20 July 2010

Intersessional Standing Committee Meetings, 22 June 2010, Delivered by Tamar Gabelnick, ICBL Treaty Implementation Director. Thanks very much for the updates this morning. States Parties provided an enormous amount of useful information about their mine action progress and plans in connection with their extension requests, and States Parties called on them to continue furnishing detailed information to know if they are on track to meeting the goals laid out in the submitted work plans.

Such critical information should not only be provided at ISC meetings and MSPs, but also in Article 7 reports. Indeed, we would like to encourage much more detailed reporting in Article 7 reports, including not just information on the number of mines destroyed, but the amount of land cleared, disaggregated by land released through clearance, technical survey or non-technical survey (as called for in CAP Action #17). We would also like to make a number of comments and questions about the specific states that have spoken.

Bosnia-Herzegovina: Bosnia-Herzegovina is falling behind on the projected levels of clearance, and as it said, this is mainly due to funding shortfalls, so we will limit our comments to that issue. In January 2010, for the first time, BiH's parliament proposed the inclusion of funding for mine action operations in the national budget, but this funding was not included. In addition, we understand that the national mine action structure has not actively engaged donors for the past two years, donor meetings were not held, and, in 2009, BiH failed to apply to the European Commission for multiyear Instrument for Pre-Accession IPA funding for mine action.

The ICBL strongly recommends that the federal government revisit its decision not to invest in mine clearance. Such a decision is inconsistent with its obligations under the Mine Ban Treaty. The ICBL also recommends that Bosnia and Herzegovina make more effort to allocate funding for mine action operations from all levels of government, including from entities and local budgets, as set out in BiH's extension request. All relevant representatives of BiH need to be more strategic in pursuing new funding sources and in accessing existing international funding, including funds available through the European Commission.

The current lack of funding will surely mean BiH will fall further behind in meeting its targets, which will need to be readjusted in any case to correspond with levels of clearance that were lower than planned.

Croatia: Croatia appears to be falling behind on the ambitious targets in its extension request, but has designed a new plan for 2009-2019 that projects different rates of land release, which it met for 2009. This new plan appears to lower expectations in the initial years, but predicts a sharp rise in land release through clearance and survey from 2012-2015. We would like to know how Croatia feels such an increase is feasible. We would like to use this opportunity to raise an issue that applies to several states - the need to work hard to clear mines in areas of strategic utility (in the case of Croatia around military barracks, training grounds, warehouses, radar stations and air fields) so as to not appear to make continued use of them, which would be inconsistent with Article 1 of the treaty.

Ecuador: Ecuador has made little demining progress since receiving its extension, and it stated at the Cartagena Summit that it had fallen behind on objectives set out in its extension request. In 2009, Ecuador cleared only 8,191 m2, an area roughly the size of a football field, and only 2,000 m2 more than in 2008. At the end of 2009, Ecuador had 60 more deminers than in 2008, but we do not see a rise in productivity yet. Can this be explained? Ecuador has left the survey of over half of its remaining suspected areas (323,390 m2) until the last two years of its extension period.

The ICBL has suggested that Ecuador carry out the necessary technical surveys as soon as possible in order to determine more accurately the remaining problem and possibly reduce the time needed to meet its Article 5 obligations.JordanIt is great once again to hear good news from Jordan about its excellent demining work.

It seems that Jordan is on track to complete its Article 5 obligations on time. We also were pleased to hear that Jordan it reacted with its typical energy and resourcefulness when faced with a funding shortfall. We hope States Parties will respond positively to all such clear requests for international assistance.PeruPeru appears to be on track for clearing its infrastructure, though falling slightly behind on clearance of the border area with Ecuador.

In the border region with Ecuador, Peru reported in Cartagena that it had cleared 6,775 m2 in 2008, out of a projected total of 2,266 m2 for the year. On the other hand, it only reported clearing 1,220 m2 out of a projected 8,700 m2 in 2009, meaning it fell short by around 3,000 m2 of its combined targets for 2008-2009. The shortfall is surely related to the very limited number of days deminers worked in the region, as we also saw in the powerpoint presentation today. Can Peru explain why there are so few working days, as shown in the powerpoint presentation? In order to complete clearance faster than the extension period, as encouraged by the 9MSP decision on Peru's request, Peru was planning to redeploy police demining personnel to the border once they have finished clearing the mined infrastructure areas. Is that still expected to happen? Peru is now training more deminers, including cross training of demining teams so that all members have the same skills to increase efficiency. What are the specific plans to make use of the newly trained deminers?

Senegal: We have seen some positive developments recently in Senegal: in 2009, the Senegalese national mine action standards were finalized, and the 2009-15 national mine action plan was also adopted. But we have a number of questions and concerns we would like to highlight. First, concerning the amount of suspected hazardous areas (SHA). An impact survey conducted in Senegal located around 11 km2 of suspected hazardous areas (SHA), but since it did not cover all areas, Senegal has extrapolated an SHA of 20 km2. We would like to know how this number was arrived at, and if they are still using it as a basis for planning, especially after they recently cancelled 8 of 11 suspect areas without finding mines.

In addition, Senegal's demining strategy predicted an ability to clear from 1.5 km2 to 4 km2 per year, depending on the number of demining teams available, but it has only cleared 34,000 m2 last year and only 90,000 m2 total. This is mostly due to the fact that € 3.35 million from the European Commission has not come through. We understand that in the second half of 2009, the UNDP put out a request for tender for from the European Commission, but as of late June 2010, no announcement has been made on the tender. Are there any developments in this regard?

Thailand: Thailand has not provided the finances and other support needed to enable TMAC to implement an extremely ambitious extension plan and is therefore already falling far behind its targets. To achieve its clearance targets, TMAC had envisaged increasing the number of deminers to 800 by the end of April 2009. TMAC's expansion was also dependent on receiving a big increase in its budget, in line with the funding requirements set out in its Article 5 deadline extension request. However, by the end of 2009, it was clear that such funding was not going to be allocated. TMAC therefore did not implement a planned expansion in manpower and as of July 2009, its HMAUs had 426 deminers.

We would like to encourage Thailand to increase resources and manpower, without which Thailand will continue to fall far behind on its goals. In 2008, Thailand released more than 815 km2 of suspect land by survey, a significant acceleration that reflects the priority being given to area reduction initiatives. Mine clearance, however, has lagged well behind targets. There is also a good deal of ambiguity and inconsistency about the amount of land released through the locating minefield procedure. We would therefore like to encourage Thailand to provide clarity about exactly how much land has been released - through clearance, technical survey and non-technical survey - and how much suspected hazardous area remains.

Uganda: We understand that Uganda continues to survey in the northern and western districts of the country. We therefore wonder if Uganda is confident that it has identified all SHAs, and if so, what is the purpose of this survey activity? We would also like to know if it still expects to need to extend clearance into 2012 given the good amount of progress in 2010 and the expectation of a doubling of productivity by employing 40 more deminers? Like with other states, we encourage countries that have seen a marked change in their capacity in terms of human, material or financial resources to return to States Parties with an updated plan reflecting these developments.

United Kingdom: We are pleased to hear that the United Kingdom has finished clearing 4 areas, but we still do not know what the plans are to clear the remaining SHAs. In the decision made on its extension request, States Parties took note of the UK's agreement to provide as soon as possible, but not later than 30 June 2010, a detailed explanation of how demining is proceeding and the implications for future demining in order to meet the UK's obligations under Article 5. Given the discussions that took place on the UK's request at the time, it was clear that States Parties were seeking a plan to clear the remaining contaminated areas by that date. We hope such information will be provided by 30 June.

Venezuela: We find it extremely disappointing that Venezuela is unable to report any progress at all. Not a single mine has been removed since joining the convention, and we have heard various reasons for such delays over the years. With all due respect, the time for explanations is over; the time for action is now! We also have a question: Venezuela has reported that it was seeking to acquire equipment and undertake training. Has there been any progress on either of these?

2009 Mine Clearance Deadline Extension Requests: We would like to thank Cambodia and Tajikistan for their very clear presentations, which helpfully compared targets in the extension requests to actual progress.

Cambodia: In the short time that has elapsed since Cambodia received its extension request, it appears to be on track in meeting the goals laid out in its extension. We would just like to ask a few questions: We understand there may be a significant shortfall in funding in 2010. Is this correct? How will it affect the work projection for the year? In addition, RCAF has accredited one demining platoon with the CMAA but the ICBL's concerns are not fully allayed by the process of accreditation, given the military's sense of institutional seniority and resistance to accountability. RCAF still does not present detailed reports of its demining activities.

The CMAA will continue to need high level political support for its role as regulator.We would also like to know if there has been progress on tackling clearance in the border area. We encourage both Cambodia and Thailand to continue to work together in order to allow demining in this sensitive area.

Tajikistan: We were pleased to hear about the good reports of progress in 2009. We are wondering why progress seems to be so much slower in 2010. Now that there is good news on the involvement of NPA and the acquisition of new machinery, we hope to see an increase in productivity. As we said earlier today and in connection with Tajikistan's extension request, we encourage states to develop a new, more ambitious plan after any significant change in human, financial or material capacity such as we have just learned about, and we hope that Tajikistan will now be able to fulfill its Article 5 obligations well before its new 2020 deadline.We would also like to know if there has been progress in re-surveying along the Uzbek border. These areas are not included in the total SHA, but with 57 suspect areas, the area that might need to be cleared could be significant.

2010 Mine Clearance Deadline Extension Requests

Colombia: We understand the very difficult and unique challenges Colombia faces in fulfilling its Article 5 obligations. In general, we have seen that in recent years Colombia has taken positive steps to increase the pace and scope of demining, especially around its military bases. But more information is needed about the size and location of areas currently suitable for demining, the process for making this determination, and steps being taken to release these areas through increased demining capacity. Without knowing the percentage of suspected mined areas that meets the necessary safety conditions for clearance, it is not possible to evaluate whether Colombia's work plan for the 2011-2013 period is sufficiently ambitious.

More specifically, Colombia's estimate of Suspected Hazardous Areas (SHAs) is based on an assumption that each mine incident in IMSMA equates to around 5,000 m2 of suspected hazardous areas, given the likelihood that more than one mine is planted at a time. This is a rather large area to connect with each incident, and the request does note that it is imprecise. In fact, Colombia predicts that approximately 60% of the suspected hazardous areas will probably be released through non-technical methods. Given this rather large percentage, it would be useful to have more information on the rationale for this estimation. The request indicates that a pilot general survey (known as the Colombian "Landmine Impact Survey") was undertaken in 2009 and another one planned for 2011. But neither survey is likely to provide a much clearer idea about the level of contamination. Due to security conditions, the surveys are not a typical community-based survey, but rather a much more general study known as preliminary opinion collection.

Colombia should provide more information on the rationale for such surveys and how they are expected to give a more accurate picture of landmine contamination. The lack of a comprehensive assessment of the scope of contamination ten years after adhering to the treaty is problematic and makes it more difficult for States Parties to assess Colombia's extension request. Indeed, the extension request notes that "Given the difficulty posed by the lack of a baseline on the magnitude and location of such fields, it is impossible to make a comparison between the progress made and the initial challenge, and even less calculate the remaining challenge with certainty" - all key elements in examining the request. We are particularly concerned about the lack of explicit analysis in the request about the danger associated with reporting mine events, conducting systematic surveys, and engaging in clearance - both to the survey/clearance teams and to the local community.

This dangerous environment and associated lack of accessibility is at the heart of Colombia's inability to meet its deadline and States Parties' ability to assess its plans for the coming years. Another, related shortcoming of the request is that it fails to disaggregate suspected mined areas according to the 3 different phases of the Democratic Security Consolidation Policy associated with different levels of security (green, yellow and red, as shown today by Colombia). Without an overall picture of how much land falls into each category, Colombia will not be able to engage in effective planning, and States Parties will not be in a position to assess its plans.

The extension request and work plan for 2011-2013 does state that 14 municipalities have been identified as areas where clearance can begin based on an assessment of the safety conditions and the impact on the community. But here information is also lacking to assess the plan. Are these the only affected municipalities meeting these conditions (out of 601 total)? Or are there other areas that could be addressed with an increase in capacity? Are they part of the 49 municipalities with 50% of reported incidents? How is Colombia deciding on priorities among those areas that are deemed accessible? We are pleased to hear about Colombia's consideration of using civilian demining organizations. Civil society has raised concerns about the possibility of increased NSAG violence against communities after the military conducts demining.

The use of third-party deminers may help respond to this concern by distancing demining from the political situation and keeping the activity as neutral as possible. But since such operators cannot work safely in all areas, again there is a need to know what the plans are for assessing different types of security and assigning survey or demining teams to each. Colombia plans to finish the clearance of all mined areas around military bases planted by the Colombian military before its 10-year deadline. While the clearance of these areas could have been done earlier, Colombia is to be commended for not seeking additional time to clear these strategic areas. At the same time, the request indicates that an extra military base was found in 2009 to have mined areas around it.

In addition, some of the cleared bases were found to have no contamination upon clearance. Since these were areas mined by Colombian forces, it would be useful to have clarification on why some areas were falsely identified as contaminated, why the one base was missed, and what steps are being taken to ensure no other areas around military bases were missed? The ICBL recommends that before States Parties take a decision on Colombia's request, Colombia should provide more information about how it will develop an overall picture of landmine contamination, including more information on its survey plans. Colombia should also provide much more information on its process for identifying areas where relatively safe and effective survey and demining could take place in the near to medium term, and what plans they have for clearing them using military or civilian resources.

As the ICRC stated, the ICBL would also like to see greater discussion in the request about how Colombia is evaluating the dangers to deminers and the local population from engaging in survey and/or demining, including a potential difference between demining by military and civilian deminers. Such an impact is only briefly mentioned in the request, whereas we feel it should form a central part of a strategy to reduce the risks to the population. Given the unstable situation and the fact that Colombia's work plan goes only through 2013, Colombia should be asked to submit in early 2013 a new work plan that reflects its experience with the current plan and the evolving political situation. Moreover, if the internal situation changes significantly in this period, Colombia should return to States Parties with a new plan for identifying mined areas and clearing them as soon as possible.

Mauritania: Mauritania's progress in identifying and clearing all mined areas under its jurisdiction and control has been disappointingly slow, but the request takes note of this slow progress, as well as some of the steps taken to increase the pace in recent years, including through an explicit land release process and increased national resources. But much more support from the government, as well as assistance from the international community, will be needed if the demining program is to achieve the goals laid out in the request.

Looking ahead, the request puts forward an ambitious plan for 2011 through 2015, which is a positive sign of Mauritania's commitment to achieving its Article 5 obligations in a more timely manner. To be achievable, it will need to be matched with appropriate land release processes and effectiveness in resource mobilization. The mine action plan put forward in the extension request is, however, rather vague, and leads to a number of questions, listed below.

  • What amount of mined area is projected to be cleared during 2010?
  • Mauritania is predicting exactly the same amount of land release in 2014 and 2015, an amount which is higher than any of the previous years and much higher than the level of demining in most of the years from 2005-2009. How were the estimates for 2014 and 2015 derived?
  • What is the likelihood of acquiring machinery? How precisely is this expected to change productivity?
  • Are there firm expectations for outside demining organizations to work in Mauritania? Is there an idea of what impact that would have on the demining plan?
  • Why is there no predicted funding needed for land release after 2012 (and such small budgets for 2010 and 2011) given the large amount of suspected area remaining?

The ICBL recommends that before assessing its extension request, States Parties request more information from Mauritania on its current and planned demining activities, as well as its plans to create sufficient capacity and mobilize enough resources to meet its ambitious targets.

We welcome that States Parties are asking only for the minimum time needed to assess the amount of contamination or finish clearance. On Denmark, we find it very positive that it made two requests for short periods of time - first to analyze the remaining contamination and second to finish clearing it. Regarding Zimbabwe, we find it a good idea to ask for another two years to call again for international assistance, to which we hope other States Parties will respond positively. In the meantime, we would like to know what Zimbabwe is doing with its own resources to move forward on survey. Regarding Chad, we would like to express our deep disappointment - not with Chad, which moved quickly to find $5 million from a donor, but with the working of a funding system (the UN Voluntary Trust Fund) that took 15 months to get the money from the donor to operators to conduct the planned survey. We cannot begin to imagine why it should take so long. Such delays have a profound impact on states' ability to meet their commitments under the Mine Ban Treaty and need to be addressed in an urgent manner.