Disarmament isn't always dark: My experience at Mines Action Canada

I have been working with Mines Action Canada since January and today is already my last day as an intern here. My study abroad year has come to an end and next week I leave Canada and from September I will be finishing my undergraduate degree in political science at the University of Leeds.

As an intern at Mines Action Canada I learned a lot about a field that previously I was not very familiar with. While the focus area of Mines Action Canada may not seem very uplifting with its focus on explosive weapons and landmines, I was happy to discover that while there is still a lot of work to be done, it is important to remember that so much progress has already been made.

Unfortunately it is human nature to focus more so on the negative than the positive, but having worked here I have realised that there is much to be celebrated in regard to disarmament and the use of explosive weaponry. For example, more and more countries are joining the landmine treaty, countries are co-operating in order to stop the future use of autonomous weapons or “killer robots” and an ever increasing number of countries are finally being deemed as “mine-free” after decades of conflict left them as extremely dangerous places to live.

Working here also taught me how rewarding it is to be involved in humanitarian work, even in the small way that I became involved. I think many people become disillusioned when they read about such huge issues as landmine contamination or the use of improvised explosive devices; however working with Mines Action Canada has shown me that there is a multitude of ways that anyone can become involved and try to make a difference.

I have not made firm plans as to what I would like to do post-graduation, but working at Mines Action Canada has definitely opened my eyes to the world of humanitarian work and so this field is definitely something that I would consider.

Claudia Pearson is an undergraduate student from the University of Leeds studying abroad at the University of Ottawa. 

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International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action

On December 8th 2005, the United Nations General Assembly declared April 4th the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness on mine action and remind the population of the danger that landmines pose all over the world. It is also an opportunity to highlight all the exceptional work that mine action personnel and advocacy groups do around the world; and to point out that dealing with explosive hazards are only one aspect of mine action work. It is also a moment for the United Nation to reaffirm its partnership with states, non-states actors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) to eradicate all anti-personnel landmines across the globe. This year the ICBL is using the slogan: “Finish the Job 2025” and the United Nations official theme of International Mine Action Day is “Mine action is humanitarian action”. Let’s look at both of those themes.

Finish the Job 2025
In 2014, capitalizing on the momentum provided by the Third Review Conference of the Ottawa Treaty in Maputo, the ICBL challenged the international community to fulfill the promises of the Treaty and to realize a mine free world by 2025. The states present at the Review Conference adopted the Maputo Declaration which set the same goal.

The Ottawa Treaty or as it is often called, the Mine Ban Treaty, was signed in Ottawa in 1997 and entered into law in 1999. It is one of the world's most endorsed treaties. Over 80% of world's countries have committed to it. This universalization of the treaty helps reinforce the stigma now associated with the use of landmines; and this tactic is obviously working. To see the success in action we looked at Landmine Monitor 2005 which identified 6,521 new landmine/UXO casualties in calendar year 2004. The Landmine Monitor 2015 identified 3,678 new casualties in calendar year 2014, the second lowest number of casualties since 1999. The drop in casualties alone between 2005 and 2015 is worth celebrating but there are more successes that show it is possible to Finish the Job by 2025.

In the year the Ottawa Treaty became binding international law, there were 45 states parties. Fifteen years later, we have 162 states parties and Sri Lanka has announced they will soon be #163.

Finish the Job 2025 calls for complete worldwide mine clearance by 2025. An ambitious objective, even by NGO standards, but the ICBL strongly believe that with political determination and commitment from the mine ban community, the States Parties of the Mine Ban Treaty are more than capable of fulfilling their obligations within the next decade. As you noted above, the Ottawa Treaty has made excellent progress over the past ten years and we hope to see similar progress over the next ten. The International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action provides an excellent opportunity for the international community to stress to decisions makers the important of fulfilling that objective. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared: "Eliminating the threat of mines and explosive remnants of war is a crucially important endeavour that advances peace, enables development, supports nations in transition and saves lives.”

Mine action is humanitarian action
Mine action is not only about the danger of dealing with explosives, more importantly it is about providing hope and a chance at a better life to thousands of civilians. As the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon affirmed:
“...mine action programmes make an invaluable contribution to post-conflict recovery, humanitarian relief efforts, peace operations and development initiatives. They prevent landmines and other explosive ordnance from causing further indiscriminate harm long after conflicts have ended, and help to transform danger zones into productive land. Mine action sets communities on course toward lasting stability.”

Contamination by landmines and explosive remnants of war prevent civilians from accessing basic necessities such as drinking water. Contaminated lands and farms cripple development of agriculture exacerbating poverty. Thanks to landmine clearance and the hard work of mine action personnel, now communities in the Battambang province in Cambodia can grow produce on their farms and sell them to local markets; while the city of Bentiu in South Sudan now have access to safe drinking water since the local borehole has been cleared of explosive remnants of war.

Mine action also plays a crucial role in relief efforts. For example, in 2014, the World Food Program initiated a project to build a road in South Sudan so that humanitarian assistance could be delivered by road to villages affected by the ongoing conflict. It is estimated that approximately 2.5 millions of South Sudanese were in need of food assistance at that time. However, during the first few days of the project, a bulldozer hit a anti-tank mine. The project had to be suspended while the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) cleared the area of remaining explosive hazards. The team cleared close to 27,000 km of road, allowing vital humanitarian assistance to reach those in need; saving countless lives.

The work that mine action staff do has a concrete and direct impact on the lives of millions of civilians affected by conflict. Every day, countless lives are saved and changed for the better by mine action whether is clearance of land, risk education, assistance to victims or advocacy. One can only hope that in the near future the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action be a day of remembrance of what used to be.

Jean-Philippe Lambert Ste Marie is an undergraduate student at the University of Ottawa and a Mines Action Canada research assistant.

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Mine Action is Humanitarian Action

Next Tuesday, April 4th, is the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, as declared by the UN General Assembly in December 2005.

The theme chosen this year is “Mine action is humanitarian action.”

Significant progress has been made since this day was first established, with multiple organisations and governments showing an increased effort to deal with this problem quickly and efficiently.

In fact, today, 162 states are now party to the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines and in 2014 international support for mine action reached $416.8 million (US).

However, while this is a considerable achievement, there remains a significant amount of work to be done. Every day an estimated 10 people are killed or injured by landmines or explosive remnants of war.

Further, there remain 35 countries outside of the Ottawa Teaty and 60 states and areas which are still contaminated by landmines or explosive remnants of war. This means that in 60 areas around the world parents are frightened to send their children to school, people put themselves at risk daily simply by leaving their homes and many people struggle to rebuild their lives after surviving a landmine incident. Just yesterday, three Syrian boys were killed by a landmine they thought was a toy. 

In light of this, the issue of landmine and explosive weapons contamination must be addressed through a humanitarian lens, because it is individual people who must face the very real danger of having their lives, or the life of a family member cut tragically short as a result of wars and conflict that they themselves had nothing to do with. With April 4th fast approaching, we have another opportunity to recommit ourselves to ending the suffering caused by landmines and to remind the international community that mine action is humanitarian action.

Claudia Pearson is an undergraduate student at the University of Leeds currently on exchange at the University of Ottawa.

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Sri Lanka Decides to Ban Landmines

On 3 March 2016, the Sri Lankan government finally approved accession to the Ottawa Treaty, which bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines. Sri Lanka will soon be the 163rd state party to the Mine Ban Treaty, as it is also known.  

Deputy Foreign Minister Harsha de Silva stated, “We decided to sign the Ottawa Convention because we have no intention of going to war again.

Sri Lanka’s ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty is a significant step that should greatly accelerate the process of mine clearance. Now, neither the government, nor any non-state actors, can exacerbate the problem any further.

Ambassador Aryasinha, the Sri Lankan representative to the United Nations speaking at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on March 2, announced that the government wishes Sri Lanka to be a mine free country by the year 2020, and that a strategic plan is currently in the making to achieve this goal.

The Extent of Contamination in Sri Lanka

Three decades of armed conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tamil Tigers left behind extensive mine and ERW contamination. The conflict came to an end in 2009, by which time it is estimated that approximately 300,000 people had been displaced.

Following the war, almost 2,064 acres of land had been contaminated and were in urgent need of clearance before displaced persons could return to their homes.

While the government decided only days ago to ratify the Mine Ban Treaty, work has been underway for some time to combat the issue of contamination. For example, in July 2010, a National Mine Action Centre was created. It has become the government's lead agency in national demining efforts. 

Furthermore, it was reported that in 2014, a number of NGOs conducted demining activities in Sri Lanka. This included a Sri Lankan non-profit, Delvon Assistance for Social Harmony (DASH), as well as two international NGOs – the Halo Trust, and Mines Advisory Group (MAG).

The work of these various organisations has had a significant impact, and as of December 2015, 2,000 acres of land had been cleared.

With the combination of the Sri Lankan government’s acceptance of the Mine Ban Treaty, and the significant progress that has already been made in terms of clearance, it seems extremely likely that by 2020, Sri Lanka will achieve its goal of being a mine free country.

Mines Action Canada welcomes this decision by the Sri Lankan government and thanks our colleagues in the Sri Lankan Campaign to Ban Landmines for their years of hard work to make this a reality.

This post is the first in a series by MAC student interns.

Claudia Pearson is an undergraduate student at University of Leeds currently on exchange in Ottawa.

 

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Canada Recommits to a Mine-Free World while Sri Lanka approves accession to Ottawa Treaty

Mines Action Canada welcomes today’s statement by the Honourable Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs that recommitted Canada to achieving a mine-free world by 2025 and expressed support for the universalization of the treaty banning landmines.  Minister Dion called on states to summon the same courage that landmine survivors demonstrate daily in order to achieve the goal of a world without landmines by 2025. Minister Dion made the statement in Geneva at the First International Pledging Conference of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. Commonly known as the Ottawa Treaty it bans the use, transfer, production and stockpiling of anti-personnel landmines.

“More than 80% of the world’s states belong to the Ottawa Treaty and more than 49 million mines have been destroyed by landmines because of the treaty” said Paul Hannon, Executive Director of Mines Action Canada. “This life-saving treaty is working, but much work remains. We are pleased to see the Government engaged again at such a high level. Canada’s leadership is very important”

The Pledging Conference was organized by Chile which currently holds the Presidency of the treaty. Minister Dion appeared on a high-level panel with former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan; Peter Maurer, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross; the Foreign Ministers of Chile and Colombia; as well as, Ms. Tammy Hall, a Canadian who is Head of Demining of the Danish Demining Group and Mr. Firoz Alizada, Campaigns and Communications Manager of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

This statement comes one day after the 17th anniversary of the Ottawa Treaty becoming international law. Over the past 17 years, the Ottawa Treaty has resulted in a dramatic drop in number of new casualties, nearly 30 affected countries have become free from the scourge of landmines, and the stigma on landmines continues to hold strong. With this statement, Minister Dion reaffirms Canada’s dedication and leadership in implementing the steps necessary to realize a mine-free world by 2025.

The Minister’s statement was not the only big news of the Pledging Conference.  The Sri Lankan Ambassador announced that Sri Lanka’s cabinet approved accession to the Ottawa Treaty this morning meaning that Sri Lanka will be to acceding to the treaty before the end of the year. With this exciting announcement, Sri Lanka will soon be the 163rd State Party to the Ottawa Treaty.

“Mines Action Canada looks forward to welcoming Sri Lanka to the Mine Ban Treaty.  As a mine-affected country, Sri Lanka knows all too well the humanitarian harm caused by these horrific weapons,” said Erin Hunt, Program Coordinator.  “Sri Lanka’s announcement is another step towards a mine-free world and should serve as a call to neighbouring states that it is time to ban landmines.” 

The Pledging Conference also saw strong statements and funding announcements by Australia, Cambodia, Finland, Jordan, Thailand, and more than 25 other states. Mines Action Canada looks forward to working with the Government of Canada and partners around the world in achieving a world without landmines.

 

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Others' refusal no reason not to ban nukes

For Canadians working on nuclear disarmament, the CBC headline “Anti-nuclear weapon effort to be spearheaded by Canada's UN ambassador” appeared to give a reason to be hopeful. 

We’re at a crucial moment in the movement to eliminate nuclear weapons. Civil society is calling for a treaty banning nuclear weapons and many states agree. Over 120 states have pledged to “fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.” This year the international diplomatic community is starting a new Open-Ended Working Group at the United Nations “to substantively address concrete effective legal measures, legal provisions and norms that would need to be concluded to attain and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.” The Open-Ended Working Group is an opportunity for states to start talking about a new legal instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately any hope provided by the headline quickly evaporated when the reader realized that the anti-nuclear weapon effort discussed was not one of these exciting developments towards a ban on nuclear weapons. In fact, the article goes on to say:

“Another memo to Trudeau stresses that Canada views progress to a total ban on nuclear weapons — the yet unattainable Nuclear Weapons Convention — to be "not politically feasible" because some of the states that have those weapons refuse to negotiate.”

Not only is this sentence disappointing, it is also untrue and the Canadian government should know that better than anyone. To say that a ban on nuclear weapons is “not politically feasible” because some possessor states won’t negotiate overlooks our own history.  Twenty years ago, Canada led an international process to ban an indiscriminate weapon despite the fact that some of the states that had those weapons refused to negotiate. That weapon was anti-personnel landmine and the Ottawa Treaty has resulted in huge declines in annual casualties, tens of millions of stockpiled landmines being destroyed and in entire countries being cleared of these lethal barriers to development. We, at Mines Action Canada, constantly see the impact of this treaty even though a few states that have landmines remain outside it.  

Foreign Minister Axworthy signs the Ottawa Treaty in 1997

Since the treaty was signed in Ottawa, states that originally refused to participate have joined and the norm against landmines has grown stronger. The vast majority of states that still remain outside the treaty abide by the norm created and the spirit of the Ottawa Treaty.  With enough states participating, the norm created by a ban treaty becomes hard to ignore and the norm against landmines started with fewer states than have currently pledged to close the legal gap for the prohibition of nuclear weapons.

Banning nuclear weapons may actually be more politically feasible than a ban on landmines was twenty years ago because the elimination of nuclear weapons is a widely accepted international goal unlike the elimination of landmines at the time and only nine states have nuclear weapons whereas at the time of the Ottawa Treaty negotiations almost all militaries had landmines in their arsenals. The majority of the world is ready to take the next step towards nuclear disarmament, why won’t Canada join them?

Canada needs to learn from its own landmine experience and take on a leadership role in banning nuclear weapons with whoever will negotiate. With nuclear armed states modernizing their arsenals rather than moving towards disarmament, it is time for responsible states to lead the way. We have done it once, it’s time to do it again

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MAC promotes youth engagement in disarmament

Mines Action Canada's Program Coordinator, Erin Hunt, spoke at a briefing during the United Nations' General Assembly 1st Committee on engaging youth in nuclear disarmament.

Here is the text of her remarks:

Thank you for the kind introduction Anna. As mentioned, I work with Mines Action Canada. We, at MAC, have a long history of working with youth in disarmament issues.

While we work mostly on landmines and cluster munitions, I have had the honour of working with SGI, PAX, Reaching Critical Will, ICAN, and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation on the International Youth Summit. Matt will talk more about the Summit and Youth Pledge but I would like to take a few minutes to share some reflections on youth engagement in nuclear disarmament and how we as civil society, states and the United Nations can foster more youth involvement.

Youth make up 25% of the global population and that figure is growing. Today’s youth are or will quickly be the ones sitting here in the United Nations and the ones making decisions back in capitals. At the moment, youth are often outside these discussions on nuclear disarmament but they have much to contribute to our work here. Youth have fresh energy and ideas that may help break the log jams slowing disarmament. As digital natives, youth are not only up to date with the changing world but they are the ones building it. Young people are the ones designing how we interact and how information is shared through technology. For example, the founders of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter were all youth at the time of their launch. In this rapidly changing and increasingly connected world, governments are working to become more open and to engage their citizens directly – two things the next generation expect from their leaders.

If we miss out on including the next generation, the world will be much poorer. Youth have expertise. Expertise that can contribute to achieving our shared goal of the abolition of nuclear weapons. Please do not confuse youth with inexperience or lack of expertise. Youth already involved in nuclear disarmament are usually passionate, and highly educated on the topic. In my experience, youth campaigners seek out knowledge to counter the tendency to dismiss young people as naïve and ill-informed. Once youth are involved, they often stay involved. For example, when I aged out of the youth category I had been involved in some type of disarmament advocacy for almost 11 years; I’ve met other youth who have been working on nuclear weapon issues since they were in high school or younger especially amongst impacted communities. Youth who are interested in health, human rights, the environment, disaster management and of course, international affairs can apply their expertise and contribute to nuclear disarmament.

For youth who want to become in engaged, the humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons provides a less intimidating entry point. The threats that nuclear weapons pose to humanity and this planet are concepts that outsiders can understand without intensive education in security studies and cold war politics. The widespread involvement of civil society in the humanitarian initiative gives youth more opportunities to participate. Anyone who was in Oslo, Narayrit or Vienna could see that there were more youth there than you would see at a meeting here, at the NPT or at the Conference on Disarmament.

For the most part, getting young people interested in the issue is actually the easy part. Despite the “slacktivist” stereotype, youth want to contribute meaningfully to change. Youth want to see results so keeping youth engaged is more difficult and much of that has to do with how work on nuclear disarmament is done. That means we, as a disarmament community, need to examine our methods of work - as we currently operate it is difficult for youth to create change.

As civil society, we need to ensure that our new members, including (but not limited to) youth, have the opportunity to learn the information and the skills that will allow them to contribute. Perhaps that means a day or two of briefing prior to full participation in a prep-com or a meeting of states parties or maybe that is a mentorship program pairing new campaigners with experienced campaigners. We’ve had great success with a combination of mentorship and pre-event introductory briefings at landmine and cluster munitions meetings. Youth have learned quickly and contributed to the campaign’s work while also gaining experience that helps them stand out when they entering the workforce. In preparation for today, I surveyed some leading youth campaigners and mentorship was identified as the most important factor in keeping them active on the issues. Campaigners who got their international advocacy start with a combination of training and mentorship are now delivering statements on behalf of the campaigns and mentoring the next generation of campaigners in their countries

Civil society is not alone in needing to take action to ensure that youth can contribute meaningfully to disarmament work. States and the United Nations have a role as well. Very little about nuclear disarmament discussions at the international level is youth friendly. Traditional disarmament forums lack space for youth. Instead, these forums are characterized by limited civil society engagement, diplo-speak and jargon, technical explanations and almost incomprehensible machinery moving at a glacial pace. Since most of these structures and processes have decades or century old roots I don’t expect massive changes overnight to allow for more youth involvement, but there are some things that can be done now.
Civil society participation can be increased in all disarmament forums – this really shouldn’t be a controversial suggestion. At the national level, parliamentarians and other decision makers can increase their availability to young people in person and online. Youth representatives can be included in government delegations internationally – we see this in other areas of international work but not as much in disarmament. Digital diplomacy is a good tool for increasing youth access to disarmament forums. Funding can be provided to allow youth to take part in disarmament activities be it 1st committee, the NPT or meetings outside the UN system as full participants – that might need to include training or briefing costs as well as the cost of actually being at the meeting (disarmament tends to happen in expensive cities that are out of reach for many young people). In my experience, youth engagement projects like thata have a large impact for a very small resource investment. These small changes to how disarmament is done may help open space for young people to get involved and to contribute to nuclear abolition.

Changes will need to be made to how nuclear disarmament is done not only to facilitate youth engagement but also to help adapt nuclear disarmament discussions to the 21st century. In many ways disarmament and international security discussions have not kept pace with changing society. Youth seem to be embracing the idea of our shared humanity – the world needs to change because it doesn’t reflect our shared humanity. Youth want to see more diversity among decision-makers and have more access to those decision-makers. A generation raised with limitless access to information and instant global communication expect to be able to know what is going on as it happens and to be able to communicate directly with decision makers. The idea that decisions about weapons that could eliminate all life on the planet are being made behind closed doors without consultation with the next generation does not fit into the globalized, connected, open, transparent and humane world youth are building. We are going to have to change how this work is done or the next generation will simply bypass what they see as outdated models of working in favour of new forums and ways of working that include them and their values.

As you will hear from Matt, youth around the world are taking action in pursuit of nuclear disarmament and ready to contribute more. With youth making up 25% of the global population and growing, we can’t afford to keep youth out of the conversation.

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Election 2015 and Humanitarian Disarmament

Canada's 2015 election campaign is the longest in over 100 years and it is shaping up to be an incredibly close race. With the election less than a month away, Mines Action Canada is please to share information on the national parties' disarmament policies. 

In June 2015, we sent the four national parties (Conservative Party, Green Party, Liberal Party and New Democratic Party) a survey covering humanitarian disarmament topics from landmines to the Arms Trade Treaty and from toxic remnants of war to nuclear weapons. As of September 21, we received responses from three of the parties. 

With assistance from international experts on each of these topics, we are pleased to provide you with a brief analysis of each response to assist you in making your decision for October 19th. MAC does not endorse any one party as each party's positions on humanitarian disarmament issues have strengths and weaknesses. Overall, we would have liked to see stronger commitments to fund disarmament work and more concrete examples of how policies would be put into practice. 

Before we get into any analysis of the parties' positions, here are the full answers as provided to Mines Action Canada in alphabetical order:

Should the Conservative Party provide answers before the election this page will be updated.

Thank you to Amelie Chayer, ICBL-CMC; Anna Macdonald, Control Arms; Daniel Hogsta, ICAN; Mary Wareham, Human Rights Watch; Kimberly Brown, Save the Children; Richard Moyes and Thomas Nash, Article 36; Rob Perkins, Action on Armed Violence; Wim Zwijnenburg, PAX; Doug Weir, Toxic Remnants of War Project, and Rosella Chibambo, Nobel Women’s Initiative, for their assistance analyzing the parties' responses.

While Mines Action Canada is happy to provide this resource free of charge, please consider making a donation to support our work.

 

 

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Hidden victims of explosive weapons in populated areas

This week something incredibly important is happening in Vienna. The Government of Austria and UNOCHA have invited some states, international organizations and civil society to a two day meeting aimed at addressing harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Our colleagues at the International Network on Explosive Weapons have the details in the Network's most recent bulletin and press release.

Although Mines Action Canada couldn't be in Vienna, we have released a new paper to contribute to the discussion. Our paper Hidden Victims: Additional Humanitarian Consequences of Explosive Weapons Use explores the less obvious humanitarian impacts of explosive weapons used in populated areas. We go beyond the initial casualty count to look for long term humanitarian harm.

Read the paper here.

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Croatian minefields threaten refugees

After Hungary closed its border to refugees, there have been reports that refugees are starting to seek a new route to safety through Croatia.

After escaping cluster munitions, barrel bombs, shelling, suicide bombings and long term conflict, minefields left over from the 1990s threaten the refugees. 

Before we talk more about this issue, some landmine safety notes for anyone travelling through Croatia (Google translated into Arabic).

- Stay on roads (البقاء على الطرق)

- The UN has a mine risk education app (وللامم المتحدة التطبيق للتوعية بمخاطر الألغام)

- Pay attention to warning signs (إيلاء الاهتمام لعلامات التحذير)

- Visit the Croatian Mine Action Centre map website to see where minefields could be located (زيارة الموقع مركز للأعمال المتعلقة بالألغام الكرواتي لنرى أين يمكن أن تقع حقول الألغام): https://misportal.hcr.hr/HCRweb/faces/simple/Map.jspx.

- Learn more about the landmine situation in Croatia (تعلم المزيد عن حالة الألغام الأرضية في كرواتيا): http://www.hcr.hr/en/minSituac.asp and the Landmine Monitor.

- The Croatian Mine Action Centre appeals to all citizens and travellers (مركز مكافحة الألغام الكرواتية تناشد جميع المواطنين والمسافرين):

  • DO NOT ENTER MINE SUSPECTED AREAS
  • ADHERE TO MINE WARNING SIGNS
  • DO NOT REMOVE MINE WARNING SIGNS – BE RESPONSIBLE TOWARDS OTHER PEOPLE
  • DO NOT TOUCH UNKNOWN OBJECTS AND EXPLOSIVE REMNANTS OF WAR
  • MARK THE LOCATION OF MINE AND UXO DETECTION AND INFORM THE POLICE; CALL 192
  • INFORM THE URGENT ASSISTANCE SYSTEM AT 112
  • AVOID RISKY BEHAVIOUR – CALL FOR HELP
  • LEAVE DEMINING TO EXPERTS!
  • لا تدخل لغم أرضي المناطق المشتبه
  • تلتزم شركتى علامات التحذير
  • لا تزيل الألغام الأرضية علامات التحذير - يكون مسؤولا تجاه الآخرين
  • لا تمس أجسام مجهولة والمتفجرات من مخلفات الحرب
  • تشير إلى موقع الألغام الأرضية والذخائر غير المنفجرة الكشف وإبلاغ الشرطة. استدعاء 192
  • إعلام النظام إلى مساعدة عاجلة في 112
  • تجنب السلوك المحفوف بالمخاطر - طلب المساعدة
  • اترك إزالة الألغام للخبراء!)

Croatia is not the only place where landmines threaten refugees as they attempt to find safety. To make things easier, we will focus on the impact of landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) on Syrian refugees but the Landmine Monitor has a factsheet on landmines/ERW, refugees and displacement that covers the issue globally.

The border between Turkey and Syria has large minefields which have caused numerous casualties among those fleeing Syria. There are reports of displaced persons living in the minefield between Turkey and Syria. Refugees in Iraq and Lebanon face threats from landmine and ERW as well. Recently, we have heard reports of Syrian refugees being killed and  injured by cluster munitions in Lebanon

While solving some of the conflicts that are driving the current refugee crisis may be slow and incredibly difficult, we can make the road to safety much more secure. A priority must be to fund mine clearance along borders and near refugee camps and settlements. Today Croatia started moving mine clearance teams to the borders to help prevent casualties. Funding this sort of emergency clearance operations is something Canada should be doing - it is an effective way of saving lives and helping live up to our obligations under the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines. No one should risk death or disability as they seek safety. In addition, emergency risk education is ongoing among refugee communities but it could be scaled up dramatically with increased funding. 

There is no debate that clearing minefields can save the lives of refugees now and into the future. It must be a priority. 

 Map from the Croatian Mine Action Centre of mine fields near the Serbian border.

border_minefields_2.png

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