Sometimes referred to as the Ottawa Convention, the Mine Ban Treaty is officially titled: the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. It was adopted in 1997 and it entered into force on 1 March 1999.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Does the treaty make a difference in the global landmine crisis?
Yes. Over 80% of the world's states have joined the treaty. Its disarmament and humanitarian achievements are unique:
- Vast tracts of land have been cleared and put back into productive use;
- With only recent exception, there are fewer new mine victims and in fewer countries each year;
- The trade in antipersonnel mines has virtually stopped, and the number of countries that may still produce antipersonnel mines is down to a small number, less than a handful of which are thought to be actively producing;
- Over 53 million antipersonnel mines have been removed from arsenals and destroyed, meaning they can never destroy a life;
- The international norm against use - where use anywhere by anyone is considered abhorrent - is very strong. Even non-member states are responding to international pressure and mainly respecting the spirit of the agreement.
However, this is still a "success in progress" and much remains to be done. Although the annual rate of injuries and deaths caused by antipersonnel mines is diminishing, slow progress on mine clearance means the absolute number of mine survivors keeps growing each year, and many of their needs are still not being met.
Can States Parties ever use antipersonnel mines?
No, the treaty bans the use of antipersonnel mines under any circumstances, with no exceptions. The treaty also forbids States Parties to "assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention" (Article 1). The ICBL and many states have interpreted this to mean that a treaty member cannot provide any kind of support to another party in using, transferring, or stockpiling antipersonnel landmines, even during joint training or operations, nor should they derive any direct benefit from a minefield laid by another party.
What about countries that have not yet joined the treaty?
As part of its advocacy on Mine Ban Treaty universalization, the ICBL continues to urge all states not party to accede to or ratify the treaty. A government needs to ratify or accede to the treaty in order to become formally bound by its provisions.
Accession is the procedure open to governments that did not sign the treaty when it was open to signature (between December 1997 and March 1999). First a government needs to follow its own procedure for joining an international treaty, e.g. submitting it for the approval of the national parliament or assembly. Next the government must deposit an instrument of accession at the office of the United Nations Secretary-General in New York. An instrument of accession is a document in which a government declares its acceptance of the treaty and commitment to its implementation.
Ratification is open only to Marshall Islands, the sole remaining country that signed the treaty before 1999 but has not yet ratified. It urgently needs to take the required steps at the national level for joining the Mine Ban Treaty and to submit its ratification instrument to the UN.
At the same time, the Mine Ban Treaty has created a powerful and near universal stigma against antipersonnel landmines: most states not party to the treaty are responding to international pressure on this issue and have stopped using, producing, and transferring the weapon. They are in de facto compliance with the treaty even though they are not legally bound by it. Continuing to strengthen this stigma – and ensure no use of antipersonnel mines by any actor, anywhere – is also key to universalizing the ban norm.
Is the treaty worthwhile without China, Russia, the US, and others on board?
It is regrettable that these countries as well as all other states not parties remain outside of the treaty. However, this does not take away from the importance of the treaty, nor weaken its achievements as one of the few current success stories in International Humanitarian Law and multilateral diplomacy. Eighty percent of the world's states have joined the treaty, and even without China, Russia, and the US, great progress is being made in implementing and promoting its provisions. In sum, the ban and the treaty are working, even without these holdout countries.
It is significant that most states not party to the treaty are responding to international pressure on this issue. Many are in de facto compliance with the treaty even though they are not legally bound by it. In 2014, the US government announced that it would officially stop the production and acquisition of antipersonnel mines, accelerate the destruction of stockpiles, and ban use of the weapon except on the Korean Peninsula. The US had not actually laid antipersonnel mines anywhere since 1991 and had not exported any since 1992. The US is also the world's largest individual contributor to mine clearance efforts.
The ICBL urges those countries that have not yet joined to embrace a ban on antipersonnel landmines and take steps towards joining the Mine Ban Treaty. We especially urge the remaining users of this indiscriminate weapon to cease use and those that still manufacture mines to halt production.
What about non-state armed groups and the treaty?
Non-state armed groups may not become States Parties since only recognized governments may join. However, these groups may make use of mechanisms, like Deeds of Commitment or Codes of Conduct, to declare their commitment to stop the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of antipersonnel mines, destroy stockpiles, and cooperate in victim assistance and mine clearing activities.
Many NGOs involved with the ICBL work to educate and convince non-state armed groups about the importance of banning antipersonnel mines. The ICBL has also urged States Parties to pay greater attention to the issue and support efforts to obtain strong ban commitments from non-state armed groups.
How can we be sure that States Parties respect their commitments?
States Parties' record of compliance with the Mine Ban Treaty has been generally very good. This reflects the high level of respect with which it is treated and the cooperative approach surrounding the treaty's implementation.
The treaty aims to promote transparency and trust amongst States Parties. NGOs therefore have an important role in monitoring and encouraging compliance. The ICBL's Landmine Monitor systematically reports on the implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty.
States Parties are required to develop "national implementation measures," such as domestic legislation implementing the treaty’s prohibitions. (See the information kit on national legislation from the International Committee of the Red Cross.)
Annual transparency reports are sent by States Parties to the UN Secretary-General on the type and quantity of mines in stock, the progress of mine destruction programmes (stockpiles and clearance), details of all mined areas, and national implementation measures (among other issues).
Meetings of States Parties and the intersessional work programme are important occasions for reviewing and monitoring progress on the treaty.
Article 8 of the treaty describes several informal and formal steps that can be taken to address possible cases of non-compliance, including requests for clarification, fact-finding missions, and special Meetings of States Parties. But so far, States Parties have favored using a collaborative and informal system addressing compliance issues as described under Article 8.1, and have never used the treaty’s formal Article 8 mechanisms.
What role do NGOs play in treaty implementation?
NGOs play a crucial role in encouraging full implementation of the treaty. The ICBL serves as the watchdog of the treaty by monitoring states’ progress, highlighting general and state-specific challenges, and stigmatizing and publicizing any breach of the treaty. This happens during Intersessional Meetings or annual Meetings of the States Parties. We also do this through our campaign activities worldwide and direct outreach to governments at the national and international level.
The Landmine Monitor is an innovative initiative by the ICBL to monitor implementation of and compliance with the treaty, and more generally to assess the efforts of the international community to resolve the landmines and explosive remnants of war problem. The Landmine Monitor report has become the de facto monitoring mechanism for the treaty and an essential tool in holding governments accountable to their legal obligations and political commitments.
NGOs, through their monitoring and advocacy activities, help strengthen the international norm against any use or possession of antipersonnel mines by anyone, which is essential for the successful implementation of the treaty.
What was the Ottawa Process?
The so-called Ottawa Process that led to the signing of the Mine Ban Treaty has been described as unorthodox, historic, and unique.
What was so different about it?
The treaty was the product of an unusually cohesive and strategic partnership between governments, international organizations like the ICRC, UN agencies, and civil society, represented by the ICBL.
For the first time, small and medium sized powers (most notably Canada and Norway, but ranging from Australia to Zimbabwe) came together and decided on a course of action to ban antipersonnel landmines rather than being held back by traditional powers that were not committed to banning landmines (such as China, Russia, and the US). Most former mine producers and many users, including Belgium, Cambodia, Italy, Mozambique, and South Africa, joined the process.
When states failed to achieve real progress on an antipersonnel mine ban at the Convention on Conventional Weapons Review Conference in 1996, Canada hosted a meeting of like-minded states in Ottawa to work towards a real ban. During this meeting, then Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy challenged states to negotiate the treaty within a year, launching the Ottawa Process that resulted in the adoption of the Mine Ban Treaty in September 1997.
Negotiations took place outside the UN system, and the treaty negotiation conference relied on voting, rather than consensus procedures. Governments were also required to "opt in" – meaning that governments attending the treaty negotiation conference in Oslo, for example, had to agree on the text beforehand. This, together with strong leadership at the negotiating conferences, ensured that the treaty remained focused and strong and prevented a few governments from watering down the treaty or slowing down the negotiations.
The ICBL played a major role in the actual drafting of the treaty, from its earliest stages. We were given a formal seat at the table in all of the diplomatic meetings leading up to the negotiations, and then during the negotiations themselves.
It was very quick – the treaty was negotiated within a year, which is unprecedented for an international agreement of this nature. Also it took only nine months for 40 states to ratify the treaty, thus facilitating its entry into force. In contrast, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) for example was adopted in 1980 and came into force in 1983.
Isn't the mine problem being solved by new technology and clearance techniques such as demining rats and genetically modified plants?
Unfortunately, no new technological developments to date provide a magic solution. Clearance continues to rely on a tried-and-true “toolbox approach,” which includes survey, manual and mechanical demining, and the use of mine detection dogs or rats. Fencing and marking contaminated areas, and mine risk education, can also play an important role in preventing or minimizing casualties.
Research and development is welcomed particularly where it improves the speed, safety, and efficiency of existing clearance methods. But it needs to be focused on real operational needs and working environments. For example, there is no point spending lots of money on developing a hi-tech solution if this won't ultimately work in the mine-infested rice paddies of Cambodia or dusty plains of Afghanistan.