Ottawa Convention States-Parties Hold First Conference; U.S. Attends

Wade Boese

AT THE FIRST meeting of the states-parties to the Ottawa Convention banning the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines (APLs), representatives of 96 signatories met to start putting the convention, which entered into force on March 1, into practice. While states-parties were unable to resolve a number of cases of alleged non-compliance at the May 3-7 meeting in Maputo, Mozambique, participants did agree on a common format for annual country reports and a future work program. Delegations from 13 non-signatory states, including the United States and China, also attended the meeting.

Opened for signature in December 1997, the convention, now ratified by 81 states, requires states-parties to destroy stockpiled APLs within four years and all APLs, even those planted, within 10 years. States can request a renewable, 10-year extension to complete the task, and may retain a small APL stockpile for demining research and training. Annual reports detailing characteristics, location, quantities and types of stockpiled and planted mines, as well as the status of destruction programs, are also mandated.

In a May 7 final declaration, states-parties and signatories reaffirmed their "unwavering commitment to the total eradication" of APLs. Addressing charges that three treaty signatories—Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal—were continuing to use landmines, the declaration called on all 135 signatories to "respect and implement your commitments." Senegal (a state-party) denied the accusations, but Angola (which has not yet ratified) said that it would continue to use APLs in its on-going civil war.

Though the convention lists a series of steps to investigate suspected non-compliance, there is no mechanism to enforce compliance and no mandated action for treaty violations. The first step in initiating an inquiry into suspected non-compliance, a "request for clarification," has yet to be submitted by any party regarding the three accused countries.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette, in a May 3 press conference, emphasized that states-parties had to determine how to make signatories respect their obligations. The Maputo declaration cautioned, however, that "assistance and cooperation will flow primarily to those who have forsworn the use of these weapons forever through adherence to and implementation of the Convention." A senior Canadian official involved with the landmines issues said that the goal is not to further penalize countries suffering from landmines, but to change country behavior through engagement.

In Maputo, the states-parties agreed on a common format for the treaty's annual reports and to make them public. The participating delegations also set out a work program for meetings of so-called Standing Committees of Experts on mine clearance; victim assistance and mine awareness; stockpile destruction; technologies for mine action and the general status and operation of the convention. These meetings, which will take place prior to the next states-parties meeting September 11-15, 2000, will be open to signatories, non-signatories, non-governmental organizations and demining organizations.

Sensitive to criticism that the Ottawa Convention has resulted in more talk than action, the Canadian official said that "every effort is being made to ensure that money is making its way into the field rather than meetings." Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy, in a May 3 address to the Maputo conference, noted that since the Ottawa process started in 1996, 20 countries have destroyed 14 million stockpiled landmines and that at the convention's signing more than a half billion dollars for mine action was pledged.

The United States at Maputo

While opting not to attend Maputo as an observer, Washington participated as a special guest of Mozambique. Under the convention, signatories and observers are apportioned a share of meeting costs based on the UN scale of assessment, which would have resulted in an estimated bill of approximately $400,000 for the United States.

In a speech read to the meeting, President Clinton reiterated U.S. pledges to end the use of all APLs outside Korea by 2003 and to sign the convention by 2006 if Washington successfully identifies and fields suitable alternatives to its APLs and mixed anti-tank systems (combinations of anti-vehicle and anti-personnel devices). Current U.S. landmine stockpiles consist of 1 million mixed anti-tank systems; 9 million self-destructing APLs; and another 1 million non-self-destructing APLs that are retained for Korea, being withdrawn from Cuba or required for training purposes.

Clinton's prepared speech also noted that Washington plans to dedicate $100 million to humanitarian demining activities in 2000 on top of the more than $300 million spent on demining activities in over 30 countries since 1993.