Michael P. Moore

November 22, 2013


Off Topic: Why Football is so important in Somalia

Football returns to Somalia.

Football returns to Somalia.

With the teams for the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil set (BBC News), it should come as no surprise to anyone that Somalia is not one of the 32 participants.  Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria will represent Africa and Ghana will likely be one of the favorites.  Somalia did not field a team during the qualifying rounds due to prohibitions against playing and watching football issued by Al Shabaab which controlled most of Somalia until last year.  However, Somalia will be able to participate in qualifying for the next African Cup of Nations and the next World Cup, participation that seemed almost impossible just two years ago.

In 2011, as part of its campaign to impose control and its own version of Sharia on Somalia, Al Shabaab banned all watching of football, on television and in person.  Al Shabaab threatened to punish any who defied their “order against bad traditions” (The Somalia Report).  This ban followed Al Shabaab’s bombing of two nightclubs in Kampala, Uganda on the night of the World Cup Final in Johannesburg in 2010 which killed 74 people and injured dozens more (BBC News).  These bans and attacks were not about football or about Islam, but about demonstrating Al Shabaab’s total control in Somalia and its ability to attack those who opposed the group.

With the success of the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the military support received by the United Nations-backed government from Ethiopia and Kenya, portions of Somalia have been liberated from Al Shabaab.  Al Shabaab still holds sway in much of the country, but Mogadishu, Kismayo and several other cities are under the control of the Somali government led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.  Development projects have re-started and a re-invigorated AMISOM force will soon launch another campaign against Al Shabaab.  The narrative of Somalia has changed from the World’s Worst Failed State (a title soon to be taken by the Central African Republic) to a security-challenged partner in East Africa.  Somalia is by no means out of the woods as near daily stories of Al Shabaab attacks demonstrate the continuing threat, but where the international community once saw a hopeless situation, it can now see a viable state in the not-too-distant future.

With liberation from Al Shabaab has come football.  It’s not great football, Somalia is currently ranked 201st in the world just behind those footballing powers of the British Virgin Islands and Andorra and just ahead of neighboring Djibouti and South Sudan (FIFA), but in addition to playing its first international matches in years, a domestic league has resumed.  With eight teams and a completely renovated Banadir Stadium in Mogadishu (paid for by FIFA who has been asked to fund renovations of other stadiums), Somalis can choose to watch football (Sabahi) and thousands chose to come out and watch the opening match of the season (won by Heegan, 3-2 over Gaadiidka).  That choice is the important element.  Other outlets are talking about football’s ability to be a peace-building tool which is important (RFI), but just having to opportunity to play and watch football should be the story.  Among the 20,000 spectators in the stands at a game over the weekend were many women, a mingling of the sexes also banned by Al Shabaab (Bloomberg News). In addition to the new domestic league games, the Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) is exploring the possibility of hosting a youth tournament in Somalia with the participation of teams from the member associations, including the countries that have supported the AMISOM peacekeepers, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Burundi (RBC Radio).

Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud waves to the crowd at a football match in Banadir Stadium.

Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud waves to the crowd at a football match in Banadir Stadium.

Side note, the Banadir Stadium is not the Mogadishu Stadium that has been used many times over the last 20 years as a military staging site including by the United Nations peacekeepers that were called in to rescue the US Army Rangers and Special Forces operators after the Black Hawk Down incident in 1993.  Banadir Stadium was severely damaged by mortar fire in 2009 when Somali government forces attacked Al Shabaab members who were using the stadium as a base.  Banadir Stadium now has an astro-turf pitch and VIP seating.

Teams walk out onto the pitch at newly renovated Banadir Stadium

Teams walk out onto the pitch at newly renovated Banadir Stadium

Football in Somalia is a sign of belief on the part of the Somali people that conditions are improving.  After 20 years of conflict, famine and dislocation, it’s good just to be able to enjoy a game.  Somalis believe that they will be safe at the stadium; they have disposable income to afford a ticket; they feel there is value in entertainment.  The mere fact that a game can be played shows that change has happened in Somalia, or at least in the capitol.  Over the coming years, the Somali government, neighboring states and the international community must consolidate the gains that have been made, but in the meantime, play ball.


Off Topic: An Easy Target, Civil Society Under Fire

After the Washington Post’s reprehensible piece on fraud and mismanagement in US not-for-profit organizations, I took the Post to task on this site.  The Post’s story and database generated other attention and some Senators and state regulators piled on with Iowa’s Charles Grassley saying, “Tax-exempt dollars are meant for tax-exempt purposes, not bankrolling someone’s personal Champagne lifestyle.”  Falling for the Post’s poor reporting, Grassley said it’s “stunning that diversion appears to be so common.”  Here in Washington, DC, the city’s Attorney General said that he will investigate whether “nonprofits are fulfilling their basic obligation to protect the charitable assets entrusted to them.”  One of the Attorney General’s staff suggested that not-for-profits are “tolerating embezzlement,” and some will now be under “greater scrutiny” (Washington Post).

Well done, Washington Post; just when not-for-profits are needed more than ever, you’ve called the entire industry into question on the basis of one bad apple.  Thanks.  Let me use your own pages to show the problem: On November 1st, food stamp subsidies (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) were reduced by US $5 billion (Washington Post).  In Washington, DC, this translated to a $15 million cut affecting 140,000 people; roughly a quarter of the city’s population.  Local not-for-profit groups, including Martha’s Table and D.C. Hunger Solutions, are scrambling to fill this Congressionally-mandated cut, but as you published on November 7th, “Martha’s Table’s food budget is $1 million for the entire year” and “when SNAP benefits are cut by 5 percent, charitable organizations have to double their contributions across the nation to keep up.”  Food banks survive on the generosity of others, generosity that you, Washington Post, have threatened with your reckless reporting.  Martha’s Table and D.C. Hunger Solutions used the Post’s editorial page to ask “those who are able should increase their charitable giving — in money and in food” (Washington Post).  Will the Post assure its readers that such charity is well-deserved and needed or continue to suggest that all not-for-profits are subject to fraud and embezzlement?

And it’s not just the Washington Post and US not-for-profits that are coming under attack.  Last week in online publication, Pambazuka News, two items caught my eye.  From Uganda, Vincent Nuwagaba, “a human rights defender, researcher and life member of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI)” wrote an editorial declaring that Ugandan not-for-profit organizations “are guilty of murdering this country” are “far [more] corrupt than the government they demonise.” Without naming a single example, Nuwagaba accuses directors of being “chauffeured” in expensive cars, paying journalists to cover events and write supportive stories, and “cheat and fleece their employees.”  He declares “80 percent of NGO staff are pretenders, hypocrites and outright dishonest.  The human rights organisations flagrantly abuse human rights. The anti-corruption organisations are more corrupt than corruption itself.”  His logic is flawed when he says that because “the media are always awash with stories chronicling ghost soldiers, ghost teachers, ghost students, ghost pensioners and virtually ghost everything… Does it not plausibly follow that we have ghost NGOs and ghost CSOs [?]”  No, it doesn’t.  The accountability structures in not-for-profits are different from those in governments.  But Nuwagaba doesn’t discount civil society entirely, he calls for “the association of social scientists… [to] provide lasting solutions to the decay that characterize our society” (Pambazuka News) assuming that such an association would be immune to the corruption he sees in every other organization.

Unfounded and arbitrary accusations like those brought by Nuwagaba and the Washington Post leads to the “greater scrutiny” described by the Post and also allows for increased regulation of the not-for-profit sector.  In Cambodia, Russia and Ethiopia, laws have been passed that limit the amount of funding not-for-profit organizations can receive from external sources.  In these countries, the limitations are specifically imposed upon organizations that advocate for human rights and government accountability and have been used to investigate and close organizations that challenge the regime.  By accusing all organizations of fraud and corruption, the Post and Nuwagaba provide cover for these authoritarian regimes to stifle opposition voices.  In Kenya, the Parliament has gone one step further and proposes a law that states “A Public Benefit Organization shall not receive more than fifteen percent of its total funding from external donors.”  Kenya’s law covers all organizations, including those that provide humanitarian relief and development support and would force donor countries to give the assistance dollars that would have gone to Kenyan not-for-profits to the Kenyan government.  At the moment, not-for-profits represent 200 billion shillings (equivalent to US $2.3 billion) of Kenya’s economy and while I do not know the proportion that derives from international sources, I imagine it’s the majority of that amount.  And with Kenya facing a one trillion shilling budget shortfall (Pambazuka News), additional threats to the economy are unwelcome, and to assume that donors would contribute to the Kenyan government, when the President and Deputy President of Kenya face prosecution in the International Criminal Court, would be false.

Not-for-profit organizations fulfill a very important role in development and providing social safety nets.  Yes, they are subject to fraud, waste and theft, but so are all industries.  To suggest that they are more susceptible or even complicit in such is to threaten the health and livelihoods of those that have come to depend upon them.  Frankly, I wish not-for-profits were not needed and that the public sector and the private sector could provide for all of societies’ needs, but that is not the case, not today.  However, just as the First Amendment to the US Constitution and Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights protect my right of association, so too do those documents protect the right of the media to publish whatever they choose.  And, as I will fight for the media’s right to publish irresponsible journalism, I hope the media will accept mine and civil society’s right to point out the media’s errors and false assumptions.

Michael P. Moore

November 18, 2013


The Month in Mines, October 2013

Recently I spoke with someone about the landmine issue and when he suggested that more awareness of the issue was needed, I disagreed, arguing that people are pretty aware of landmines and have a universal, negative reaction.  When the movie, Diana, was released this month, a number of stories came out about Princess Diana’s landmine advocacy and whenever I have mentioned that I write a landmine-related blog, there is an instantaneous recognition of what I am talking about.  I think we need to think about how to activate that awareness.  Is there a simple action we, as landmine advocates, can ask for?  I would welcome your thoughts as you review this month’s news.

 

Somalia

The popular narrative for Somalia, even with the release of the movie Captain Phillips about Somali piracy, is one of an improving country with enhanced security.  The withdrawal of Doctors without Borders from Somalia presented one challenge to that narrative and the attack on the Westgate Shopping Center in Nairobi, Kenya presented another.   The continuing threat from Al Shabaab’s landmines and improvised explosive devices further undermines the narrative of security and safety, especially as it demonstrates the geographic reach of the Islamists and the limited range of federal security forces.  In October, a landmine in Beledxaawo killed three and injured several others at a coffee shop frequented by police officers.  In Kismayo, a landmine detonated in a residential area possibly targeting community elders.  Government officials promised a strong response, but outside of those two towns, Al Shabaab holds sway and until the national army, with support from UN peacekeeping forces, can oust the remaining rebels, more attacks are likely (RBC Radio; RBC Radio)

Algeria

The Algerian army reported finding and destroying almost 5,000 landmines, anti-personnel and anti-vehicle, dating from the French colonial period and the war of independence.  These mines, part of extensive minefields laid by the French along the borders with Tunisia, Morocco and Libya (Kuwaiti News Agency), are not the only ones that Algeria must contend with.  In October, a massive arms cache, including many landmines and the surface to air rockets (MANPADS) that the United States is so worried about, was found near the Libyan border.  The Algerian government suspects that the cache belongs to Islamist groups allied with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb which has been able to loot weapons from Libya after the fall of the Gaddhafi regime.  In the 1990s, Algeria fought a brutal civil war with such Islamists and now the government fears the newly sourced weapons may spur another round of conflict (Voice of America).

Angola

Angola’s long-serving president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, praised the mine clearance work underway in his country at the opening session of the Angolan Parliament.  Dos Santos highlighted the efforts of deminers to clear roads and make space for electricity lines (All Africa).  More specifically, mine clearance work in Angola is focusing on land reserves in Bié Province, in Cunene Province and the Okavango-Zambezi border park (All Africa; All Africa; All Africa).  Recently completed work in Bengo Province will be used for cattle production (All Africa).  In addition to clearance work, provincial vice governors have been trained on landmine issues to raise their awareness about demining and the opportunities brought to the provinces by landmine clearance (All Africa).

Libya

On October 1st, Libya’s Ambassador to the United Nations was elected as the chair of the UN General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security.  Human Rights Watch took advantage of Ambassador Dabbashi’s election to raise the issue of threat of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) in Libya and around the world.  In its very short history, the new government of Libya has pledged not to use any landmines, anti-personnel or anti-vehicle, a determined break from the Gaddhafi regime which used landmines in its attempt to hold onto power (Human Rights Watch).  In another break with the past regime, Libya voted in favor of the First Committee resolution on the Mine Ban Treaty for the first time ever this year which may signal Libya’s possible accession to the Treaty.

The nascent Libyan government is facing many issues, including illegal immigration from neighboring countries including Egypt.  In October, several dozen Egyptians were suspected of entering Libya, of whom two dies and three needed hospitalization.  Of the injured, one had stepped on a landmine and lost his right leg in the blast (Daily News Egypt).

South Sudan

In the capitol, Juba, four children and an adult were killed and three other people injured by a landmine.  Officials believed that the adult who died was a Uganda scrap metal collector who recruited children to collect pieces of scrap (All Africa).  In response to this and other recent incidents where children have been injured tampering with landmines and ERW, a Sudanese organization, Home of Grace and Strength, conducted mine risk education for 24 schools in Unity State.  Flooding in South Sudan has delayed demining work this year, making the mine risk education (All Africa).

Mozambique

Landmines in Africa has documented the quality and availability of survivor assistance in Mozambique (After the last mine is cleared).  In order to access high quality assistance services, one survivor got a sponsorship from a family in Florida.  Kay Jones started the Mozambique Orphanage Fund and paid for Anuario Ngungulo, who lost his left leg to a mine after losing his mother a couple of years earlier.  With the support of Jones and the Fund, Anuario will receive a titanium prosthetic leg and then return to Mozambique (Northwest Florida Daily News).

Celebrity News

Initial caveat, I have neither seen the movie, “Diana,” or read any of the Bridget Jones books.

In October, a biopic of Princess Diana, focusing on the last two years of her life, was released and included re-enactments of Diana’s walk through an Angolan minefield.  The movie suggests that Diana adopted the landmine cause after her lover, Hasnat Khan, recommends she find a cause which she can support with her celebrity (Boston Herald).   Also in October, Helen Fielding released the third installment of the Bridget Jones series.  In “Mad About the Boy,” to get Bridget back to a single life, Fielding kills off Bridget’s husband, Darcy, with a landmine in Sudan before the events of the book take place (New York Times).  Both pieces could have helped to raise the profile of the landmine issue, but the poor reviews (especially for “Diana”) dilutes the message and loses the opportunity.  So to other writers and filmmakers who would use landmines as a plot device: please make a decent product and don’t just use landmines as a cheap hook.

Michael P. Moore

November 13, 2013


After the last mine is cleared: The future of landmine survivor assistance

In Mozambique, thousands of our fellow citizens who have been mutilated by [anti-personnel landmines] are waiting for the day when we shall have the conditions required for increasing assistance and effecting the social and economic reintegration to which they are entitled.  It is within this framework that my Government, in close cooperation with friendly countries, drew up a national assistance strategy for landmines victims.  As the document will be presented in the next few days, you will have the opportunity to undertake a detailed assessment of this multidisciplinary programme we have worked out.  In fact, I hope to see this strategy encompass health, job promotion and social reintegration activities, for without these we cannot talk about adequate assistance to landmine victims.

Joaquim Alberto Chissano, President of the Republic of Mozambique

May 3, 1999 (Opening Ceremony of the First Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty)[1]

Since coming into force in 1999, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Convention or Mine Ban Treaty) has served as the framework for clearing millions of anti-personnel landmines, providing mine-risk education to citizens of dozens of mine-affected countries and providing survivor assistance to tens of thousands of survivors of landmine injuries.  Mozambique hosted the first Meeting of States Parties to the Convention in 1999 and will soon, just as it is about to clear the last anti-personnel landmine from its territory, host the Third Review Conference of the Convention (the first Review Conference was held in Nairobi, Kenya in 2004; the second in Cartagena, Colombia in 2009).  From June 29 to July 4, 2014, governments, civil society and landmine survivors will meet in Mozambique’s capitol, Maputo, to review progress towards the Mine Ban Treaty’s objectives and plot the way forward for the next five years (2014 – 2019).

Mozambique had once been considered one of the most mine-affected countries in the world. An estimated 2 million anti-personnel landmines polluted the country from decades of war beginning with the liberation struggle against Portugal through a brutal civil war that began shortly after independence in 1975 and lasted until a negotiated settlement in 1992.  In 1999, President Chissano estimated that clearance of Mozambique’s landmines could take 160 years to complete. While the true number of landmines in Mozambique was much lower than the original estimates, the symbolic nature of clearing the minefields of a country like Mozambique is not to be overestimated.  Mozambique will be an epic success story for the Mine Ban Treaty and held up as an example to other severely mine-affected countries like Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia and Colombia as proof that the minefields can be cleared and the land returned to productive use.  But there is a flip side to this success.

The government of Mozambique estimates that almost 11,000 people have been killed or injured by landmines.  Of that total, the number of survivors is unknown, but historical data suggests that at least half of those casualties would be alive today.  A survey conducted between 2009 and 2012 identified 1,500 landmine survivors in the three provinces of Maputo, Inhambane and Sofala (Mozambique has 10 provinces and the capitol, Maputo).  For those landmine survivors, the heroic feat of landmine clearance is meaningless; it comes too late to help them.  Landmine survivors, depending upon the nature of their injuries, require surgery, assistive devices, physical rehabilitation, economic support and psychosocial counseling.  For this reason, one of the notable achievements of the Mine Ban Treaty was the inclusion of Article 6.3 which obligated states “in a position to do so”[2] to provide support to landmine survivors.

This paper, “After the last mine is cleared: The future of landmine survivor assistance,” seeks to describe how that obligation has (or has not) been met in Mozambique after 20 years of international support for mine action in the country.  This paper asks, “What is the future of survivor assistance?” now that we are able to envision a world free of landmines. With Mozambique as a case study for survivor assistance implementation, the goal is to spark conversations in advance of the Third Review Conference with an emphasis on the post-2015 development framework that is under discussion now.


[1] Final Report of the First Meeting of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines.

[2] Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.