In depth

Central articles

The Second Mine Ban Treaty Review Conference - the Summit on a Mine-Free World, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

Maria Josep Parés
General co-ordinator of the Moviment per la Pau NGO and member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
Maria Josep Parés

Maria Josep Parés

The signing of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction by 122 countries in 1999 was a historic landmark for international humanitarian law for many reasons.

It was the first time that a significant number of countries, impelled by international civil society (hundreds of NGOs, large and small, from all over the world, under the umbrella of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines or ICBL) prohibited a weapon that at that time was part of the arsenals of practically all armies and which were being used regularly. However, it is a weapon that attacks civilians' lives, physical well-being and security indiscriminately.

This treaty, which is not subject to reservations, is based on the principles of international humanitarian law. 156 states are now party to the treaty1, and a range of measures to monitor its application and effectiveness are planned. To that end, the States, international organisations and the ICBL, have met in preparatory sessions and at the annual meetings of the States Parties, as stipulated in article 11, every year since it came into force in March 1999.

Article 12 also states that Review Conferences will be held every five years to review the operation of the Convention. The First Review Conference was held in Nairobi (Kenya) in 2004 and led to the Nairobi Action Plan2. The States undertook to take measures in various areas, including universalizing the Convention, destroying stockpiled anti-personnel mines, clearing mined areas and assisting victims. This document became the road map to be followed by the States during 2005-2009, as well as the guide used by civil society to monitor the application of the Treaty.

The Second Review Conference is to be held this year, in Cartagena (Colombia)3 between November 30 and December 4. Participants will include politicians from the highest level and the operation of the Nairobi Plan Action will be reviewed, as well as the situation of each aspect covered by the Treaty. A new Action Plan for the next five years must also be produced. There are many challenges to be faced by the international community and the organising country.

The venue chosen for the conference is significant. It is often seen as recognition for a country's work on the landmines issue, or helps raise awareness of the subject in the country or region. Colombia was a controversial choice because while its government has been strongly committed to organising the event, some sectors of civil society were not in agreement, as they felt that the Colombian government wanted to use the beauty of Cartagena as a backdrop and to present a situation that is very different to the real conditions in the country, in order to obtain political benefits.

Colombia is involved in an armed internal conflict in which non-State actors continue to use landmines and booby traps; it is the only country in America and one of the few countries in the world where mines are laid every day; between 1990 and June 2009, the total number of recorded victims of landmines, unexploded ammunition and explosive devices was 7,885, of which 35% were civilians4.

The Colombian government must respond to issues that it has so far avoided, such as landmine removal for humanitarian reasons. Numerous communities (including many indigenous populations) live with the danger of landmines and their members are victims. In October, a leader of the Embera Katio people in the state of Cordoba, with which the Moviment per la Pau has very close links, trod on a landmine and died. Communities like these have been asking the government to help them remove the landmines and to allow the international community to work in the area, so that they are no longer subject to this threat.

These and other crucial subjects, such as compliance by many countries with the 10-year period (stipulated in article 5 of the treaty) for destroying all anti-personnel mines in areas under their control will be discussed in Cartagena. Moviment per la Pau will be there to play an active role both as a member and an official representative of the ICBL and as an NGO that has been working with co-operation projects since 2004, and to make its own small but significant contribution.

1. To consult the complete list, see: (Back)
2. (Back)
3. The annual meetings of States Parties are held alternately in Geneva (at the United Nations offices in the city) and in a country affected by landmines, while the Review Conferences are held in affected countries. (Back)
4. (Back)