Friday, November 30, 2018

Record funding for landmine clearance, but casualties remain high

As countries strive to create a landmine-free world by 2025, international support for this goal reached an all-time high. New use of antipersonnel landmines, including improvised mines, is limited to a handful of countries, employed primarily by non-state armed groups. Tragically, however, armed conflict particularly in Afghanistan and Syria contributed to a third straight year of exceptionally high casualties, according to Landmine Monitor 2018—the 20th annual Landmine Monitor report of the Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL)—released today.

“The good news here is the high level of international and national investment in mine action, a testament to the global will to rid the world of landmines,” said Marion Loddo, editor of the Landmine Monitor’s section on funding. “We recorded an increase of more than 200 million dollars in total funding compared to the previous year, but regrettably the identifiable support allocated for assistance to victims has been continuously decreasing over the past few years and reached an all-time low,” she added.

In 2017, international donors contributed a record US$673.2 million for mine action in 38 states and three other areas, the highest level in more than two decades of data tracked by the Monitor. Nearly 80% of international support came from five donors—the United States, Germany, the European Union, Norway, and Japan.

In addition, 10 affected states dealing with mine contamination through national programs together reported providing $98.3 in support of their own national clearance efforts in 2017. Combined international and national support totaled $771.5 million, nearly $204 million more than 2016 and the highest nominal amount ever recorded. (When inflation-adjusted, the total in 2012 was highest.)

The number of countries fully bound by the Mine Ban Treaty also grew in the past year, reaching 164 after Palestine and Sri Lanka acceded in December 2017. The Mine Ban Treaty, which became international law in 1999, bans the use of mines that detonate due to human contact. The treaty covers victim-activated improvised explosive devices (IEDs), also called “improvised mines,” that can be triggered by a person.

Casualties caused by improvised mines again reached a record high, accounting for 2,716 of 7,239 casualties caused by mines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) in calendar year 2017. Many of the improvised mine casualties were recorded in active conflicts in Afghanistan (1,093) and Syria (887).

“Due to the inhumane impact of recently surging conflicts, landmines and other deadly explosive remnants of war are causing casualties in numbers that we had not seen for many years,” said Loren Persi, casualties and victim assistance editor of Landmine Monitor. “Civilians are by far the majority of casualties, and victims continue to require support long after conflicts pass and the last mines are cleared.”

While a decrease compared to 2016, this is the third year in a row of high numbers of recorded casualties. Of casualties in 2017, at least 2,793 people were killed. Civilians continued to account for more the vast majority of casualties (87%) where the status was reported, with children making up nearly half (47%) of all civilian casualties. As in previous years, it is certain that the number of casualties is significantly higher than recorded, particularly in countries experiencing conflict.

In 2017, countries continued efforts to make previously mined areas safe for use, reporting some 128km2 of land cleared of landmines and the destruction of 168,000 landmines. These are both decreases compared to 2016. Many countries, however, continued to release land more efficiently by using survey to cancel or reduce suspected contamination.

Among the 60 countries and other sovereignty-disputed areas that are known to have mine contamination, 34 are States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, which calls for clearance of known contamination within 10 years. Only four of those appear to be on track to meet their deadlines. Mauritania completed clearance of landmines in 2017. The Monitor estimates that most countries can complete the clearance of mines and other core obligations by 2025, a goal agreed by States Parties at the last review conference in 2014. This is dependent on sufficient funds and commitment.

Notably, more than one third of all affected countries are not on board the Mine Ban Treaty, which highlights the importance of further treaty universalization. States not party generally provide less information about the extent of contamination, land cleared, and casualties suffered, thus making global assessments more difficult.

New use of antipersonnel mines by states remains a relatively rare phenomenon and only by states outside the treaty. Myanmar was the only known instance of government forces actively planting the weapons during the past year (October 2017 to October 2018). During that period, non-state armed groups used antipersonnel mines, including improvised mines, in at least eight countries: Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Thailand, and Yemen.

Additional key findings from the report include:

• States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty have destroyed more than 54 million stockpiled antipersonnel mines, including more than 500,000 destroyed in 2017.

• Over the past five years (2013–2017), approximately 830km2 of mined areas have been cleared. Some 1.1 million antipersonnel mines and more than 66,000 antivehicle mines have been destroyed in the context of mine and battle area clearance.

• States Parties Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Serbia, Sudan, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom are awaiting approval of landmine clearance extension requests at the Seventeenth Meeting of States Parties in November 2018.