Leaving the road means risking your life
Until well into the 1990s, many state and non‑state actors deployed landmines, mainly in internal conflicts, without any scruples or thought for the long‑term humanitarian consequences. Unexploded ordnance, cluster munitions and uncontrolled stockpiles of munitions are a further problem. In fact, they claim more lives than landmines in many places. Cluster munitions in particular have been criticised since they were deployed in the Middle East conflict in 2008 because of their high rate of unexploded devices.
Explosive remnants of war continue to cause great suffering to people in many countries. In severely contaminated areas, simply stepping off hard-surfaced roads is a risk to life and limb. The mere fear of landmines, unexploded ordnance and cluster munitions adversely affects the life of entire communities. Since the precise location and dimensions of the contaminated areas are usually unknown, it is unfortunately often only when accidents happen that the hidden danger is revealed.
International legislation against landmines and cluster munitions
The United Nations 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 entered into force in 1983. It was followed by the Ottawa Convention, which explicitly prohibits anti-personnel mines and regulates how they are destroyed, in 1999. The Convention on Cluster Munitions came into effect in 2010. These international agreements mean that the world has come close to achieving the aim of finally being freed from these brutal agents of warfare.
Germany is not merely a signatory State to all of these conventions – it also played an active role in drafting them. Germany banned landmines at an early stage, in 1996, thus lending further impetus to the global prohibition of anti-personnel mines. Germany also played a pioneering role in the Ottawa process on banning cluster munitions. The German Government is currently working as a matter of priority to ensure that these conventions are implemented globally and apply universally.
The German Government’s commitment
The German Government’s commitment at political level has been accompanied for many years now by funds for humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance measures. It helps experienced organisations on the ground to clear mines, cluster munitions and unexploded ordnance worldwide, when such contamination causes humanitarian problems for local communities. The aim is simple – to ensure people’s physical safety and to alleviate suffering, especially via projects to assist victims. 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.
Germany as a reliable donor
Since 1992, Germany has provided some 235 million euros for such projects in 40 different countries. In 2014, the Federal Foreign Office spent around 13.2 million euros on clearance projects in 13 countries, thus making a major contribution towards overcoming this challenge.
Germany has become one of the world’s largest 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 ensuring the implementation and further ratification of the Ottawa and Cluster Munitions Conventions and the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.
Federal Foreign Office aid projects
Germany provides aid to many countries, including to Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia and Myanmar. The Federal Foreign Office is also engaged in addressing severe and escalating crises, such as in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Ukraine. In 2017, the Federal Foreign Office provided funds totalling some 30 million euros for humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance, including victim assistance, in 13 countries. An additional 45 million euros were spent on mine and IED clearance in Iraq, as part of stabilisation measures. With total expenditure of 75 million euros, Germany is one of the largest donors in this domain.
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).