|Banning Anti-Personnel Mines - The Ottawa Treaty Explained (International Committee of the Red Cross , 1998, 24 p.)|
|1. The landmine problem and progress towards a ban treaty|
The Canadian-sponsored strategy conference, Towards a Global Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines, took place in Ottawa in October 1996 with the active support of 50 governments, the ICRC, the ICBL and the United Nations. On 5 October 1996, the conference adopted the Ottawa Declaration, which committed the participants to carrying out a plan of action intended to increase resources for mine clearance and victim assistance and to working to ensure that a ban treaty was concluded at the earliest possible date. At the closing of this Conference, the Canadian government once again seized the initiative by inviting all governments to come to Ottawa in December 1997 to sign a treaty prohibiting the production, stockpiling, transfer and use of antipersonnel mines. The Ottawa process had been officially launched.
International support for a ban on landmines continued to build. In December 1996, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 51/45S, which called upon all countries to conclude a new international agreement totally prohibiting anti-personnel mines as soon as possible. A total of 157 countries voted in favour of this resolution, none opposed it, and only 10 abstained from the voting. To support the Ottawa process, the Austrian government prepared a draft text of the ban treaty and circulated it to interested governments and organizations. This draft, which was subsequently revised a number of times, was the basis of the ban treaty concluded in Oslo in September 1997.
International discussion on the draft text began in Vienna in February 1997 at a meeting hosted by the Austrian government. In its address to the meeting, the ICRC called for a comprehensive ban treaty based on an unambiguous definition of an anti-personnel mine. In April 1997, the German government hosted a special meeting to discuss possible verification measures to be included in a total ban treaty. Views were divided between those who stressed the central importance of establishing a humanitarian norm against anti-personnel mines and others who considered effective verification mechanisms to be essential to the success of the treaty.
The formal follow-up to the 1996 Ottawa conference took place in Brussels from 24-27 June 1997. The Brussels International Conference for a Global Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines was attended by representatives of 154 countries. It was the largest gathering of governments to date for a conference devoted specifically to the issue of landmines. On the closing day, 97 governments signed the Brussels Declaration, launching formal negotiations on a comprehensive landmine ban treaty, greater international cooperation and assistance for mine clearance and the destruction of all stockpiled and cleared anti-personnel mines. The Declaration called for the convening of a diplomatic conference in Oslo to negotiate such a treaty on the basis of the draft prepared by the Austrian government.
In accordance with the Brussels Declaration, which by now had been signed by 107 countries, formal treaty negotiations took place from 1 to 18 September 1997 at the Oslo Diplomatic Conference on an International Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Land Mines, hosted by the Norwegian government. Ninety-one countries took part in the negotiations as full participants and 38 countries were present as observers, as were the ICRC, the ICBL and the UN.
The Oslo Diplomatic Conference proved to be a tremendous success. Propelled by its South African Chairman, Ambassador Jakob Selebi, on 18 September the Conference solemnly adopted the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction - the Ottawa treaty. The treaty was opened for signature at a ceremony on 3 and 4 December 1997, when representatives from a total of 121 countries signed it on behalf of their governments. It came into force on 1 March 1999, the fastest entry into force ever for a multilateral arms-related treaty. An overview of the content of the treaty is set out in the pages that follow.