Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention
16th Meeting of the Parties
Vienna, 18-21 December 2017
Australia – General Statement
Australia extends its thanks to you and your team for your excellent preparatory work in advance of this meeting and wishes you all the best for a successful meeting.
Australia warmly congratulates Sri Lanka on its accession to the Convention last week, becoming the Convention’s 163rd State Party. We also congratulate Algeria on meeting its clearance obligations under Article 5 and Belarus for meeting its obligations under Article 4 to destroy its stockpiles, earlier in the year.
We also extend our gratitude to the Implementation Support Unit and to Committee Members engaged in promoting the universalisation and implementation of the convention of behalf of all States Parties. Australia recognises and supports your hard work.
As it is now twenty years since the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction was adopted on 18 September 1997, it is important to reflect on its achievements over this time. Thousands of lives have been saved, thousands of square kilometres of productive land have been released, stockpiles have been reduced or eliminated, and the lives of victims have been improved.
Australia is proud to be associated with the progress achieved under the convention and we congratulate and recognise the many people who have been directly involved over the past two decades.
This includes those who, from the outset saw the effect these weapons were having on so many innocent men, women and children, often long after the conflict had ended - to those today who remain committed to seeing the elimination of anti-personnel mines and providing life-long support to the direct and indirect victims of these terrible weapons.
Despite this progress, anti-personnel mines continue to be used – particularly by non-state actors. Consequently, we have seen some gains eroded in recent years and a resultant increase in the number of casualties. According to the Landmine Monitor 2017, in 2016 there were 8,605 causalities from anti-personnel mines, with over 2,089 casualties resulting in death – the highest number of casualties recorded since 1999.
In support of the objectives of the Convention, we must continue to promote the Convention’s universalisation, encourage the stigmatisation of anti-personnel mines and provide assistance to clearance efforts, particularly in those countries where there are a significant number of casualties.
Australia employs a three-pronged approach to mine action.
First, Australia supports international agencies working globally across all areas of mine action, including in mine clearance, standards maintenance, risk education and victim assistance.
- the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS); since 2011 Australia has contributed over US$35 million to UNMAS
- the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining
- the International Committee for the Red Cross
- Handicap International
- the Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitor
- and Geneva Call.
Australia funds mine action through contributions to multilateral programs and bilaterally, including to projects Afghanistan, Cambodia, Colombia, Iraq and Palau.
We are pleased to be able to inform the meeting that the Australian Government will provide $11 million to UNMAS’s Iraq project over the next three years as part of our $100 million commitment to humanitarian relief and stabilisation of Iraq.
In the South West Pacific, the Australian Defence Force’s Operation Render Safe is a demonstration of Australia’s enduring commitment to the removal of Second World War explosive remnants of war, which continue to pose a danger to local communities.
Last year’s operation focused on three areas in Solomon Islands. Australian Defence Force personnel participated alongside specialists from New Zealand, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, with the full cooperation of the Solomon Islands Government and in close partnership with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.
Secondly, the Australian Government provides support to the operation of mine action-related conventions.
In addition to the Ottawa Convention, Australia supports:
the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities;
- the Convention on Cluster Munitions; and
- other international legal instruments addressing explosive remnants of war including Amended Protocol II and Protocol V of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons
We do this by funding the Implementation Support Units, contributing to the sponsorship funds and through taking on roles under the conventions. Australia is the Sponsorship Coordinator for the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention and is the Coordinator, with Peru, for International Cooperation and Assistance for the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Australia is also on the UNMAS working group established to develop Improvised Explosive Devices Disposal Standards. Australia, along with Canada, authored the chapter on Information Management.
Thirdly, we continue to look for opportunities to encourage innovation in the sector. We, along with Austria, Chile, Iraq and Italy – and with technical support from Handicap International – produced the “Guidance on and Integrated Approach to Victim Assistance” to help states improve the quality of assistance provided to victims and uphold the rights of victims. We encourage the application of this approach in the provision of assistance to victims under this Convention.
Australia will also contribute $120,000 for each of the next two years to support the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining to establish Non-Technical Survey standards. The project includes the development of on-line training and accreditation for operators. This work will help to increase the efficiency and value of Non-Technical Surveys, providing a common basis for determining the extent and nature of contamination, and therefore the cost of clearance.
Australia remains committed to the Ottawa Convention and its important work of clearance, stockpile reduction, cooperation and assistance and the provision of support to victims.