High-level Open Videoconference Debate on Mine Action*
Tomorrow morning (8 April), the Security Council is expected to hold a ministerial-level debate via videoconference on “Mine action and sustaining peace: Stronger partnerships for better delivery”, under the maintenance of international peace and security agenda item. Viet Nam’s incoming Foreign Minister, Bùi Thanh Sơn, will chair the meeting. The expected briefers are Secretary-General António Guterres; Ambassador Stefano Toscano, the Director of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining; Nguyen Thi Dieu Linh, Manager of “Project Renew” (an all-women demining team) at the Norwegian People’s Aid in Viet Nam; and UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Michelle Yeoh. In addition, actor Daniel Craig, a UN Global Advocate for the Elimination of Mines and Explosive Hazards, will deliver a pre-recorded video message before the start of the meeting.
A presidential statement initiated by Viet Nam—which passed silence earlier this evening (7 April)—is an expected outcome of the debate.
The concept note circulated by Viet Nam ahead of the debate highlights the continued threat posed by landmines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and explosive remnants of war (ERW) to civilians, peacekeeping operations, and humanitarian efforts. It argues that these threats remain overlooked compared with other issues on the Council’s agenda. According to the concept note, tomorrow’s debate can serve as a platform to identify new threats and challenges posed by landmines, IEDs and ERW and to discuss measures for better coordination on an international, regional and national level to meet the needs of affected communities and countries.
The role of mine action in peacekeeping operations is expected to be a significant focus of the meeting. The Council regularly addresses issues related to the threat posed by IEDs—often alongside mine action—in specific peace operation mandates. More recently, the Council discussed the threat of IEDs to peacekeeping operations in an Arria-formula meeting which took place on 26 March and was co-hosted by Kenya, China, Estonia, France, Ireland, Mexico, Niger, Norway, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Viet Nam.
Resolution 2365 of 30 June 2017—the first thematic Security Council resolution on mine action—emphasised the importance of providing relevant equipment and training to peacekeeping operations to reduce the threat posed to them by landmines, IEDs and ERW. The resolution also underscores the need to consider mine action during the earliest stages of planning and programming in peacekeeping operations. At tomorrow’s meeting, the Secretary-General may provide updates on progress made since the adoption of resolution 2365, including on how training for UN peace operations has contributed to mitigating the threats posed by IEDs. Council members who are also troop contributing countries, such as India, may share their experiences regarding the pre-deployment training that they provide to their troops to address these threats. Some may also highlight the UN’s role in providing post-deployment, in-theatre training for peacekeepers to address country-specific challenges.
The briefers and several Council members are also likely to call for a gender- and age-sensitive approach to mine action. Nguyen may describe her experiences working in the field and underscore the importance of increasing women’s participation in mine action. The Secretary-General may elaborate on the role that youth can play in de-mining and awareness-raising activities to contribute to peacebuilding in their communities. Some speakers may also emphasise that mine action programmes should address the impact of landmines, IEDs and ERW on youth, children and people with disabilities. In this regard, some may highlight the need for increased attention to victim assistance and rehabilitation.
Some speakers at tomorrow’s meeting may discuss legal obligations relating to use of landmines under international humanitarian law. The international legal framework in this regard includes the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (the Ottawa Convention) and the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. Discussion of these conventions has traditionally been a delicate topic in the Council, as several Council members—including some permanent members—are not party to them. For example, France and the UK are signatories to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, while China, Russia and the US are not. The Secretary-General and several Council members may refer to these conventions as important tools in curbing the threat posed by landmines, IEDs and ERW and call for their universalisation.
The draft presidential statement set to be adopted at tomorrow’s meeting calls on member states and other relevant stakeholders to strengthen their efforts to implement resolution 2365. It encourages the inclusion of mine action, where appropriate, in ceasefire and peace agreements. The draft presidential statement also underscores the need to facilitate adequate resourcing, training and equipment for UN peace operations to mitigate the threat posed by landmines, IEDs and ERW. It further expresses concern regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mine action.
It appears that Viet Nam initially sought to pursue a resolution on mine action, but that several Council members, including some permanent members, disagreed on the merit of a second thematic resolution on the issue. A similar initiative in 2019 by then-Council members Belgium and the Netherlands also faced opposition. It appears that several Council members are hesitant about adding mine action as a stand-alone thematic agenda item.
During the negotiations on the draft presidential statement, one area of discussion centred on the gender and age aspects of mine action. It seems that several Council members, including Ireland, Mexico and Norway, sought stronger language on women, children, and the role of civil society in mine action, which was not included due to the opposition of at least one permanent member. Those advocating stronger language on these issues have apparently expressed the concern that the compromise language in the draft presidential statement is weaker than that contained in resolution 2365. It appears that some Council members also called for the inclusion of language relating to the environmental impact of landmines, IEDs and ERW, but this was not acceptable to some Council members, including permanent members.
The draft presidential statement does not mention specific conventions related to landmines, IEDs and ERW, due to sensitivities regarding this issue. Instead it calls on member states to comply with their respective international treaty obligations with respect to mine action, and their relevant obligations under international humanitarian law.
*Post-script: On 8 April, the Council issued a presidential statement (S/PRST/2021/8), in which it called on member states and other relevant stakeholders to strengthen their efforts to implement resolution 2365, and encouraged the inclusion of mine action, where appropriate, in ceasefire and peace agreements.