23 November 2022
Statement delivered by Mr Christian Fredrik Fougner RYDNING
First Secretary, Permanent Representative of Norway
Congratulations on your appointment, and thank you to you, your team, the ISU and the Committee members for your hard work for our Convention.
We would also like to express our heartfelt appreciation to our partners in clearance, risk education and victim assistance. You are at the heart of this Convention, ensuring the protection of countless persons around the world.
Thankfully, the number of landmine and ERW casualties in 2021 was the lowest in years – since 2014 in fact. Yet, according to the ICBL’s Landmine Monitor, the number for 2021 was 5,544. That is 5,544 individuals – women, men, boys and girls – killed or injured. 80% of which are civilians, and half of them children. For every victim, countless others are affected; and an even greater number live in constant fear that they might be the next victim. The 25th anniversary of the Convention is a milestone, but we have no reason to rest on our laurels.
According to Mine Action Review’s quality-controlled data, States Parties to the Mine Ban Convention cleared a total of 130 square kilometers in 2021. This is a 13% reduction from the year before. Global clearance remained almost unchanged, but that was because of increased clearance in one state not party to the Convention - Azerbaijan. The number of landmines destroyed in States Parties had gone down by almost 9%. This is concurrent with a near 7% drop in funding to mine action according to the ICBL – the lowest since 2016. At the same time, we see a deeply concerning trend of new use in several states. This tells us three things:
One: We must work harder to ensure that mine action receives the political attention it deserves; that the unequivocal ban on landmines is unwaveringly supported; and that funding remains high. Of the 34 mine-affected States Parties, Mine Action Review assesses that only four are likely to meet their current deadlines; and only if funding is available. On our part, Norway will remain a consistent partner in mine action.
Two: We must use our money smartly. Crucially, we must ensure that money is not squandered on expensive clearance when the much cheaper options of Technical and Non-Technical Survey could do the job. And we must invest in the establishment of an evidence-based contamination baseline – as the Oslo Action Plan’s Action 18 requires us to. Much work still remains to achieve the objective of Action 18, as Mine Action Review pointed out on Monday.
Three: We are battling a moving target. New use in the form of improvised landmines is the cause of increasing contamination and extensive civilian casualties in many states. Numerous reports strongly indicate that anti-personnel mines are being used by government actors too. In Myanmar; and in Ukraine, following Russia’s brutal war of aggression in violation of the most fundamental norms of international law. We condemn any use of anti-personnel mines by any actor, under any circumstance.
We have two final points to make.
One: Eritrea’s clearance deadline expired almost two years ago. Eritrea has still not meaningfully engaged with the Convention, much less submitted a new extension request, despite clear calls from two consecutive Meeting of States Parties. Time has now come to follow up on the decision of the 19th Meeting of States Parties on this point. We will return to this issue under the agenda item on compliance.
Two: The 19th Meeting of States Parties invited the Article 5 Implementation Committee to strengthen the Article 5 extension process, drawing on input from all relevant stakeholders. We welcome the food for thought-paper submitted by committee chair Belgium. This is a useful starting point for a structured reflection on the strengths, weaknesses and possible ways to strengthen the Article 5 process.
Based on our own experience as a Committee member, we can only second the call for timely requests; evidence-based and costed work plans; and as short an extension period as possible. And, it cannot be underscored enough, how dependent the committee is on the input from the expert organisations, including in-country operators in order to provide relevant feedback to the requesting countries, and analyses that add value.
We agree with Belgium that there should be additional interaction with these expert organisations, beyond the round of written input in June. And, finally: as we highlighted last year: We have to look at the input side as well – how we as a community support the requesting states before the request is submitted. Not only how we assess the request after it has been submitted.