Anti-personnel mines: an ongoing struggle
Under the Ottawa Convention, an anti-personnel mine is “a mine designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person and that will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons.”
Worldwide, there is a new victim of mines and explosive remnants of war every two hours. Whole populations face threats including improvised explosive devices, home-made mines, and explosive remnants from recent conflicts.
According to estimates, tens of millions of anti-personnel mines could be buried and active in some 60 countries, often a very long time after the end of the armed conflicts that generated them. Anti-personnel mines cause significant human and material damage. Planted indiscriminately, these weapons kill, mutilate and injure military and civilian populations without distinction, often well after hostilities have ended.
Mines: a barrier to reconstruction
After conflicts, the existence of vast areas littered with mines or explosive remnants of war prevents the return of displaced persons, stabilization and reconstruction and the return to a normal economic and social life. The proliferation of anti-personnel mines is therefore an aggravating factor for poor development.
Afghanistan, Angola and Cambodia are three of the most seriously affected countries. This is particularly clear in areas where the fight against Daesh has lasted several years such as Syria and Iraq. Other countries are also concerned by the issue of mines, including Colombia, Libya, Lebanon, Palestine and several African countries (Benin, Senegal, Mauritania, Guinea).
Regulating the use of mines: 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW)
Adopted in 1980, the CCW regulates the use of all types of land mines and aims to respond to the humanitarian problems presented by explosive remnants of war. It prohibits or limits the use of conventional weapons whose effects could be considered as excessive or inhumane. It currently has 5 protocols, each for a different type of weapon.
Two of its protocols focus on the fight against mines and explosive remnants of war:
- The Second Protocol of the CCW sets out general restrictions on the use of landmines (anti-personnel and anti-vehicle), traps and other equipment such as improvised explosive devices. Its provisions include that all anti-personnel mines must be equipped with self-destruction mechanisms or be placed in perimeter-marked, monitored and protected minefields. It also includes obligations to clear mined areas and protect civilian populations against the dangers of these weapons. Adopted in 1980, the Second Protocol was modified in 1996 to cover internal conflicts in addition to international conflicts.
- The Fifth Protocol, adopted in 2003, aims to reduce the risks relating to explosive remnants of war such as munitions that are unexploded or abandoned after conflict has finished. States Parties to this protocol must mark and remove or destroy the explosive remnants of war on land they control after the end of hostilities. They must also inform populations and raise awareness as well as promote cooperation and assistance. The Fifth Protocol therefore enhances and strengthens protection for civilian populations.
Banning mines: the Ottawa Convention
The Ottawa Convention, signed in 1997, sets the standard for a total ban on anti-personnel mines. Article 1 of the Convention thus prohibits the use, development, production, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel mines. It is only permitted to keep a stock of mines to develop mine removal systems and systems to transport mines for destruction. States Parties must destroy their stocks within four years and clear mine zones within their territory in ten years. In humanitarian and development cooperation terms, the Ottawa Convention also contains provisions aimed at strengthening cooperation and international assistance in the area of mine clearance and victim assistance.
There are currently 164 States Parties to the Ottawa Convention. Despite the progress that has been made, the failure of the countries with the most land mines – the United States, China, Russia, Pakistan, India – to sign up does reduce its effectiveness.
The Ottawa Convention sets the goal of a mine-free world in 2025.
The third Conference for the Examination of the Ottawa Convention, held in Maputo in 2014, saw the adoption of an ambitious political declaration and an action plan for 2014-2019, aimed at achieving a mine-free world in 2025.
Promoting the Ottawa Convention
France ratified the Ottawa Convention on 23 July 1998. It has long respected its obligations regarding the destruction of stocks and clearance under the Convention. It finished destroying its anti-personnel mine stocks in 1999. In 2008, it finished clearing the areas under its jurisdiction, with the clearance of mines in the enclave of Doudah, Djibouti.
France supports the universal application of the Ottawa Convention, helps preserve its integrity and reinforces its effectiveness. It works particularly hard in cooperating in the field of mine clearance and victim assistance. Work undertaken includes financial support for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (NGO coalition Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1997) and contribution to the Bibliomines project.
Role in mine clearance and victim assistance
France’s commitment to fighting anti-personnel mines and their consequences has involved support, including financial support, for projects working to that end. It has made considerable efforts in this area.
France’s contribution to combating mines includes financing programmes for:
- Victim assistance,
- Training in humanitarian mine clearance,
- Destruction of munitions,
- Training military doctors and nurses to assist victims,
The aim of these many outreach and humanitarian mine clearance activities is to enable the most vulnerable displaced and refugee populations to return home. In 2017, the work of the Stabilization Department of the Ministry’s Crisis and Support Centre (CDCS), in partnership with NGOs and international organizations specialized in humanitarian mine clearance, enabled for example the destruction of more than 1000 mines and explosive remnants of war, and hundreds of families in Iraq and Syria to return to their villages.
France’s contribution to the fight against mines and its help for humanitarian mine clearance mainly go through the channels of the European Union and the United Nations. France remains determined to maintain this mobilization on a subject that is a priority for its diplomatic action.
National Commission for the Elimination of Anti-Personnel Mines (CNEMA)
The CNEMA was created in 1998 to monitor France’s application of its obligations to clear mines and destroy stocks under the Ottawa Convention. Its mandate was extended in 2010 to monitoring France’s application of the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions. Once France had fulfilled its commitments within the framework of these two conventions, the Commission’s role moved towards monitoring and coordinating France’s work on humanitarian mine clearance and victim assistance.
The Commission meets twice yearly and has around 20 members including:
- Members of Parliament,
- Members of relevant government departments and ministries (Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs including the Crisis and Support Centre, Ministry for the Armed Forces),
- Civil society representatives and qualified individuals.
The CNEMA promotes regular dialogue between the various stakeholders committed to designing and implementing France’s action on humanitarian mine clearance.
Every year, the CNEMA produces a public report on its activities which it submits to Parliament.
For further information
- Convention on the prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel minnes and on their destruction
- Bibliomines, knowledge base for action against mines (in French)
- Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD)
- Post-conflict Mine Clearance and Depollution Training Centre (CPADD)
- International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL)
- Read the Ottawa Convention
- Read the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW)
- Evaluation report on the French policy for action against mines (PDF, 688.7 kb, French only)
- Summary of the Evaluation report on the French policy for action against mines – (PDF, 59.2 kb, French only)
Updated: December 2019