Mine Action (Landmines)
Expected Council Action
In April, Council president Viet Nam is expected to convene a ministerial-level open debate on mine action. Viet Nam’s Deputy Prime Minister, Pham Binh Minh, will chair the meeting, which will be held via videoconference. Secretary-General António Guterres is a likely briefer. Possible additional briefers include Ambassador Stefano Toscano, the director of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, and Nguyen Thi Dieu Linh, manager of “Project Renew” (an all-women demining team) at the Norwegian People’s Aid in Viet Nam.
A resolution is a possible outcome.
Background and Recent Developments
Mine action is defined by the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) as activities to reduce the social, economic and environmental impact of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), including humanitarian demining, victim assistance, stockpile destruction, and advocacy against the use of anti-personnel mines. The Security Council regularly addresses issues related to mine action and the threat posed by ERW and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the context of UN peace mission mandates and country-specific discussions, but it has considered mine action as a thematic issue on only a few occasions.
The General Assembly has traditionally been the main forum for discussing mine action, and in recent years it has adopted a resolution every two years on assistance in mine action. While General Assembly discussions tend to centre on the humanitarian impact of landmines, Security Council debates focus on their effect on peace and security in conflict and post-conflict situations, including ramifications for the work of UN peace missions.
The Council first considered mine action as a thematic issue at an open debate on 15 August 1996, which was followed by the adoption on 30 August of a presidential statement on demining in the context of UN peacekeeping. In this statement, the Council expressed its readiness to consider mine-action concerns in country-specific situations and noted the importance of ensuring that mine action is reflected in the mandates and personnel planning for peacekeeping operations.
On 30 June 2017, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2365, the first thematic resolution on mine action, following a 13 June briefing convened by Bolivia, which also spearheaded the resolution. The resolution recognised the threat posed by landmines, ERW and IEDs to civilians and peacekeepers, emphasised the importance of providing relevant equipment and training to peacekeeping operations to reduce this threat, and called on parties to armed conflict to end the use of explosive devices.
Resolution 2365 also requested the Secretary-General to submit a report on its implementation within a year of its adoption. The subsequent report, which was issued on 29 June 2018, outlined possible ways to support mine action, including its mainstreaming into country-specific discussions and the planning and mandates of UN missions, as well as the inclusion of mine action in ceasefires and peace agreements. The report was discussed at a briefing on 29 June, during which the Council was briefed by Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions Alexander Zuev. He underscored that mine action is a precondition for the success of stabilisation, peacebuilding and sustainable development. Zuev said that training, awareness-raising and capacity-building are key to mitigating the threat posed by landmines, ERW and IEDs, and he called on member states to provide sustainable funding to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action.
On 26 March, Kenya organised an Arria-formula meeting on the protection of peace operations from the threat posed by IEDs, in cooperation with China, Estonia, France, Ireland, Mexico, Niger, Norway, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, and Viet Nam.
Since 2015, there has been an increase in casualties–most of whom are civilians–from landmines, ERW and IEDs. In 2020, the UN recorded approximately 7,000 civilian deaths and injuries due to landmines, ERW and IEDs in areas with a UN mine action presence; within that figure, 28 percent were children. In Afghanistan, IEDs are the leading cause of civilian harm, with 872 civilians killed and 2,170 injured in 2020. In addition, landmines, ERW and IEDs have increasingly been the cause of death of UN peace mission personnel, as they are being used to target convoys or to breach peacekeepers’ defensive positions and camps. For example, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has recorded 65 deaths among its personnel from attacks using explosives since its creation in 2013, a number constituting close to 20 percent of the mission’s casualties. In the first months of 2021 alone, MINUSMA reported 15 IED incidents in which six peacekeepers were killed and 44 injured.
Key Issues and Options
According to the concept note prepared by Viet Nam ahead of the meeting, April’s open debate on mine action can serve as a platform to discuss new threats and challenges posed by landmines, ERW and IEDs and to discuss concrete measures to enhance coordination and tailor international mine action support on the national, regional and international levels.
A priority for the Council is to provide UN peace operations with the tools to address the threat posed by landmines, ERW and IEDs to civilians and to UN personnel. In this regard, key issues include how to design mission mandates the better to address mine action from the mission’s inception and how to facilitate ongoing mine action training for UN personnel.
Another important issue is increasing linkages between mine action and the women, peace and security agenda, as the participation of women in mine-related activities can help raise awareness among larger segments of conflict-affected societies.
An additional matter for the Council to consider is ways of receiving more information about the effects of landmines, ERW and IEDs in situations on its agenda. While resolution 2365 requests the Secretary-General to provide the Council with information on these effects when reporting on peacekeeping operations and special political missions, many country-specific reports do not include such information because of word-limit constraints.
One option that Viet Nam plans to pursue is a resolution on mine action, ERW and IEDs. This resolution could:
- emphasise the importance of pre-deployment and in-theatre training for peacekeepers on this issue;
- strengthen language relating to women’s participation in mine action; and
- call for the Secretary-General to include a section on the effects of landmines, ERW and IEDs on civilians in his annual report on the protection of civilians.
A future option on this issue would be to have UNMAS officials brief the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security on the gendered effects of landmines, ERW and IEDs in different conflict and post-conflict environments.
While discussion of mine action is common in country-specific situations and in the context of peacekeeping operations, some Council members are hesitant about adding it as another stand-alone thematic agenda item and are likely to oppose requiring a regular cross-cutting report from the Secretary-General. It appears that an initiative in 2019 by then-Council members Belgium and the Netherlands to promote a second thematic resolution on mine action did not succeed because of the US’s opposition to the inclusion of a regular reporting requirement. Previous attempts by Council members to introduce regular reporting requirements on issues such as security sector reform and youth, peace and security have also faced opposition, usually by permanent members of the Council; in some cases, this opposition has been overcome.
UN DOCUMENTS ON MINE ACTION
|Security Council Resolutions|
|30 June 2017S/RES/2365||This was a resolution on mine action.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|19 November 2003S/PRST/2003/22||This was a presidential statement on the issue of landmines.|
|30 August 1996S/PRST/1996/37||This was a presidential statement laying out basic principles for the role of peacekeeping missions in mine clearance.|
|21 June 2018S/2018/623||This was the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 2365 on mine action.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|29 June 2018S/PV.8304||This was a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions Alexander Zuev on the Secretary-General’s report regarding the implementation of resolution 2365 on mine action.|
|13 June 2017S/PV.7966||This was a briefing on a “Comprehensive Approach to Mine Action and Explosive Hazard Threat Mitigation.”|
|15 August 1996S/PV.3689||This was an orientation debate on demining as part of peacekeeping, organised by Germany.|