The Ottawa Treaty or the Mine Ban Treaty, formally the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, bans completely all anti-personnel landmines (AP-mines) around the world. To date, there are 161 States Parties to the treaty and 36 United Nations states not party.
In October 1996, a conference on the global landmine crisis was held in Ottawa, Canada. At the conference, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy challenged a delegation of 50 governments and 24 observers to bring about an international ban on landmines.
“The primary objectives [of the conference] … were to develop a declaration that states would sign signaling their intention to ban anti-personnel mines and an ‘Agenda for Action’ outlining concrete steps to reach such a ban. We were all prepared for the concluding comments by Lloyd Axworthy, the Foreign Minister of Canada … But the Foreign Minister did not end with congratulations. He ended with a challenge. The Canadian government challenged the world to return to Canada in a year to sign an international treaty banning anti-personnel landmines. Members of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines erupted in cheers … It was really breath-taking.”
– Jody Williams, mine action ambassador and co-laureate of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize
At the time of the conference, the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) was the only treaty controlling the use of anti-personnel landmines, but it was highly criticized as an inadequate solution to the global landmine crisis. Axworthy’s challenge resonated closely with many governments who had been facing growing public pressure to address the landmine issue, and launched a political initiative that saw the Ottawa Treaty or Mine Ban Treaty officially adopted in Oslo, Norway, in September 1997 and open for signature in Ottawa, Canada, on 3 December 1997.
When the Ottawa Treaty opened for signature, 122 countries responded to the challenge issued by Canada and confirmed their commitment to implement the international treaty banning anti-personnel landmines. The Treaty entered into force less than two years later on 1 March 1999, more quickly than any treaty of its kind in history.
States Party to the Ottawa Treaty commit to:
- never use anti-personnel mines, nor to “develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer” them;
- destroy mines in their stockpiles within four years;
- clear mined areas in their territory within 10 years;
- in mine-affected countries, conduct mine risk education and ensure that mine survivors, their families and communities receive comprehensive assistance;
- offer assistance to other States Parties, for example in providing for survivors or contributing to clearance programs;
- adopt national implementation measures (such as national legislation) in order to ensure that the terms of the treaty are upheld in their territory.
The tenth anniversary of the Ottawa Treaty was in 2007. Today there is much work left to be done in convincing some of the world’s major powers to sign the Treaty. In 2009, President Barack Obama was called on to join the Treaty, but he has followed the policy of his predecessors in refusing to sign.
For more information, please read about the Ottawa Treaty at the UN website.