Ambassador Hans Brattskar, Permanent Representative of Norway to the UN and other International Organizations in Geneva and President of the 4th Review Conference of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention
20 years of protecting civilians: Mine action as protection and the Oslo Action Plan
Envisaged for Tuesday 9 April.
Check against delivery
Excellences, Friends and colleagues,
I am pleased to be here with you all today.
It is a great honor for me, as the President of the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention, to attend the 16th International Symposium on Mine Action here in Slano. Anti-personnel landmines are a problem that affect all regions of the world, including here in Europe.
On 1 March this year we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Mine Ban Convention. That gives us an opportunity to reflect on what has been achieved and what are the remaining challenges. The Mine Ban Convention, which was adopted in Oslo in 1997, should be regarded as one of the most successful multilateral disarmament treaties of recent times. 164 States Parties, and a thriving network of international organizations and civil society actors, work towards a shared goal of a mine free world.
The Convention has established a strong norm against any use of anti-personnel landmines. This norm is adhered to by many more than just the States Parties. Almost 52 million stockpiled mines have been destroyed, and vast areas have been successfully cleared and released to communities. The rights of victims and survivors have been recognized and assistance has been provided to many. This is truly a great achievement.
We can celebrate that 31 States Parties to the Convention have successfully finished clearance and been declared landmine-free. Several of these states are found in this very region. Many of you have experienced firsthand the impact of contamination on local communities. Mine action is in fact a prerequisite for any kind of development. 32 States Parties still have landmine contamination and clearance obligations in line with the Convention. Three of them are found in this region.
We don´t know how many lives have been saved or how much development has been achieved because land has been cleared and released. What we do know is that each of the almost 52 million stockpiles mines that have been destroyed has potentially saved a life or a limb. We know that countless children can now walk to school without fear of landmines, that farmers can work their land in safety. This is protection of civilians put into practice.
We also know that when all landmines have been cleared and all stockpiles have been destroyed, landmine victims and survivors will still have to live with the legacy of landmines for the rest of their lives. The Mine Ban Convention has been instrumental in recognizing the rights of landmine survivors, and persons living with disabilities in general. Still, many persons with disabilities do not have access to health services, to education and to employment opportunities. Ast states parties to the Mine Ban Convention we have an obligation to ensure that victims of landmines can enjoy their full rights and place in society.
Norway has been a strong supporter and a consistent partner in mine action since before the Mine Ban Convention was adopted in Oslo in 1997. Humanitarian mine action continues to be a priority for our government. We aim to use our presidency of the Mine Ban Convention this year to bring renewed political attention to mine action and to the continued relevance of the Mine Ban Convention. Protection of civilians, and mine action as protection, is our priority.
In 2017 landmines and explosive remnants of war caused more than 7000 registered deaths and injuries. 87% of these were civilians. In cases where the age was known, children accounted for 47 % of recorded casualties. At least 2 452 children were among the recorded deaths and injuries in 2017. These stark numbers remind us of what our joint purpose as a mine ban community is: to put an end to the human suffering caused by anti-personnel mines. Each victim is one too many.
Landmines are not a problem of the past. In recent years, we have witnessed new and widespread use of improvised landmines. Many of these are produced and used as tools of war by non-state actors. While improvised landmines themselves are not a new concept, the scale of the problem is. Anti-personnel mines are prohibited and fall under the obligations of the Mine Ban Convention, no matter whether they are manufactured or improvised. If we want to protect civilians effectively, we must address new contamination through effective mine action, while not losing sight of legacy contamination.
In many ongoing conflicts, mine action is required for delivery of humanitarian assistance, reconstruction and to create the conditions for the safe and voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons. We know that many people displaced by recent conflicts will be returning to heavily mined areas. I therefore believe more should be done to prevent new casualties. We need to make sure we can deliver targeted and relevant mine risk education to vulnerable
communities and groups of people. I believe more can be done to standardize and improve the relevance, quality and gender sensitivity of mine risk education. As presidency, we have initiated a dialogue with humanitarian operators, UN agencies such as UNICEF and UNHCR, and the Geneva Centre for Humanitarian Demining on how to achieve a broader and more coordinated effort approach to risk education.
As we focus on protection, we must understand who is affected by landmines and how. We know that risk patterns vary for girls, boys, women and men – with young boys often being at highest risk of becoming a casualty. In other words; we must apply a gender perspective in all parts of our work in order to ensure effective protection for all. We would therefore like to challenge the sector to focus on advancing the gender perspective in all parts of mine action.
This is my third visit so far during my presidency to countries contaminated by landmines or cluster munitions. I have previously travelled to Thailand and Cambodia, and to Ethiopia. The purpose of my travels is to identify best practice and experience that can be shared with other states facing similar problems, and to encourage increased political commitment to obligations of the Convention. Travelling also gives me an opportunity to learn more about how states and civil society are working at country level.
As president of the Convention, I would like to see as many countries as possible finish clearance before 2025, the deadline set by the Review Conference in Maputo five years ago. During the Norwegian presidency, we aim to provide political support, encourage wider donor engagement and stimulate national leadership to improve the pace of clearance. It is an ambitious goal, but by no means impossible. We have seen before that a country´s political commitment to mine action and national clearance obligations is perhaps the single most important determining factor to achieve success. We rely on the political commitment of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia to clear remaining contamination as soon as possible. We would like to see clear, concrete, country specific and time-bound plans for how each country will become mine-free.
Currently a small number of countries represent more than 70% of all funding for global mine action. We would like to see many more countries become donors and we would like to see increased cooperation and learning between mine-affected countries.
We look forward to welcoming the mine action community to the 4th Review Conference in Oslo in November this year. We aim to adopt an ambitious Action Plan to guide us for the next five years. Our aim is to build on the strong foundation from the Maputo Action Plan and ensure that the challenges and opportunities of today are reflected in the new action plan. The goal of a mine free world by 2025 remains our vision and our rallying cry.
The Oslo Action Plan should provide a strong impetus to finish the job in as many countries as possible. I intend to consult extensively with States Parties, civil society, landmine survivors,
the UN and other international organizations in developing the Oslo Action Plan. There is much expertise in this region. You know what has worked here and what areas of mine action still need more attention. I invite you to contribute actively in the preparations of the Oslo Action Plan. This workshop provides a great opportunity to share experiences, success stories and ideas on how to reach the goal of a mine free world.
To conclude, let me once again highlight the objectives of the Convention; to save lives, protect civilians, assist survivors, and enable sustainable development for affected countries.
These issues are as relevant today. Let us therefore work together with undiminished strength to achieve a mine free world by 2025.