In accordance with the decisions taken at the Second Meeting of the State Parties to the Mine Ban Convention, the SC on General Status and Operations of the Convention (SC4) held its Second Intersessional Meeting on 11 May 2001 in Geneva.
The President of 2MSP and Chairman of the Co-ordinating Committee (CC), Ambassador Steffen Kongstad informed the Standing Committee on the progress of the CC. This Committee, which has its mandate from the 2MSP, has since then met regularly and with high frequency in recent months. Since April, the Co-Rapporteurs of the different SCs have also participated in the deliberations of the CC. Ambassador Kongstad emphasised that the CC is an elected body and geographically balanced. The CC has been a useful instrument for exchange of views, co-ordinate different activities and to raise matters of concern.
The SC4 was also informed about the outcome from the three other SCs. A written report from these Committees will be circulated.
The SC4 on General Status and Operations of the Convention noted that more than 350 persons had participated during the Second Intersessional Week of the 2MSP. There has been an active participation by the State Parties, International Organisations, the NGO community and mine affected groups. In addition to addressing the important substantial issues, the Intersessional Week has also demonstrated its importance for contact and networking among various actors. Appreciation was also expressed to the Sponsorship Programme, which allows for a broader participation. There are thus clear signs that the Intersessional meetings are working.
The SC4 also expressed appreciation that the preparations for the 3MSP in Managua is well under way. The SC welcomed the comprehensive presentation by Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua, Ms. Bertha Marina Argüllo, on the organisation of the 3MSP.
The international norms on banning antipersonnel mines is taking hold. There are encouraging signs, such as new states are embracing the Convention. 114 have ratified the Convention, while 140 states have either ratified, acceded or signed the Convention. The number is growing. There is also a de facto export ban on antipersonnel mines.
A major challenge will be to ensure that all obligations of the Convention are respected. The Committee took note of ICBL’s concern that there are allegations of non-compliance by some state signatories. The Committee also voiced concern on the allegation that one state party has produced antipersonnel mines.
The Committee is also worried about the continued deployment of antipersonnel mines in four non-state parties (Russia, Uzbekistan, Burma and Sri Lanka). 12 countries, which have not acceded the Convention, are actively producing antipersonnel mines, while four other countries are likely to produce such mines.
The Committee also noted concern raised by ICBL regarding key matters such as:
ICBL reported that 87 countries are affected by antipersonnel mines and UXO’s, of which 37 are State Parties, while 14 are signatories. There are currently mine clearance activities in 60 countries. Among them 25 countries have co-ordinated mine-clearance programs. 44 mine affected countries receive external assistance, 16 of them are State Parties. In general the number of mine action programmes is increasing and more land is cleared and the number of victims is going down. Yet the mine problem is still formidable.
The SC4 congratulated and welcomed the ratifications of Kenya, Zambia, Sierra Leone, the Republic of Congo and Malta. Chile informed that the Chilean Senate recently gave authority for ratification of the Convention. The Committee was also informed that the Democratic Republic of Congo has recently signed the Convention. The SC4 was also pleased to be informed that in a joint move Greece will ratify the Convention and Turkey accede to it. Algeria reminded of its ratification in December 2000
Canada informed about the progress in the open-ended Universalization Contact Group, which meets at the margins of the MSP’s and the Intersessionals. At the last meeting, 15 countries participated. The Contact Group focused on seven countries, which completed the domestic ratification process, but did not deposit the ratification documents. 10 countries need further assistance to complete the ratification process. Some states have voiced opposition to parts of the Convention, but not of severe nature. For the future the Group will pay particular attention to South East Asia and Eastern Europe.
Mali introduced the outcome of the seminar on the universalization and implementation of the Convention in Bamako, Mali in February 2001. The seminar had mobilised participation by 46 African countries, a great number of international organisations and NGOs. The objective was to promote universalization, full participation by Africa and implementation as a new norm. The seminar covered a range of important topics relevant for the Convention. Since the Bamako seminar, 3 African nations have ratified the Convention. The SC4 noted the actions taken by Canada and France to promote universalization and implementation in Africa. Mali raised also the issue of interpretation and translation at the Intersessional meetings. Other countries expressed the same concern. The SC4 appreciated the offer by the Francophonie to provide for interpretation services into French at the next Intersessional.
The SC4 took further note of New Zealand and Japan’s outreach efforts in Asia and the Pacific region. ICBL informed about its recent efforts to universalise the Convention. The Committee concluded this agenda item by recognising the rich debate and appreciating the efforts to universalise the Treaty.
Status of Reporting under Article 7 and Development of the Guide completing Article 7 Reports.
59 State Parties have submitted their reports to the UN Secretary General before the deadline, while 36 State Parties are late. 21 have undertaken to report in the near future, since the stipulated 180 days to report within the entry into force of the Convention has not yet expired for them. 20 State Parties submitted their updated reports for the calendar year 2000 to the Secretary General of the United Nations. 7 State Parties have used the Form J (voluntary reporting). Several countries informed SC4 on the status of their national reporting obligation.
The SC4 informed the meeting of the role of Belgium in relation to its task to coordinate joint efforts to encourage compliance with Article 7 of the Convention. As part of the Bamako process Belgium is co-ordinating technical assistance to African countries on Article 7 reporting. Together with Burkina Faso, Belgium is working on developing a database of contact points for officials in African countries. Other initiatives have been taken or will take place in Colombia and Romania.
A representative from Vertic reported on the progress to develop the Handbook of Guidelines on Article 7 Reporting. Vertic has been consulting a number of state parties. A draft guide has been finished, but there is need for further refinement. Vertic does not seek to reach a comprehensive document. The SC4 expressed appreciation to Vertic and to Belgium for having funded the project.
ICBL urged on time Article 7 reporting, and advocated the inclusion of reporting on claymore mines, prohibited anti-vehicle mines with sensitive fuses or sensitive anti-handling devices, specific uses of retained mines, and any foreign stocks. ICBL also welcomed the Form J, and encouraged State Parties to use this voluntary reporting form.
The SC4 concluded by welcoming the Handbook and supports continuation of the efforts towards encouragement of implementation of Article 7 and recommends to the 3MSP this document as a reference guide. Further work has to be pursued on Article 7 templates and to the necessity to enhance their effectivity.
Status of domestic legislation under Article 9 and development of a sample package of existing implementation legislation.
27 State Parties have enacted national implementation measures, compared to only 15 State Parties last year. The Committee noted this encouraging trend, but emphasised that the process must continue.
ICRC informed the SC4 on the progress to develop an information kit on national legislation in co-operation with the ICBL. In addition to general information, the kit will also address the options of stand-alone legislation or adding to existing national legislation. The kit will contain examples of adopted legislation. The kit is already available in English, French and Spanish and will soon be translated into Russian. ICRC expressed readiness to provide technical assistance to interested State Parties.
The Committee concluded by expressing appreciation on what has been done and recommends to 3MSP to welcome the national implementation kit.
Review of the work undertaken on matters pertaining to Article 8
Canada introduced a paper with recommendations on the operationalisation of Article 8. There are different views and ideas on this matter, and there is therefore need for further dialogue on the basis of spirit of co-operation.
The SC4 expressed both recognition and appreciation to the role played by Canada so far, and several State Parties encouraged Canada to continue its active involvement in this matter. A considerable number of State Parties expressed general support to the approach suggested by Canada and that further work on this matter is required.
ICBL underlined the importance of compliance measures. It was necessary to move forward and ensure that this article will function in smooth fashion, since it is conceivable that it will be used. There is a broad spectrum of options, steps short of Article 8 will be more frequently used. There is also a need to strengthen the compliance by the international community, and react to the use of antipersonnel mines by non-state parties and encourage respect for the international norm established.
The SC4 concluded that more work needs to done especially the activities short of Article 8 like consultations and clarifications. The Committee invited Canada and other interested parties to continue this process.
During the previous Intersessional meeting of the Committee, the SC4 was informed about the political dialogue with Burundi. This dialogue has continued, and Burundi has confirmed its invitation. There is a need to explore the appropriate diplomatic channels to respond to this invitation.
Identification of substantial matters pertaining to the 3MSP. Support functions to the Convention.
GICHD has provided indispensible support through administration and logistical services.
The Co-Chair of SC2, Gustavo Laurie of Peru, introduced a reflection paper on the matter. When the Convention was adopted in 1997, there was a clear decision not to establish an organisation or institutionalised secretariat. This decision led to an active involvement by the State Parties in the management of the Convention and in the preparations and follow-up of the inter-governmental meetings. The Convention has entered a new phase in its evolution that requires and places greater demands on states and individuals holding positions as either Co-chairs or Co-rapporteurs. State Parties need a base point where they can turn for independent professional advice and assistance in hosting MSPs and in the preparations for the Inter-sessional meeting.
The GIHCD is well positioned to provide such a function and the GIHCD Director has expressed readiness for such a task. It was thus suggested that the GIHCD will provide enhanced implementation support to the Convention through a new unit. This would entail a slight enlargement of the staff and the need for some more resources. It was underlined that the intention of this proposal was to ensure a continued strong participation by the State parties. It is not desirable to limit their role.
In the following discussion, a large number of State Parties as well as the ICBL expressed support for the proposal. Several State Parties emphasised that the present active role by countries should not be reduced. One State Party expressed some doubts, but was ready to reconsider its position in light of the discussion.
The Director of the GIHCD assured that the proposed new unit would be very light. He also recognised that the GIHCD activities in this area should have to be accountable to the State Parties.
The Committee concluded by recommending that further elaboration on the modalities be continued with a view to take a decision at 3MSP. This will require broad consultations between the current SC-session and September. Further work will be based on collective efforts by the CC.
Preparations for the 3MSP – Organisational matters
Reporting mechanism of the Intersessional program to the 3MSP.
The SC4 agreed that final reports should be prepared by each Standing Committee and submitted to the 3MSP. They should not exceed 5 pages. They should reflect the issues covered by the Committee, the work accomplished, and the proposals it has put forward for future action. Additional information – if required – could be made available on the Website of the GICHD. These reports would serve as the basis for discussion during the informal consultations to be held during the 3MSP. The report of the SC4 would serve as the base for discussion during the agenda point 11 on the review of the general status and operations of the Convention.
The President’s Action Paper on the Work of the SCs would be drafted to reflect the recommendations made by the SCs and contain, in a coherent and unified manner, the wide range of actions proposed by the committees. The Co-chairs of SC4 would accept the task to work with all other Co-chairs and Co-rapporteurs to draft this paper and to consult on it in advance of the 3MSP.
Organizational matters pertaining to the 3MSP
The SC4 took note of the following points without any comments:
The representative of UNDDA informed the SC4 about the cash balance from the 1MSP was USD 235 302. This amount will be accredited the Trust Fund for the 3MSP. A letter has been sent to the State Parties with a revised cost-estimation for the upcoming MSP.
The UNDDA representative also informed the SC4 that the revised budget for the 3MSP was at USD 902 100 and not USD 977 100, as previously envisaged. The reason for the reduction of USD 70 000 was a considerable reduction in the cost for "temporary assistance". One expert will be recruited for four months, and not two officers for a duration of six as previously stipulated.
Nicaragua called upon State Parties to support that the cash balance from 1MSP to be put into 3MSP. Nicaragua was also pleased to see that the revised budget better reflected the realities and needs.
Recommendations to the 3MSP
The SC4 agreed that the following issues to be considered by the 3MSP besides its agenda, work program and budget:
Review of the work undertaken with respect to Article 1
ICBL introduced this agenda item by pointing to the fact that many of these issues have been discussed at every meeting without making much progress. A crucial question is what is and what is not permitted under Article 1(c) in relation to "assist" to a) the use of antipersonnel mines by non-signatories in joint operations with State parties and b) the stockpiling and transit of foreign antipersonnel mines. There are still significant different understanding on these matters among State Parties, which affects the credibility of the Convention.
ICBL therefore called for expanded information exchange among state parties, as is the case for other Articles of the Convention. Human Rights Watch has developed a detailed list of what may be permitted under the Convention.
A number of State Parties supported increased dialogue on these issues and informed about their national practices in relation to Article 1(c).
The SC4 concluded by recommending further exchange of views on Article 1.
Review of work undertaken with respect to Article 2 and 3
a) Article 2
ICRC informed about the outcome from the technical expert meeting held 13th and 14th of March on antivehicle mines with sensitive fuses or with sensitive antihandling devices. A major objective was to identify best practices in order to minimize the risks for civilians. While there seemed to be a common understanding with respect to sensitive fuses, it was more difficult to progress on sensitive anti-handling devices. The main problem was to identify ways to reduce sensitivity of anti-handling devices while retaining the military purpose.
The ICRC perspective is that any anti-vehicle mine which is detonated by proximity of or contact with humans is to be regarded as antipersonnel mines and thus fall under Article 2. ICRC is however of the view that one has to move beyond the legal discussion and focus practical steps that can be taken through best practices and a review of the anti-vehicle mines in stock.
Several of the States Parties expressed support to the ICRC approach on best practices. One State Party offered its interpretation on what sort of anti-vehicle mines falls under Article 2. One State Party flagged that this issue could be better addressed in CCW Protocol II, while another State Party said that Article 2 should be revisited.
ICBL welcomed the best practices approach, but flagged that the best practices approach may not be sufficient. One has to recognize that anti-vehicle mines may fall under Article 2 and that State Parties must be explicit on what is permissible. ICBL also introduced a recent study "Civilian Footsteps".
The SC4 concluded by welcoming the ICRC contribution in order to keep with the object and purpose of the Convention to take all possible steps to minimize the risk to civilian populations of certain antivehicle mines, including by considering and adopting as appropriate relevant best practices of the type identified in the report of the ICRC Technical Expert Meeting on anti-vehicle mines with sensitive fuses or with sensitive antihandling devices.
b) Article 3
34 State Parties retain antipersonnel mines for training and development purposes in accordance with Article 3 of the Convention. 20 States Parties do not retain antipersonnel mines. During the treaty negotiations, it was understood that the numbers retained should be reasonable and be calculated in hundreds, thousands but not in tens of thousands.
ICBL welcomed that some State Parties, which had planned to retain large number of antipersonnel mines for training, have decided to decrease their mines significantly. Other State Parties are encouraged to follow this example. Although the Convention does not stipulate in numbers, the ICBL reiterated its understanding that mines kept for training purposes should be in hundreds and not thousands. ICBL continues to question whether there is a need to retain mines for training purposes, while alternatives exist. The Article 3 exception must not be seen as a way to hold on stocks of antipersonnel mines. The State Parties were asked to consider:
During the following discussion, some State parties informed about their stock of antipersonnel mines under Article 3. Another State Party indicated that simulation exercises could provide a viable alternative to retaining stocks of antipersonnel mines. And another State Party concurred to the understanding that stocks of antipersonnel mines should be kept in hundreds.
The SC4 concluded by recommending to include reports on use of landmines for training purposes in Article 7 reports.