What are the current challenges and successes of the Mine Ban Treaty?

2017 marks 20 years since the Mine Ban Treaty was adopted in Oslo on 18 September 1997 and opened for signature in Ottawa less than three months later. In between those key milestones, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and its then coordinator Jody Williams were awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.

After two decades, the Mine Ban Treaty has matured into an emerging international norm with impressive universality. A total of 162 States Parties are implementing the treaty's provisions prohibiting antipersonnel landmines and requiring victim assistance, clearance of mined areas within 10 years, and destruction of stockpiled mines within four years. Most of the 35 countries that remain outside of the treaty are nonetheless abiding by its key provisions. The stigma against landmines remains strong.  

But not all States Parties are on track to fulfill their Mine Ban Treaty obligations in a timely fashion. Missed stockpile destruction deadlines, missed deadlines for extensions of mine clearance deadlines, and repeated requests for extensions of mine clearance deadlines raise compliance concerns.

Additionally, new landmine use, particularly the widespread use of so-called improvised mines by non-state armed groups (NSAGs), is resulting in a significant increase in casualties and threatening to undermine the progress toward the long-held goal of a landmine-free world. While mine use by government forces remains a rare phenomenon, the government forces of states not party Myanmar and Syria used antipersonnel landmines in 2016 and 2017.

NSAGs used antipersonnel landmines in at least nine countries, including Ukraine and Yemen. The extensive use of improvised mines by the forces of the Islamic State (IS) has created new casualties and contaminated land.

These improvised landmines are often referred to as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or booby-traps. However, most are exploded by the presence, proximity, or contact of a person and therefore meet the definition of an antipersonnel mine contained in the Mine Ban Treaty and are prohibited regardless of whether they were fabricated in a factory or elsewhere.

Some states have chosen not to use the humanitarian disarmament framework provided by the Mine Ban Treaty to address what they call the "IED threat" and instead pursue non-binding measures through the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). Such an approach is short-sighted, misguided, and costly. It may appeal to states that have not joined the Mine Ban Treaty such as China, Russia, and the United States (US), but it ignores a key opportunity to remind NSAGs of the stigma that the Mine Ban Treaty has created against any use of antipersonnel mines, by any actor, under any circumstances. In November 2016, the ICBL called on Mine Ban Treaty States Parties to condemn any new use of improvised antipersonnel mines and seek out new ways to stigmatize and stop this use. As Mine Ban Treaty president Austria affirmed in October 2017, the Mine Ban Treaty clearly encompasses all antipersonnel mines, regardless of whether they are improvised or factory-produced, and irrespective of who used them.  

Like-minded governments, UN agencies, and international organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) continue to work together with the ICBL to address Mine Ban Treaty compliance challenges in a cooperative manner. The unity demonstrated by that community over the past two decades remains strong and focused on the Mine Ban Treaty's ultimate objective of putting an end to the suffering and casualties caused by antipersonnel mines.

(Last updated based on Landmine Monitor 2017)