Unfinished Business: The Ottawa Treaty at 20

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The twentieth birthday of the Ottawa Treaty is upon us! On December 4, 2017, representatives of the Canadian Landmine Foundation met with parliamentarians, government officials, diplomats, civil society, deminers and landmine survivors to celebrate the success of the Treaty and discuss how to meet the goal of a mine free world by 2025. These discussions also contributed to Canada’s new National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, which highlights demining as a key issue in improving the living standards of women and children.

In December twenty years ago, Canada proved that a middle power joined by other like-minded states, and aided by a robust international civil society, could accomplish miracles. In 14 months, between October 1996 and December 1997, this coalition of unlikely allies created a unique fast-track diplomatic process to ban the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of anti-personnel landmines.

In October 1996, after a disappointing round of negotiations on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) conducted through the traditional UN framework, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lloyd Axworthy, laid down a shocking challenge to his diplomatic colleagues.  In December 1997, he would hold another conference to sign a formal treaty. Through the determined work of Axworthy, other state advocates, and non-government organizations such as the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) under Jody Williams, this challenge was met and even exceeded. On December 4, 1997, 122 countries signed the Ottawa Treaty, beginning the end of anti-personnel mine atrocity around the world, and creating a new, hybrid diplomacy alternative between NGOs, civil society, and governments.

Today, twenty years later, 162 states have acceded to the so-called Ottawa Treaty, and 26 State Parties have completed their clearance obligations. More than 51 million stockpiled anti-personnel mines have been destroyed. Still, an undisclosed number of landmines remain in stockpiles around the world, and mine usage has recently increased while global funding for mine action has fallen.

The Landmine Monitor reports landmine use by Syria, Myanmar, and Russia in recent years, as well as Improvised Explosive Device (IED) use by non-state actors in civil wars around the world. Despite these new challenges, Canadian contributions to global mine action totaled just $54.7 million between 2012 and 2016, compared to $164.5 million during the previous five year period.

The goal remains to clear all landmine contamination around the world by 2025, yet this goal is being challenged by the difficulty of maintaining a long campaign in the same direction. While there was cause for celebration on December 4, there also remains the understanding that our work is not yet done. Until the last landmine is removed from the earth, until the world is transformed from #unSAFE to SAFE, the work of the Canadian Landmine Foundation will continue.

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Mailing Address
Canadian Landmine Foundation
c/o LCMSDS, Wilfrid Laurier University
75 University Avenue West
Waterloo, ON, Canada
N2L 3C5

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