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

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