What's In Blue

Posted Thu 29 Jun 2017

Vote on Mine Action Draft Resolution

Tomorrow (30 June), the Security Council is scheduled to vote on a draft resolution designed to address the threat of landmines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices. Negotiations were still ongoing when the Council held a briefing on 13 June on the topic “Comprehensive Approach to Mine Action and Explosive Hazard Threat Mitigation”. During the meeting Bolivia thanked “all delegations for their positive input on the draft,” while expressing a desire to “continue to work towards an eventual adoption…” (S/PV.7966). There have been at least six drafts since Bolivia presented its initial draft on 26 May. The final version passed through silence today, and is now in blue. If, as expected, the resolution is adopted, it will represent the Council’s first stand-alone resolution on mine action. While there appears to be general support for the draft, a number of compromises had to me made, given the divergent views on the issue.

Content of Resolution

The draft resolution in blue expresses grave concern over the threat that landmines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices pose to civilians, refugees returning home, humanitarian personnel, civilian personnel, and law enforcement personnel. It stresses the need to take appropriate steps to mitigate the danger posed by these threats. The resolution further calls upon member states to comply with their respective international obligations related to mine action.

The draft suggests that addressing mine action requires collaboration among many actors. For example, it calls on member states, relevant UN entities (in accordance with their mandates), international actors, and civil society to provide assistance, upon the request of states, to clear landmines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices, when in a position to do so. It further welcomes partnership and cooperation between the UN and subregional and regional organisations, such as the AU, in mitigating this threat.

Several elements of the draft resolution deal specifically with UN peace operations. It stresses the importance of ensuring, where appropriate, that peacekeeping operations are equipped, informed, and trained to reduce the threat of landmines, explosive remnants or war and improvised explosive devices. It emphasises the importance of considering mine action at the earliest stages of planning and programming for peacekeeping operations and special political missions, where appropriate, as well as for humanitarian emergency responses. It further recognises the role of the UN, including the coordinating role of the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in the UN system, in mitigating the dangers of threat of landmines, explosive remnants or war and improvised explosive devices, particularly to implement relevant Security Council mandates.

Regarding reporting requirements, the draft resolution requests the Secretary-General to provide the Security Council with information on threats posed by landmines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices, and measures to mitigate these threats, when reporting on peacekeeping operations, special political missions and humanitarian responses in areas where they pose a threat. It further requests the Secretary-General to submit a report to the Council on the implementation of the resolution, “when appropriate, within one year”.

The Negotiations

The draft in blue is different from the initial draft in a number of ways, a reflection of the compromises that were made in an effort to find consensus.

Early in the negotiations, questions were raised about the use of the term “explosive hazards,” with a number of members preferring more exact language to clarify precisely what was being referred to. As a result, reference is made throughout the draft in blue to “landmines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices” rather than the more general “explosive hazards,” which had been included in early versions of the draft.

There were references to cluster munitions in the initial draft. However, at least one of the permanent members objected to this reference, and it was omitted early on in the process. Of the permanent members of the Council, France and the United Kingdom have joined The Convention on Cluster Munitions, while China, Russia and the United States have not done so.

There was some discussion about how to refer to the work of the UN and UNMAS, in particular, in mitigating the threat posed by landmines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices. The initial version of the draft resolution recognised the “central role” of the UN and UNMAS in this regard. However, it appears that the US maintained that this language gave too much emphasis to the work of UNMAS, which is one of many actors involved in these efforts. The language was tempered as a result; while the draft in blue recognises the role of the UN in mitigating threats, including the coordinating role of UNMAS, it gives less prominence to that role than had been the case in the initial draft.

A particularly controversial issue was whether and how to reference the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (i.e., the Ottawa Convention). This was a particularly delicate issue because some members of the Council are not state parties to the Convention. In initial versions of the draft, the Convention was mentioned twice: once in the preambular part of the resolution and once in the operative part. In an effort at compromise, the penholder removed reference to the Convention in the preambular section, while retaining it in the operative section, which merely called on state parties to the Convention comply with their obligations. However, at least one of the state parties in the Council preferred that the draft emphasise the importance of advocating the universality of the norms of the convention, which was not acceptable to some members of the Council. Ultimately, while a decision was made to drop explicit reference to the Ottawa Convention in the final draft in blue, it does recall all relevant treaties and conventions related to mine action, their implementation by the respective parties and their review process. The draft in blue further calls upon member states to comply with their respective international obligations related to mine action. These, albeit generic, references would by implication include the Ottawa Convention, although some Council members would have preferred a more direct reference to the Convention.

Another difficult issue related to language on humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality, humanity and independence in the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Some members favoured the inclusion of this language in the resolution, maintaining that it is necessary to connect mine action with humanitarian principles. However, China apparently maintained that highlighting humanitarian principles would narrow the focus of mine action, which is relevant to other issues as well (e.g.: peacekeeping). Ultimately, the draft in blue does not refer to these principles, although it expresses deep concern with the serious humanitarian threat posed to civilians by landmines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices.

Council Dynamics at the 13 June Briefing

Statements made by Council members during the briefing on mine action earlier this month highlighted the strategic interests of a number of members in ensuring that the threat posed by landmines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices is mitigated in various contexts. France noted that “we have all already been hard hit” by the use of improvised explosive devices in Mali. The US, which is part of the coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), stated that: “An important part of defeating ISIS involves clearing…landmines, IEDs, and unexploded ordnance so internally displaced persons and refugees can return to their homes.” Russia, which supports the government of Syria, described “the urgent need for the international community to step up demining efforts in Syria, representing a pledge to return refugees and temporarily displaced persons to their homes as quickly as possible.” It further noted that Russian servicemen were actively engaged in demining activities in Syria, and expressed the “hope that our partners will be able to contribute…to solving this humanitarian problem.” Ukraine said that the “explosive hazard threat” in Ukraine had come as a result of “foreign armed aggression and offensive actions carried out by the hybrid Russian-terrorist forces operating in some of areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions”, while Russia accused Ukraine of trying to “besmirch” it with “uncorroborated allegations.”

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