01 April 2010

On 25 March 2010 in Brussels, the ICBL Executive Director Sylvie Brigot briefed European Commission (EC) and European Union (EU) officials about the challenges and next steps towards a world free of landmines and cluster munitions. Organized on the initiative of the DG External Relations of the EC, the lunchtime briefing entitled Outcomes of the Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World brought together 25 EC and EU officials.

Mr Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, Head of Unit Security Policy at DG External Relations, also participated in the briefing, expressing strong support for the Mine Ban Treaty, and for civil society efforts in banning landmines and cluster munitions, and working with states to ensure their commitments turn into reality. The ICBL called on the EU to keep promoting the full universalization of the Mine Ban Treaty and Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Finland and Poland are the only two EU members that remain outside the Mine Ban Treaty, but they have announced they would join by 2012. (Poland signed the treaty in 1997 but has yet to ratify.) The new Convention on Cluster Munitions has been signed by 21 EU member states and eight have ratified it so far. When providing financial and technical assistance for mine action, the EC and EU should promote adherence to both treaties with partners and aid beneficiaries.

The ICBL also called on the EU to remain a generous, accessible and pragmatic donor. "Last November during the Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World, we were pleased to see the EU reaffirm its commitment towards landmine survivors and communities affected by landmines and cluster munitions, to address the suffering caused by these weapons. We now expect this commitment to turn into concrete actions for the years to come," said Sylvie Brigot.

Brigot suggested that donor states, including EU members for their bilateral funding, go beyond a year-to-year approach and make a commitment to partner with mine-affected States Parties until they meet their treaty obligations. Indeed donor's traditional short-term approach to mine action prevents effective planning and operations in mine-affected states. Mine action programs often do not know from year to year if they will be able to continue to carry out their activities. In 2007 the EC eliminated dedicated budget lines for mine action and started to provide funding from bilateral development budgets. This raises sustainability questions:

- Funding for mine action can get lost in large budgets for health, education and infrastructure projects. To remedy this, knowledge and commitment by actors on both the donor and recipient ends is required.

- If those in charge of identifying priorities within budget requests lack awareness about the moral and legal duty to remove mines as soon as possible, the funding may be lost.

To remedy this, the EC needs to make sure information is available at the national level, and mine action is listed as a development priority by affected states. The EC should continue to partner with affected states until they meet their treaty obligations, to ensure the best and most effective use of resources. Affected States Parties must develop clear plans that outline their long-term needs. Donors should also internally coordinate funding strategies, by identifying funds from mine action budgets as well as from within development, humanitarian assistance, health, and other budget lines.

States Parties must coordinate funding strategies with each other to ensure sufficient coverage of all mine action sectors and to help identify and promote existing and new sources of financial and in-kind assistance.

In response to the ICBL intervention, Mr Wigemark emphasized how the issues of landmines, and cluster munitions, illustrate the close connection between development and security, and the pressing need to address them together. He noticed that both issues were part of the Human Security agenda that should be brought back among top political concerns. Mr Wigemark recalled EU's contribution to mine action, and the particular role of the Commission as one of the major donor for clearance, victim assistance and stockpile destruction.

He informed participants that the decentralized funding seemed to progressively be better understood, and that a growing number of states concerned by landmines, or cluster munitions, are including them in their priorities with the EC, including Belarus and Ukraine.

Mr Wigemark outlined that cluster munitions was the next challenge and welcome the upcoming entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. He suggested that steps taken to ensure its implementation should be complementary to what already exists in the framework of the Mine Ban Treaty, since the issues addressed by both conventions were so close.