Colombia, South Sudan and Ukraine are just three of the too many countries in which landmines mean that people take their lives in their hands just to go to school, to fetch water, or to get to the nearest hospital. Mines prevent fields from being tilled and villages from being rebuilt. It is civilians who are particularly at risk from anti-personnel mines, which literally tear families and communities apart even years after wars and armed conflicts have ended. Mines and explosive remnants of war killed or injured more than 9000 people in 2022.
As Minister of State Keul stated in Geneva:
Landmines destroy livelihoods and prevent the safe return of internally displaced persons. The majority of victims are women and children. It is therefore clear what needs to be done. Clearing mined areas and assisting the victims are the vital actions. They help bring security, sustainable development and reconciliation – in short, they allow people to live in dignity.
Germany has held the Presidency of the Ottawa Convention in 2023
That is why, during its Presidency of the Ottawa Convention, Germany has been working towards a mine‑free world, and it is also why Germany is the second-largest bilateral donor worldwide for humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance, providing a total of 70 million euro for this purpose in 2023. This money is spent on searching and clearing contaminated areas, awareness-raising among local populations, helping mine victims, for example by providing prostheses and physiotherapy, and capacity-building for national agencies in the countries concerned.
Minister of State Keul put it thus in Geneva:
The German Government remains firmly committed to the Ottawa Convention’s goal of supporting the states parties in addressing the new challenges and assisting affected populations in tackling the serious humanitarian consequences of contamination by mines. This is a priority for us in our present capacity as Presidency of the Convention, and we are ready to continue in the same vein when our Presidency ends.
The Ottawa Convention is 25 years old, but more pertinent than ever
25 years have already passed since the Ottawa Convention was concluded. However, its objectives are more topical than ever, as illustrated for example by Russia’s mining of agricultural areas and cities in Ukraine. Countries in which mines are deployed are confronted with new challenges today, including improvised landmines, which are used primarily by non-state armed groups. Extreme weather events such as floods are also making mine clearance ever harder.
The German Presidency of the Ottawa Convention has focused on exchanging experience on precisely these new challenges. In this context, Minister of State Keul underscored the following:
The Review Conference in 2024 will provide an opportunity to take a step back and consider the instruments available, as we face new challenges.
- How can we deal with improvised anti-personnel mines?
- How can we continue clearance activities in the face of extreme weather conditions such as floods?
- How can we make best use of the limited resources when new and ongoing wars and conflicts constantly create more contamination, while in other countries the remains of past conflicts continue to pose a danger to human life?
- How can we ensure that our aid is integrative and conflict-sensitive?
We made these issues priorities of our Presidency in order to find the answers.
The Convention on the Prohibition and the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, which was signed in Ottawa in late 1997, is proof that effective action can be taken at the international level. It is one of the most successful conventions in the sphere of humanitarian arms control, and it has taken international humanitarian law a decisive step forward.