Humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance

Landmines and unexploded ordnance kill thousands of people around the world each year. Germany is actively working for the prohibition of anti-personnel mines. The Federal Foreign Office supports humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance projects around the world and has been one of the foremost international donors in this field for many years.

In partnership with experienced organisations on the ground, the German Government helps countries clear mines, cluster munitions and unexploded ordnance, when such contamination causes problems for local communities. The main aim is to ensure people’s physical safety and alleviate suffering. Victim assistance projects in particular serve this aim. The aid is also intended to help the countries concerned fulfil their obligations under the Ottawa Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines, the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions and the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

The worldwide implementation of these Conventions remains one of the German Government’s major aims. In this way, we hope to make a lasting contribution towards ensuring that anti-personnel mines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war will not be deployed in the future and will thus no longer pose a threat.

Goal: A world free of anti-personnel mines

Locating and clearing mines and unexploded ordnance remains a dangerous, expensive and time-consuming process. The Federal Foreign Office is actively campaigning for the prohibition of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, and also supports projects in about a dozen countries in the field of mine and ordnance clearance.

Tremendous efforts undertaken by the international community mean that considerable headway has been made in tackling the landmine problem around the world. These and the entry into force on 1 August 2010 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions have brought us closer to a world free of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions.

According to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), the remaining contaminated areas can be cleared in the next few years.

Mission possible – the battle against landmines is winnable

Albania, Kosovo and Croatia serve as encouraging examples. Contrary to expectations, the number of victims in these countries has fallen steeply within a relatively short period. This positive development is due not only to more reliable analysis and more efficient clearing techniques but also to years of tireless effort by humanitarian organisations and donor countries.

However, people in many countries continue to suffer as a result of explosive remnants of war (landmines, unexploded ordnance and cluster munitions), not least due to landmines and cluster munitions which have sometimes lain buried for decades. Good orthopaedic and psycho-social treatment for the victims is vital. In severely contaminated areas, simply stepping off hard-surfaced roads is a risk to life and limb. The fear of landmines, unexploded ordnance and cluster munitions also adversely affects the life of whole communities, making people too afraid to use roads or till their fields.

Landmines, unexploded ordnance and cluster munitions laid or deployed indiscriminately and without reliable documentation pose a particular risk. Since the precise location and extent of the contaminated areas are usually unknown, it is unfortunately often only when accidents happen that the hidden danger is revealed.

In many countries, unexploded ordnance, cluster munitions and uncontrolled ordnance today cause more casualties than landmines. The clearance programmes funded by the Federal Foreign Office take this fact into account. These programmes aim to create a safe environment for the local population by tackling all three threats – landmines, unexploded ordnance and cluster munitions – at once.

Efforts of the German Government

Germany is a party to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons), the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Ottawa Convention) and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and is campaigning strongly for these Conventions to be implemented and become universal in scope.

Well into the 1990s, anti-personnel mines were considered indispensable by the armed forces in many countries. Up till then such weapons were found in practically every country’s arsenal and during the Cold War neither the public at large nor the politicians had any doubts about their legality. The global trade in mines flourished and many state and non-state players deployed them without any scruples or thought for the long-term humanitarian consequences, mostly in internal conflicts.

Together with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, from the mid-1990s onwards the German Government pushed hard for a ban on anti-personnel mines and played a leading role in the drafting and implementation of the Ottawa Convention. The unilateral announcement in 1996 that Germany would no longer deploy anti-personnel mines gave a further boost to the international negotiation process.

Following the deployment of cluster munitions in the Middle East in summer 2006, there were calls for a ban on these munitions. The German Government pointed out early on that the deployment of cluster munitions puts the civilian population in particular at risk, not least because certain types are known to have a high dud rate. We therefore supported the negotiating process on a convention on cluster munitions from the start. The aim was to ensure better protection for the civilian population from the hazards associated with these weapons and thereby contribute to the further development of international humanitarian law.

Convention on Cluster Munitions

The Oslo Process on Cluster Munitions initiated by Norway outside the UN context in February 2007 produced the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which was signed by 94 countries (including Germany) in Oslo on 3 December 2008 and entered into force on 1 August 2010.

The German Government’s engagement at political level has been accompanied for many years now by funds for humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance measures. Since 1992 it has provided some 235 million euros for such projects in 40 different countries. In 2013 alone the Federal Foreign Office spent 14.9 million euros on clearance projects in 22 countries, making a major contribution towards eliminating the problem.

Federal Foreign Office aid projects

Germany has become one of the world’s biggest and most reliable donors in the field of humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance, thus ensuring that it does justice to its highly visible role in the implementation and universalisation of the Ottawa and Cluster Munitions Conventions and the UN Conventional Weapons Convention. In global terms, Germany is one of the major donor countries.

Clearance, awareness and victim assistance projects are funded in particular in places where landmines and unexploded ordnance (including cluster munitions) pose a humanitarian problem, for example in Afghanistan, Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans, and South-East Asia.

The victim assistance projects supported by the Federal Foreign Office seek to provide physical and psychological treatment for victims and legal advice for them and their families. The Federal Foreign Office provided around 4.2 million euros between 2008 and 2013 for 25 projects in this field. The German Government has thus fulfilled the pledge it made at the Second Review Conference of the Ottawa Convention in Cartagena in 2010 to enhance its funding of victim assistance projects.

Looking ahead

Although much has been achieved in the battle against anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions since the 1990s, many countries are unlikely to be able to fulfil the obligations they have assumed under these Conventions on schedule, especially as regards the clearance of suspected contaminated areas. Over the years ahead these countries will therefore still need appropriate international support.

In addition to funding bilateral projects, the Federal Foreign Office will continue to work with the relevant international players concerned with humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance. Its main partners here are the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), which has been given a coordinating role within the United Nations; the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL); the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC); and the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD).

Last updated 02.09.2014

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