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What happens when a treaty has been signed? The case of mines: The Landmine Monitor and the Geneva Call

Javier Alcalde
Specialist, ICIP research area
Javier Alcalde

Javier Alcalde

In the case of landmines, after the signing of the treaty (in December 1997, although it came into force on 1 March 1999), the network of NGOs (ICBL) was given an institutional structure, and the structure was decentralised (until that point it had to some extent been dominated by Anglophones) and a highly functional website was also created. New objectives were also designed and major efforts made to produce a mean for verifying the Convention. Every year, the Landmine Monitor reports remind us that a lot of work has been done, but that there is still a lot to do.

Each Landmine Monitor report contains over 1,000 pages, and between 60 and 100 people are involved in its publication, which is in the six official languages of the United Nations (English, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish and French). It is presented every year at the meeting of the states party to the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines. Initially, it contained a chapter on every country in the world, but in recent years it has focused on affected countries. The 2008 report contains information on 120 countries and covers the following areas: countries' ban policy, their use, production, transfer and storage of mines, demining, risk education on explosive devices (given to 8 million people in 2007), victim assistance and financial support for mine action (which fell by 9.5% compared to 2006, despite Spain's contribution increasing by 25%).

There have been six major successes in the implementation of the mine ban treaty: (a) The production of anti-personnel mines has declined considerably and the trade has practically ended (in 2007, mines were only known to have been used by Russia and Myanmar- neither of which are member states of the Convention - and non-state armed actors in 9 countries); (b) many stockpiled mines have been destroyed; (c) large areas of land have been cleared of mines and prepared for productive use (122 km2 were cleared around the world in 2007); (d) internationally, there are less and less victims of mines; (e) the use of mines has ended in countries where it was very common, such as Angola and Sri Lanka; and (f) the treaty has been reinforced with the inclusion of new countries, and even non-signatory states and non-state armed actors are responding to international pressure and behaving in accordance with the spirit of the treaty.

In this phase, there is a special focus on non-state armed actors. As in other conventions, only states can be party to the Mine Ban Treaty. Non-state actors cannot participate in treaty negotiations or sign them, although calculations suggest that today, anti-personnel mines are a weapon that is used mainly by non-state armed groups. For this reason, a specific document for them has been created: the Deed of Commitment. In March 2009, the Geneva Call organisation obtained the first signature on the Deed of Commitment to the Geneva Call for a total prohibition of anti-personnel mines and co-operation in action against landmines.

A few days before the first meeting to review the treaty (in Nairobi in 2004), the Geneva Call organised in a parallel meeting for non-state actors in Geneva - the first meeting of signatories to the Deed of Commitment to the Geneva Call, to reassert that non-state actors are one of the most important areas of work for NGOs working in the landmines area. The Non-status armed actors are aware of the impact of this commitment in terms of international credibility and legitimacy.

39 armed groups in Burma/Myanmar, Burundi, India, Iran, Iraq, the Philippines, Somalia, Sudan, Western Sahara and Turkey have now agreed to co-operate with the initiative against landmines using this mechanism. In November 2008, 16,000 landmines had been destroyed by groups that are signatories to the Deed of Commitment.

The Geneva Call is also a pioneer in a field that as yet has received little attention, and covers the potential synergies between various networks working in interrelated areas. In other words, there is a need for effective co-ordination between campaigns with shared objectives both in Spain and internationally. Examples of this are regular exchanges of information, participation in joint events and exchanging effective strategies. If a campaign's success has positive effects for other campaigns in the same sector, designing strategies fostering co-operation between networks with related objectives should be considered. As mentioned above, the Geneva Call and its recent decision to use the contacts and experience it has gained in recent years to include protection of women and children in situations of armed conflict in its work with non-state actors is a model for good practice. In specific terms, this involves adding the commitment not to use child soldiers to the declarations signed on anti-personnel mines, for example. Going beyond landmines, the objective is to make non-state armed actors comply with the standards of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.