Adoption of the Convention

Ottawa Process

The Process was a “bold gamble” that paid off largely as a result of the advocacy work of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the International Committee of the Red Cross working in partnership with a core group of States that were equally committed to a ban on anti-personnel mines. These States included Angola, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, and Switzerland, among others that joined soon afterwards.

According to those close to the process, this was “an extraordinary accomplishment by almost any measure of what is considered to be success within international diplomacy.”

In addition to a variety of regional conferences and mine action forums that took place in 1997 all over the world, the Process featured several diplomatic conferences.

At the conference, like-minded States interested in banning anti-personnel mines were called upon by the then-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Honourable Lloyd Axworthy, to adopt a treaty prohibiting these type of landmines, and to do so within one year time, by October 1997.

UN records indicate that at the conference, the 50 participating States known as the “Ottawa Group”, agreed to “enhance cooperation and coordination of efforts to achieve their goals, including the earliest possible conclusion of a legally binding international agreement to ban anti-personnel mines,” the statetemt adopted by the majority of those participating is known as the Ottawa Declaration

The official follow-up conference was set up for June 1997 in Belgium, while several regional meetings in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe were also planned.

By November that year, the Austrian delegation had circulated through its embassies a draft convention text that would come to be known as the Austrian Draft Text. 

A “core group” of friendly States that included Austria, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, and Switzerland were supporting and promoting regional meetings and mine action forums with a view to adopt a treaty by 1997.

On 10 December 1996, resolution 51/45S, which attracted 115 co-sponsors, was adopted by 155 votes to none, with 10 abstentions.

The resolution was intended “to pursue vigorously an effective, legally binding international agreement to ban the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines with a view to completing the negotiation as soon as possible”.

Two months later, an Expert Meeting on the Text of a Convention was called by Austria. The fast-track negotiation that would be known as the Ottawa Process, had begun!

By the end of 1997, States were keen to negotiate a convention to ban anti-personnel mines.  In the pursuit of this aim, Austria took on the lead role of elaborating a draft text.

The 12-14 February 1997 Experts Meeting was designed to elicit comments on the text and to intensify efforts towards a total ban. H.E. Thomas Hajnoczi of Austria chaired the 1997 Vienna Meeting and was a central figure throughout the Ottawa Process.

The United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, were invited to participate.

Neither the text of the draft Convention discussed in Vienna in February 1997, nor two subsequent drafts contained measures to assist landmine survivors.

It was trough persistent efforts that a comprehensive approach to victim assistance was written into the Convention.

This measure resulted in the Convention becoming the first multilateral arms control agreement to address the humanitarian needs of the victims of a particular weapon system.

Ten years later, as Vienna commemorated the signing of the Convention, Thomas Hajnoczi remarked that in 1997 no one could have predicted the accomplishments that transpired during the decade that followed.

Twenty years after the Vienna Meeting, the international community met once again in Austria to commemorate two decades of efforts and partnership towards a mine-free world, including the discussion on how to better integrate victim assistance into broader national contexts of disability and human rights. Ambassador Thomas Hajnoczi returned to the work of the Convention one last time as Chair of the Conference in 2017.

UN records indicate that the 1997 Vienna meeting "made clear that the question of possible verification measures would give rise to considerable debate among States. Germany decided to host a governmental meeting which would be devoted exclusively to this question."

On 24-25 April 1997, Germany hosted the Bonn Expert Meeting to stimulate discussions regarding a verification scheme.

Germany drafted an “Option Paper for a possible Verification Scheme for a Convention to Ban Anti-Personnel Landmines”, presented to 121 States. 

“Views remained divided between States who believed that detailed verification was essential to ensure that any agreement was effective, and others that argued that the proposed agreement was essentially humanitarian in character and stressing the overriding importance of a clear norm prohibiting anti-personnel mines.”

After the meeting, Austria circulated on 28 April 1997, the draft text to the core group, which came back with further revisions including in matters of compliance.

A new draft was ready by 14 May 1997, right on time for the Brussels Conference, which had been designated as the official follow up to the 1996 Ottawa Conference.

After Bonn, States and civil society partners, namely the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the International Committee of the Red Cross, met in Belgium from 24-27 June 1997.

A new record was set at the formal Conference with 154 States attending.

The landmine movement was gathering important traction. States were ready to negotiate. At the end of the Conference, 97 States signed the Brussels Declaration.

In 2017, Her Royal Highness Astrid, Princess of Belgium who has been part of the landmine movement for over two decades and is a Special Envoy of the Convention, recalled Belgium's conribution to a mine-free world where mine victims' needs can be met and their rights guaranteed,

 Twenty years ago, Belgium welcomed representatives of more than 150 countries interested in prohibiting landmines.

This diplomatic gathering concluded with the adoption of the Brussels Declaration by more than 90 governments.

We are proud of our contribution towards the adoption of the Convention and remain deeply committed with  a world free of landmines, and resolute in our commitment towards the victims.

We salute the Ottawa Convention in the 20 years since its signing.

The 1997 Declaration deemed the Austrian Text a suitable basis for negotiations, and welcomed the convening of the Diplomatic Conference in Oslo in September that year.

The Conference was an exciting moment for campaigners and diplomats who had worked towards the adoption of a universal ban.

H.E. Bjørn Tore Godal, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway opened the meeting.

The Conference elected H.E. Ambassador J. S. Selebi, Permanent Representative of South Africa in Geneva, to lead negotiations. Belgium, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, and Zimbabwe were elected Vice Presidents.

According to ICRC records, work was divided in three groups: the Plenary, Committee of the Whole and Friends of the Chair.

On 3 September, the then-Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, addressed the meeting.

On 17 September the Plenary agreed to adopt the text.

On 18 September, the Text of the Convention on the Prohibition of Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction was formally adopted.

It was then handed over to H.E. Bjørn Tore Godal, before being sent to Canada for signing.

The Convention opened for signature in Ottawa on 3 and 4 December 1997 and at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 5 December 1997.

It entered into force on 1 March 1999, six months after the fortieth instrument of ratification had been deposited.