Fortieth Ratification Sets Clock for Ottawa Treaty's Entry Into Force

Sidebar Accompanying the Print Publication: The Road to 40: Ottawa Convention Ratifiers

THE OTTAWA CONVENTION banning the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines (APLs) will enter into force on March 1, 1999 after Burkina Faso, on September 16, became the 40th state to ratify the treaty. Entry into force is expected to take place without signature by China, Russia and the United States, all of which continue to use landmines. Washington has pledged to sign the treaty by 2006 if by that date it can identify and field "suitable alternatives" to its APLs and mixed anti-tank systems (combination of anti-vehicle and anti-personnel devices). For each state ratifying after Burkina Faso, five by the end of September, the treaty will enter into force six months after its date of ratification.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy hailed the 40th ratification triggering entry into force as a "significant step toward a world free of anti-personnel landmines." At the same time, however, widespread reports continued of landmines being planted in Kosovo, the embattled province of Yugoslavia (an Ottawa non-signatory).

In addition, Ken Rutherford, co-founder of the Landmine Survivors Network, expressed concern about reports of new landmines being laid in the treaty signatories of Angola, Cambodia, Senegal and Sudan. Once treaty provisions become legally binding, states-parties will be responsible for identifying and resolving compliance concerns as the treaty did not create any implementing or monitoring body.

Entry into force will require each state-party within six months, and annually thereafter, to report to the UN Secretary-General its total APL stockpiles (type and quantity), the location of all mined areas, the status of APL destruction programs and the technical characteristics of all APLs it produced. Countries must also include information on landmines retained for mine clearance training.

Stockpiled APLs are to be destroyed within four years of entry into force and all APLs, including those currently planted, are to be destroyed within ten years, although states-parties may request a renewable, ten-year extension. Whether heavily mined states can meet destruction deadlines will depend on operation of Article 6, which calls on states-parties that are "in a position to do so" to provide assistance to other states-parties in mine clearance and destruction.

Of the 12 states identified by the U.S. Department of State's 1998 report, Hidden Killers, as accounting for almost 50 percent of the landmines deployed in the world—Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Croatia, Eritrea, Iraq, Mozambique, Namibia, Nicaragua, Somalia and Sudan—only Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Mozambique and Namibia have signed and ratified the treaty. Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq and Somalia are not among the 132 signatories.

While the United States will likely remain outside the treaty until 2006, the U.S. Senate, led by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), passed the 1999 Defense Appropriations Bill on September 29, providing $18.5 million to seek APL and mixed-system alternatives and more than $52 million for demining programs. (Since November 1994, the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Clearance has received payment or pledges of $49.5 million from 37 governments, including Washington, and other sources.) The bill is expected to be signed by President Clinton.

In addition to funding demining activities, Washington will continue efforts in 1999 to negotiate an APL transfer ban at the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD), where Russia and China are among the 61 members. Because decisions are made by consensus within the conference, other Ottawa non-signatories that are CD members, including Egypt, India, Iran, Pakistan and Syria, must not object for the negotiations to get underway. Moreover, some Ottawa signatories at the CD have warned they will withdraw from any talks if it appears that more than a transfer ban is being negotiated or that the Ottawa Convention is being undermined.

The first annual meeting of Ottawa states-parties is scheduled for May 3–7, 1999 in Maputo, Mozambique. The first review conference will take place on the fifth anniversary of the treaty's entry into force.