Statement on the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Mines Action Canada congratulates the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) on being awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize! Coming 20 years after Jody Williams and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines won, this award

ICAN_award.jpgrecognizes their important work to the highlight the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons. 

In the words of ICAN: 

"This prize is a tribute to the tireless efforts of many millions of campaigners and concerned citizens worldwide who, ever since the dawn of the atomic age, have loudly protested nuclear weapons, insisting that they can serve no legitimate purpose and must be forever banished from the face of our earth.

It is a tribute also to the survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the hibakusha – and victims of nuclear test explosions around the world, whose searing testimonies and unstinting advocacy were instrumental in securing this landmark agreement."

Mines Action Canada is proud to have worked with ICAN to share lessons from the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines during the negotiations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. 

We encourage the Government of Canada to constructively engage with the nuclear ban treaty to help move us all towards a world without nuclear weapons. 

This award further proves that ordinary people can have an extraordinary impact.

 

 

Share

Stepping back in the spotlight

In December it will have been 20 years since the world came to Canada to sign the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines. The Ottawa Treaty is a success in progress with a huge amount of land cleared of landmines, a significant decrease in the number of casualties, millions of stockpiled mines destroyed and 80% of the world belonging to the treaty. However, there is still work to do – 64 states and other areas are contaminated by landmines and other explosive remnants of war and there were over 6,400 casualties in 2015.

The States Parties to the Ottawa Treaty including Canada have set a goal to finish the job by 2025. This goal is ambitious but achievable with political will and consistent funding.

As a State Party to the Ottawa Treaty with the means to do so, Canada has an obligation to provide assistance to landmine affected states to implement the treaty under Article 6 of the Treaty. At the moment, Canada has not been meeting this obligation to a level expected of the home of the treaty and a global leader on peace and human rights.

Canada’s current support for the Ottawa Treaty

According to Canada’s Article 7 Report submitted as required by the Ottawa Treaty, Canada contributed $17.55 million Canadian to mine action projects in 2016. This $17.55 million represents an increase from 2015 contributions and is the highest total amount since 2012. However, $17.55 million is significantly lower than the all-time high of $62.83 million in 2007 and considerably lower than the 22 year average of $21.53 million.

With the contribution of $17.55 million Canadian, Canada is the 9th highest donor to mine action in 2016.

Canadian_funding_graph.jpg

In 2016, Canada funded mine action projects in five countries: Afghanistan ($8,000,000), Colombia ($3,235,000), Iraq ($4,513,425), Sri Lanka ($569,386) and Ukraine ($1,232,817).

There are five pillars of mine action: victim assistance, mine clearance, stockpile destruction, risk education and advocacy. Canada’s 2016 funding was concentrated on one of these pillars – mine clearance. Some funded projects included risk education alongside the clearance operations. The only funding to include victim assistance and advocacy was the $8,000,000 CDN to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in Afghanistan. The description of this project listed all aspects of UNMAS’ work so it difficult to ascertain how much of the Canadian funding went to each pillar of mine action specifically.

Gaps in Canada’s support for the Ottawa Treaty

Canada’s support for the Ottawa Treaty currently has a number of gaps that leave some members of the international community questioning Canada’s recent commitment to its greatest contribution to global peace and security in the past 50 years.

Canada has not been very active on the Ottawa Treaty diplomatically in recent years. There has been a slight increase in engagement since early 2015 however, in general, there is little evidence that Canada has been speaking out on the issue publically or privately.

Canada’s funding support for the Ottawa Treaty, as it is currently implemented, contains large geographic gaps. Structural barriers have made it almost impossible for Canada to assist key states in dire need of support to meet their goals under the Ottawa Treaty, for example, Angola, Cambodia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These barriers also prevent Canada from assisting other states with heavy contamination such as Vietnam. If a state is not one of Canada’s development target countries or a state in need of stabilization, it is unlikely that Canada will be able to provide mine action assistance regardless of the need or our treaty commitment. The new Feminist International Assistance Policy is supposed to end the Countries of Focus program. However, the lack of details on how such a change will be implemented raises questions about how effective the new policy will be in closing geographic gaps in Canada’s support of mine action and the Ottawa Treaty. Indeed without specific recognition of how mine action meets Canada’s feminist foreign policy, connects to the SDGs, and addresses particular development needs of affected countries, it is not clear how removing the countries of focus approach will contribute to increased funding for the pillars of mine action.

As the table of data from Export Development Canada below indicates, all four of the countries mentioned above have business ties with Canada, as well as cultural ties, ensuring that support for mine action including clearance, victim assistance and advocacy in them would be of benefit to Canadians in addition to ensuring that Canada meets its obligations under the Ottawa Treaty.

 

Angola

Cambodia

DR Congo

Vietnam

Canada companies assisted by EDC

7

2

4

92

International buyers insured by EDC

10

3

6

154

Business Volume (CAD)

$354.91 Million

$0.96 Million

$1.97 Million

$202.93 Million

In addition to geographic gaps, Canada’s support for mine action has significant gaps in terms of the pillars of mine action that are supported. As mentioned above, Canadian funding in 2016 focused very heavily on mine clearance and contained little support for other crucial pillars such as victim assistance and advocacy which includes research and monitoring of the treaty. Without funding for victim assistance and advocacy, it will be difficult to meet the 2025 goal. The lack of Canadian support for advocacy and victim assistance is curious considering the direct links between those two pillars of mine action and the feminist approach to international assistance taken by the government.

A renewed commitment

During the 2015 election, the Liberal Party of Canada pledged that “A Liberal government will re-engage on this important treaty and lobby non-signatory states to join the treaty” when asked about the Ottawa Treaty. In order to truly re-engage with the Ottawa Treaty, Canada should:

  • Ensure that diplomats, Ministers, parliamentarians and other representatives of Canada advocate for the universalization and full implementation of the Ottawa Treaty when engaging in bilateral and multilateral discussions on international peace, security and development issues;
  • Recognize the important contribution mine action makes to the Sustainable Development Goals, gender equality and peacebuilding;
  • Support research and evidence based decision making within Canada’s mine action work and in global efforts towards the 2025 goal;
  • Mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Ottawa Treaty as part of the Canada 150 celebrations;
  • Include victim assistance and advocacy programs in Canadian funding for mine action; and
  • Increase Canadian funding for mine action to $1 per Canadian per year. This achievable target would put Canada in the top five donors on mine action; allow Canada to contribute meaningfully to the goal of a mine free world by 2025; support grassroots organizations and meet our obligations under the Ottawa Treaty. By dedicating specific funding to mine action, Canada would have more flexibility to assist states which need support to implement the treaty.

Canada has the resources and the capacity to be a leader on landmines again by making a few small adjustments. The funds and the diplomatic resources required to make this re-engagement a reality are there, all that is needed is political will.  With Canadian leadership, it is possible to end the suffering caused by landmines by 2025.

Share

Building Common Security Conference

MAC is pleased to partner with the Group of 78 and other organizations working on peace and disarmament on the Group of 78's annual policy conference here in Ottawa.

Nuclear disarmament ultimately requires a shift from the doctrine of mutually assured destruction (MAD) to a commitment – in mind, policy and practice – to mutual security, through a sustainable common security regime rooted in global interdependence, the rule of law, and a recognition of the limited utility of military force in responding to political conflict. Common security is built on UN Charter principles and on mutual security arrangements, rather than competitive military alliances, and focuses on war prevention and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

On September 22 and 23, join us for GETTING TO NUCLEAR ZERO: BUILDING COMMON SECURITY FOR A POST-MAD WORLD in order to talk about how humanitarian disarmament can help build common security.

 For more on the conference and to register please click here.

Share

Cluster munition attacks spike casualty toll as world shows steadfast resolve for humanitarian ban

(Geneva, 31 August 2017) – States are continuing to ratify and implement the international treaty prohibiting cluster munitions while new use of these notorious weapons in Syria and Yemen has caused even more civilian casualties, according to the annual monitoring report released today by the Cluster Munition Coalition at the United Nations (UN) in Geneva.

“Last year, cluster munition casualties doubled, and civilians accounted for nearly all of the victims. The only sure way to end this insidious menace is to have all states embrace and adhere to the international ban on these weapons,” said Jeff Abramson, coordinator of the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor initiative. “The humanitarian devastation caused by cluster munitions is particularly acute in Syria, where use has continued unabated since mid-2012.”

Cluster Munition Monitor 2017 identified at least 971 new cluster munition casualties globally in 2016, with 860 of these in Syria. This global number is certainly less than the actual total. Disturbingly, the number of casualties in 2016 is more than double the number recorded in 2015 (417), making it the second-highest annual figure since Cluster Munition Monitor reporting began in 2009 (highest was in 2013). When it was possible to identify their status, civilians made up 98% of casualties. Most of these casualties occurred during cluster munition attacks (837 in Syria and 20 in Yemen). Additionally, more than 100 people were known to have been killed or injured by previously unexploded cluster munition submunitions, the deadly landminelike remnants left over from earlier attacks. In Lao PDR, all of the 51 new casualties in 2016 were the result of remnants from cluster munitions used in the 1960s and 1970s. In total, casualties were recorded in 10 countries in 2016, but new attacks causing casualties were recorded only in Syria and Yemen.

Since August 2016, two countries have ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions (Benin and Madagascar), bringing the total number of States Parties to 102. Another 17 states have signed but not yet ratified the convention. Last December, 141 states, including 32 non-signatories to the convention, adopted a key UN General Assembly resolution supporting the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

“Most countries in the world are now part of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and working hard to implement its disarmament obligations,” said Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch, ban policy editor of Cluster Munition Monitor 2017. “The ongoing use of cluster munitions in Syria is an affront to that steady progress and must continue to be vigorously condemned without reservation.”

Syrian government forces have continued to use cluster munitions, with at least 238 cluster munition attacks recorded in opposition-held areas across the country between August 2016 and July 2017. Russia has participated in a joint military operation with Syrian forces since 30 September 2015. A Saudi Arabia-led coalition of states has used cluster munitions in Yemen, although the number of cluster munition attacks has declined following widespread international condemnation. None of these countries have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Cluster munitions are fired by artillery and rockets or dropped by aircraft, and open in the air to release multiple smaller bomblets or submunitions over an area the size of a football field. Submunitions often fail to 2 explode on initial impact, leaving dangerous remnants that pose the same danger as landmines until cleared and destroyed. The Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force on 1 August 2010 and comprehensively prohibits cluster munitions, requires destruction of stockpiles within eight years, clearance of areas contaminated by cluster munition remnants within 10 years, and the provision of assistance for victims of the weapon.

Under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, 28 States Parties have completed the destruction of nearly 1.4 million stockpiled cluster munitions containing more than 175 million submunitions. This represents the destruction of 97% of all cluster munitions and 98% of all submunitions declared as stockpiled under the treaty. During 2016, three State Parties (Slovakia, Spain, and Switzerland) destroyed 56,171 cluster munitions and 2.8 million submunitions.

In 2016, operators surveyed and cleared at least 88 km2 of contaminated land worldwide resulting in the destruction of at least 140,000 submunitions, both increases compared to the previous year. Mozambique announced the completion of clearance of its contaminated areas in December 2016.

“Efforts to grow the convention's membership continue to be central to stigmatize the use of these weapons and to bring an end to the threat they pose. Convention members have a better understanding of the location and scale of contamination, and will more readily share information about it, compared with states outside the convention,” said Amelie Chayer, acting director of the Cluster Munition Coalition.

At least 26 states remain contaminated by cluster munitions, including 12 States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Continued conflict and insecurity, particularly in Syria and Yemen, is hampering clearance of cluster munitions.

Countries with obligations to improve their assistance to cluster munition victims boosted their commitments to addressing victims’ rights when they adopted a five-year action plan at the convention’s First Review Conference in 2015. The 14 States Parties with cluster munition victims, and national victims’ organizations, face serious challenges because resources made available for them do not measure up to the promise of adequate assistance.

### ENDS

About the Monitor: This eighth annual Cluster Munition Monitor report has been prepared by the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) for dissemination at the Seventh Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions at the UN in Geneva on 4–6 September 2017. It is the sister publication to the Landmine Monitor report, issued annually since 1999 by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor is coordinated by a committee of ICBL-CMC staff and representatives from CMC member organizations, Danish Deming Group, Handicap International, Human Rights Watch, and Mines Action Canada.

Using the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions as its principal frame of reference, the report focuses on activities in calendar year 2016 with information included into August 2017 where possible. It covers global trends in ban policy and practice, survey and clearance of cluster munition remnants, cluster munition casualties, and efforts to guarantee the rights and meet the needs of cluster munition victims. These findings are drawn from updated country profiles published online.

Links:

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact:

  • Laila Rodriguez-Bloch, Media Consultant, Geneva (CEST), Mobile/WhatsApp +41 (0) 78 953 0720 or email media [at] icblcmc.org
  • Jeff Abramson, Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor Program Manager, United States (EDT), Mobile 1-646-527-5793 or email jeff [at] icblcmc.org
  • Erin Hunt, Program Coordinator, Mines Action Canada, Ottawa (EDT), Mobile/Whatsapp +1-613-302-3088 or email erin [at] minesactioncanada.org 
Share

How do the weapons used determine what's next for Mosul?

After years of occupation by the so-called Islamic State (Da’esh) the city of Mosul, Iraq is on the verge of being liberated. The urban battle there has raged for almost nine months leaving a devastating humanitarian disaster in its wake. The weapons which were used during this battle have a direct impact on what comes next for the city and its inhabitants.

Although the Iraqi Prime Minister has declared victory and the city liberated, the humanitarian suffering will continue for years or more likely decades due to the indiscriminate and inhumane weapons used.[1]

The weapons used and their impact

For a number of years, civil society under the International Network on Explosive Weapons and a number of states have been concerned about the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas. During the battle for Mosul, INEW expressed great concern about the weapons being used and encouraged all actors to cease using explosive weapons with wide area effects in the densely populated city. Despite these calls for restraint, populated areas of Mosul and especially west Mosul have seen the use of airdropped munitions, unguided bombs, multiple launch rocket systems, mortars, other shelling, and improvised explosive devices including car bombs for months.

The use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in a densely populated city results in high levels of civilian casualties. Mosul has seen this assertion to be true over the past nine months. Airwars, a civil society monitoring organization, estimated that as of July 1, 2017 between 900 and 1,200 civilians were killed by Coalition airstrikes or artillery in Mosul. That number does not include civilians killed when there was uncertainty about the user of the explosive weapon (International Coalition, Iraqi security forces or Da’esh) or casualty reports which could not be verified. The casualty toll from Da’esh’s use of explosive weapons and improvised explosive devices is expected to be quite high. The United Nations reports that in a three day period in March 2017, at least 95 civilians were killed in four neighbourhoods of western Mosul alone by Da’esh explosive weapons and snipers.

These numbers of civilians killed only show a small glimpse of the suffering caused by the explosive weapons with wide area effects used in Mosul. For each person killed, many more have been injured. The ICRC reported that their surgical team at Mosul General Hospital has received over 650 cases, many of them children. Hospitals in the area have been overwhelmed with the injured during the battle.

Those who are injured may need ongoing care to deal with their injuries and any resulting impairments.  Rehabilitative services, prosthetics, mobility aids and psychological support will all be needed to ensure that those injured can participate in society fully.

Beyond immediate casualties the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in Mosul has resulted in extensive destruction of key infrastructure, housing and other buildings greatly compounding the ongoing humanitarian suffering.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reports that water treatment plants and pumping stations in both eastern and western Mosul were damaged. Of the damaged facilities, nine are under rehabilitation in July 2017, however, ongoing insecurity and a lack of funding has inhibited rehabilitation. Water is currently being trucked into Mosul. Related to the damage done to the water supply is the destruction of sanitation infrastructure. In addition, the electrical grid has been seriously disrupted, waste disposal operations have been halted for months on end and schools, medical facilities and religious or cultural buildings were destroyed. All of these results of explosive weapons use have humanitarian consequences now and will make it much harder and costlier to rebuild a thriving city in the future.

UNOCHA reported that out of west Mosul’s 54 residential neighbourhoods, 38 are heavily to moderately damaged. The damage and fighting combined with the draconian rule of Da’esh has resulted in over half a million people being displaced from in and around Mosul. Studies conducted in similar situations around the region have shown that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is a key driver of displacement and the ICRC gathered a number of reports from displaced persons from Mosul who stated they fled the city due to explosive weapons use. For many, return will be impossible until rubble has been cleared and reconstruction has been begun.

Not every explosive weapon used in the battle for Mosul functioned properly, especially considering the number of homemade mortars. These explosive remnants of war will need to be cleared before reconstruction and return of displaced persons can begin in earnest.

In addition to the explosive remnants of war, Da’esh has been using improvised landmines, booby traps and other victim activated weapons extensively to continue killing after they have retreated. In one village near Mosul, improvised mines have already killed ten and injured five. High levels of contamination are being reported across the region in areas liberated from Da’esh and Mosul is no exception. The improvised mines left by Da’esh aim to prevent civilian return to Mosul and surrounding villages.

Mines are being found surrounding essential infrastructure, schools and other public buildings further impeding reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts. Booby traps contaminate residential homes waiting in mattresses, kitchen sinks, doorways and other ordinary items for the residents to return. The contamination will take years to clear. Mines Advisory Group calls the situation in areas liberated from Da’esh a new landmine emergency, noting that the improvised mines created by Da’esh are often sensitive enough to be triggered by a child but packed with enough explosive to destroy a tank.

What’s next?

Recovery

There is little doubt that significant work needs to be done to rebuild Mosul after the nine months of conflict and years of Da’esh rule. Iraqi officials estimate that recovery and complete reconstruction will cost billions of dollars.

The weapons used during the conflict in many ways dictate the next steps towards reconstruction. Of prime importance is rehabilitating water and sanitation facilities as well as the electrical grid. In terms of saving lives and limbs, the clearance of mines and ERW must be a priority. The presences of ERW and improvised mines will hamper reconstruction by making clearing rubble and navigating the city a very risky endeavor. Humanitarian demining organizations are on the ground outside the city and armed forces explosive ordnance disposal teams are also working hard to remove the mines and ERW. However, this is a task that will take many months or years. Without clearance, travel, shopping, attending school and other aspects of everyday activities will be life-threatening. Once this work is done, the city and surrounding countryside can return to a thriving community.

In the meantime, risk education will be needed to protect civilians still living in Mosul and those who may return. Risk education can show residents what common dangerous objects look like and warning signs will remind citizens to be on the alert. For communities that have never been contaminated with mines and ERW before risk education is crucially important. Such activities are already underway and will need to be expanded to populations who were recently liberated from Da’esh.

The destruction of buildings through explosive weapons use has resulted in significant amounts of rubble littering neighbourhoods across Mosul which will need to be cleared before reconstruction can begin in earnest. The rubble poses a threat to the health of residents as well as an impediment to reconstruction. Rubble may contain harmful chemicals while the long term inhalation of dust may impact breathing; these impacts will be magnified if industrial areas and infrastructure was targeted. Environmental remediation will have to be included in the recovery plans to ensure that the city remains a healthy place to live.

At the moment, reports indicate that not only is there significant amounts of rubble in West Mosul, but that the bodies of those killed in the bombing and shelling are still buried under the rubble. Collection of human remains and proper burial is needed to be able to start clearing the rubble and to allow family members and friends to grieve.

Once the deceased have been properly cared for and the rubble cleared, basic infrastructure will need to be repaired or rebuilt. Displaced persons will need to have access to water, sanitation and electricity prior to return. The destruction of Mosul is extensive as discussed above. Water, sanitation and electricity infrastructure have been severely damaged, schools and hospitals have been destroyed and roads are clogged with rubble. The rehabilitation of destroyed infrastructure has already begun but the process will be long. Standing buildings will need to be assessed for structural safety, as well as, for improvised mines, booby traps and other ERW. Partially destroyed buildings will need to be repaired following assessments. Destroyed buildings will need to have the rubble cleared away and the buildings rebuilt. In addition to essential infrastructure, houses, schools, hospitals, mosques, churches and markets will need to be rebuilt. Entire neighbourhoods have been destroyed and will need extensive reconstruction to make them thriving communities again. This will be a long and costly process, but the city will need to be rebuilt in order for the citizens to be able to return and begin to re-establish their lives.

Beyond Rebuilding

For those who lived through the conflict, re-establishing their lives will require more than just rebuilding the city and its infrastructure. As mentioned above, ensuring proper support and services to those injured by explosive weapons will be a major undertaking for the foreseeable future. Medical care, rehabilitation, mobility aids, assistance with social and economic reintegration and psychosocial support will all be needed. To provide services to the large number of injured, there will need to be a large increase in the availability of age and gender sensitive services. Under the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Iraq has an obligation to provide assistance to victims of those weapons. The principle of non-discrimination in victim assistance under those two treaties would likewise require the provision of services to citizens with similar needs regardless of the cause of those injuries. Those who were not injured but have lived under the bombing and shelling for months may require mental health care as well.

One consideration that is not entirely unique to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, but is greatly exacerbated by their use is the fate of unaccompanied children. Families get separated in armed conflict. The Red Cross/Red Crescent and other organizations have worked to reunite families in conflicts for decades. More than just getting lost in the chaos of fleeing conflict, UNICEF reports that a number of medical facilities have received injured or traumatized children who are alone and remain unclaimed. Often they are the sole survivor of a bombing or airstrike that destroyed their family’s home. The explosive weapons used in Mosul would frequently collapse an entire home or building on those inside, especially in the Old City, killing large numbers of the same family. This family destruction was intensified by the use of civilians as human shields by Da’esh which forced extended families to shelter together.  Some of these unaccompanied children may be in the care of  UNICEF and other humanitarian organizations but that is a temporary solution. These children will need to be reunited with surviving extended family or placed in safe and loving foster or adoptive homes to give them the best possible chance to recover from this trauma and become productive members of society.

All of this reconstruction work requires strong social cohesion and civil society. Years of displacement or occupation coupled with the long battle have weakened social ties as is evident by the extra-judicial retribution currently going on in Mosul. If the goal is to rebuild the city and defeat Da’esh work needs to be done on countering the damage done to the culture of the city, as well as, the buildings and people. Citizens are beginning this work already by bringing back music and cultural activities and that work should be supported. Civil society organizations should also be supported especially networks and peer support groups for survivors of explosive weapons use. We know from work on landmines and cluster munitions that peer support is key to adapting to new impairments caused by weapons injuries in terms of physical, psychological and economic recovery. It will also be crucially important to ensure that women and marginalized communities have a seat at the table while decisions are made about rebuilding the city. Iraqi officials and others must make sure these populations are included in the reconstruction process. In addition to supporting the physical rebuilding of the city, donors such as Canada should be supporting grassroots organizations to build their capacity to provide services in Mosul and to reconstruct society.

Conclusion

Moslawis experienced years of occupation by an inhumane terrorist organization and then suffered immensely during the battle to liberate the city from Da’esh. Much of this suffering was caused by the tactics used during the battle and the behavior of actors in the conflict, but the weapons used will determine what comes next for the city. The city cannot rebuild without dealing with the legacy of the weapons used and the ways in which the weapons have harmed and continue to harm the civilian population.



[1] This article deals solely with the humanitarian harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. There are a number of reports of humanitarian harm and extra-judicial killings taking place in areas liberated from Da’esh. These reports are concerning; they should be investigated thoroughly and perpetrators brought to justice.

Share

Mines Action Canada Welcomes the Adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Mines Action Canada (MAC) warmly welcomes the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by UN Member States at the United Nations on July 7, 2017. Over 120 states participated in the negotiations.

20170707_104311_resized.jpgThe process to develop the treaty was motivated by the catastrophic humanitarian impacts that would result of any use or detonation of a nuclear weapon. This new treaty is grounded in the humanitarian approach to disarmament pioneered by the Ottawa Process banning landmines. It makes nuclear weapons illegal as well as immoral.

MAC has been working on indiscriminate and inhumane weapons for over two decades so we are very pleased to see nuclear weapons prohibited like all other weapons of mass destruction. MAC staff were involved in the negotiations of this treaty to share lessons learned from the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines and the Convention on Cluster Munitions. These lessons were translated into the Article 6 provisions on Victim Assistance and Environmental Remediation which were significantly strengthened over the course of negotiations.


MAC is glad to see the groundbreaking recognition of the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons activities on indigenous peoples found in the Preamble of the Treaty. This recognition is something MAC strongly advocated for in cooperation with a number of civil society and indigenous organizations. The treaty also highlights the impact of nuclear weapons on women and girls. MAC is pleased to see the commitment to supporting and strengthening the effective participation of women in nuclear disarmament and reference to the importance of peace and disarmament education in the Treaty.


Canadian civil society and parliamentarians participated in the negotiations and contributed to the development of this treaty as a strong normative instrument. “The Government of Canada did not attend the negotiations but Canadian civil society has ensured that the Treaty reflects Canadian values such as humanity, respect for the environment, peace, justice and security,” said Erin Hunt, Program Coordinator of Mines Action Canada.

Mines Action Canada strongly encourages Canada to sign the treaty when it opens for signature in September 2017 in order to continue our strong tradition of putting humanitarian concerns at the center of disarmament policy which started with the prohibition on blinding lasers, the Ottawa Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

(Moment of adoption - photo by Clare Conboy, ICAN)

Share

MAC staff's video message on victim assistance in nuclear ban treaty

 

Share

Big win for our colleagues in Trinidad and Tobago

For the past few years, MAC has partnered with the University of Ottawa to send students to Trinidad and Tobago for internships with our colleagues the Women's Institute for Alternative Development (WINAD). In addition to supporting WINAD's work on the Convention on Cluster Munitions and other humanitarian disarmament issues, the students helped with a campaign to end child marriage.

Our Young Professionals (as we call our interns) were there when WINAD first raised the issue with the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago while others continued to work on the campaign after their internship was finished. You can read WINAD's arguments for raising the age of marriage to 18 in Trinidad and Tobago here

Recently those Young Professionals saw their work pay off. Within a year of launching a new campaign in which WINAD coordinated the work of 26 NGOs, new legislation was passed and assented to making the minimum age of marriage 18.

We are very pleased our Young Professionals were able to contribute to such important work and continue to be grateful that we are able to work with such committed and effective campaigners in Trinidad and Tobago and around the world.  

 

 

Share

MAC Statement on the Nuclear Ban Treaty

Mines Action Canada's Statement to the Nuclear Ban Treaty Negotiations Delivered by Erin Hunt, Program Coordinator

Thank you madam President. We are encouraged by the draft text’s inclusion of positive obligations and by the depth of debate on this topic.
With regards to assistance to affected individuals it is important that this treaty furthers existing norms and obligations and does not undermine them. There is no reason that victims of nuclear weapons use or testing should have fewer rights or less access to services than victims of other indiscriminate weapons. For that reason, we support Switzerland’s proposal about adding guidance for the implementation of victim assistance to the article.
It is important to note that assistance to victims is seen as the responsibility of all states not just those in “a position to do so” so we support removing that qualifier from Article 6(1) as suggested by many states.
Remember this international legal agreement does not create any new victims – states have existing obligations to those citizens. It does though formalize the need and right for international assistance and experience with other treaties has shown that victim assistance provisions can help states better organize their activities to be more effective and efficient. By requiring data collection, as well as national plans and policies, victim assistance provisions facilitate requests for assistance internationally and ensure that services are provided effectively allowing states to meet their existing obligations to their citizens.
Turning now to Article 6(2). While the draft treaty text references environmental remediation, it merely establishes a right to seek and receive assistance. The language should be amended to make clear that states parties have an obligation to take necessary and appropriate measures to ensure remediation of contaminated areas under their jurisdiction or control.
To promote the effective implementation of this obligation, the treaty should also require specific remediation measures, such as assessment and identification of contaminated areas, removal or containment of contaminated materials, and risk reduction education. These proposed amendments to draft Article 6 draw heavily from precedent in past disarmament treaties.
Primary responsibility for environmental remediation, like victim assistance, should rest with affected states, which are best situated to coordinate implementation in their sovereign territory. But international assistance would be available and Article 6 could also include language strongly encouraging states that have used and tested nuclear weapons to provide remediation assistance to affected states.
A separate article requiring all states parties to provide international cooperation and assistance would help affected states parties meet their victim assistance and environmental remediation obligations and ensure they do not bear an undue burden. None of these proposed changes to the draft treaty text would preclude affected states from seeking redress through peaceful means from states that have used or tested nuclear weapons.
Through the implementation of these strong provisions on positive obligations, the convention will contribute to the sustainable development goals and the realization of a number of other international agreements and goals. Strong provisions regarding positive obligations are the duty of all of humanity not just specific states.
There is nothing in these provisions, even amended as suggested, that prevents an affected state from seeking redress, through other peaceful means, from user and tester states. I encourage states to review NGO working papers 14, 24, 32 and 33. Thank you.

Share

Applying Lessons Learned

Our humanitarian disarmament partners in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) are currently working hard at the United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.

In a process inspired by the Ottawa Process banning landmines, states with support from civil society and international organizations are negotiating a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons from 15 June to 7 July 2017.  

After 20 years of work on the Ottawa Treaty and other efforts to address the humanitarian impact of indiscriminate weapons, we have learned a lot and have a lot of experience we are sharing with our colleagues. In that spirit Mines Action Canada has drafted three documents for states to review during their negotiations. 

First, we submitted a new Working Paper to the negotiating conference. Our paper on The Disproportionate Impact of Nuclear Weapons Detonations on Indigenous Communities is available on the United Nations website. It follows on some themes from our Working Paper submitted with ICAN to the March session of negotiations.

Second, we have a new Frequently Asked Questions document about victim assistance in the draft treaty text. This FAQ aims to help states and civil society ensure that the provisions regarding assistance to affected persons in the final treaty support existing norms around victim assistance. 

Third, we co-published a paper on sustainable development and the draft text of the treaty with the International Disarmament Institute at Pace University. The paper is also available in French. Our work has shown that indiscriminate weapons are lethal barriers to development.

MAC staff will be attending the negotiations and speaking at a briefing event on positive obligations in the treaty on Wednesday June 21, 2017 to further outline lessons learned from previous disarmament treaties. For more on the negotiations please visit ICAN's website at www.nuclearban.org and follow the hashtag #nuclearban on social media.

 

Share

1  2  3  4  5  Next →