The Looming Ottawa Deadlines: The Case of Mozambique

by Maria Isabel Macedo dos Santos [ Instituto Nacional de Desminagem Mozambique ]

With the impending 2009 Ottawa Convention1 deadline quickly approaching, it has become clear that Mozambique will not be able to complete their required obligations without an extension. Dwindling funding, inadequate resources and the challenge of other internal problems have delayed the mine-action progress, but what will be the solution?

Demining work in progress in  Mafambisse, Sofala province, Mozambique.
Demining work in progress in Mafambisse, Sofala province, Mozambique.
Photo courtesy of the author

A decade has passed since the signing of the Ottawa Convention and the commitment of the States Parties to work toward eradicating landmines in all affected countries. In this period, significant progress on landmine clearance and victim assistance has been registered, and significant areas have been cleared and released to the communities.

The Progress

Mozambique signed and ratified the Ottawa Convention, becoming a State Party in March 1999. In May 1999, Mozambique hosted the First Meeting of States Parties in its capital, Maputo. In compliance with the Ottawa Convention, Article 4, Mozambique destroyed its anti-personnel landmines stockpiles in February 2003 and has been conducting clearance activities to meet the March 2009 deadline.

Like many affected countries, Mozambique has endured war and destabilization for more than 30 years, leaving landmines and unexploded ordnance spread all over the country. In 1992 when the government and the then-rebel movement Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (RENAMO) signed the peace agreement in Rome, the United Nations dispatched its peacekeeping mission, and one of its mandates included demining operations. Mozambique has been demining its countryside since then.

The Problem

Mozambique faces many other challenges including poverty, natural disasters and endemic diseases such as HIV-AIDS. The majority of its population is rural and, consequently, the presence of landmines and other UXO constitutes a major impediment to the economic and social development of affected areas.

Fifteen years of demining activities have elapsed, surveys have been conducted and thousands of square meters of land have been released to the people. A recent baseline assessment, carried out by The HALO Trust in the remaining affected areas has shown that there is work to be done to comply with Article 52 of the Ottawa Convention. The 2009 Convention deadline is approaching, and the landmine problem is far from solved. Out of the 36 States Parties with deadlines for 2009 and 2010, only 10 have completed clearance obligations—12 may meet the obligation, and 14 will request an extension to meet it. Mozambique is included in the list of those needing an extension.3

Mozambique has made earnest efforts to support mine-action activities—demining has been integrated into government plans to reduce poverty as a cross-cutting priority. This measure clearly shows its commitment to demining and to the Ottawa Convention.

The challenge remains: With a myriad of priority areas to be funded, resources are limited. Clearance itself relies heavily on industrialized world technology and funding. Paradoxically, it costs as little as US$3 to produce a landmine yet as much as $1,000 to remove it once it has been emplanted.4 Mozambique has benefited from financial and technical support from the donor community; however, due to the country’s low level of economic development, Mozambique’s needs always exceed the resources available.

It is vital to mention that the Convention has played a very important role in limiting the proliferation of anti-personnel mines; however, actual mine clearance is an essential component of the solution to the global problem.5

Contrary to what was expected, the flow of funds from donors for clearance activities has declined year after year. In the case of Mozambique, different international nongovernmental organizations have left the country or are in the process of phasing out their activities. This situation is of great concern because landmine-affected States Parties are faced with insufficient funding to continue demining activities and, thereby, fulfill their Ottawa Convention deadlines.

What is the Next Step?

Article 6 of the Ottawa Convention states that each State Party has the right to seek and receive assistance for the fulfillment of its Convention obligations and to request assistance in the implementation of its national mine-action plan.6 States also have the responsibility to make an effort to meet the Convention deadlines. Although the government of Mozambique has been increasing its funding to mine action, mine clearance has proven costly, and external funding is crucial for Mozambique to reach its final goal.

It is clear that the failure to meet the deadline means that Mozambique, and many other countries, will need more resources. Mine action must compete for the same resources as other internal problems, namely poverty, endemic diseases, and the effects of high oil and food prices. This puts immense pressure on donors and States Parties, and mine action is likely to lose the tug of war for funding.

As Olivier Vodoz, then President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, mentioned on his statement to the 8th Meeting of the States Parties7 in Jordan in 2007, “Every day during which the Convention’s deadline is not met is a day in which civilians are put at risk. The Mine Ban Convention will be judged on the basis of our capacity to manage clearance deadlines in a way which maintains the credibility of the Convention and creates maximum pressure for completion before the deadline or within a realistic well-planned and adequately funded extension period.”8

At this juncture, it is fundamental to look at different countries, their level of contamination, and the resources available to assist them in safely and cheaply clearing their lands of these deadly weapons. Mozambique benefited from the recent baseline assessment conducted by HALO. The results of the survey informed the five-year strategic plan (2008–2012) written to guide the implementation of mine-action activities during the extension. According to Mozambique’s projections, an average annual estimated need amounts to US$5.9 million per year for six years and four months in order to meet the Convention obligations.9

Efforts undertaken to release cleared land to communities have had positive socioeconomic consequences. Communities and their inhabitants are the ultimate beneficiaries of land release. In areas still considered affected, the presence of landmines and UXO have a major negative impact on the communities. Completing mine clearance would clearly benefit the communities by allowing the citizens to work on their land, and would therefore contribute toward the reduction of poverty.

It is time to look into the problems that most States Parties have encountered along the 10 years of the treaty’s existence. Collective analysis of each state’s challenges and shortcomings will help provide appropriate data to support reaching the goals the Convention was ultimately set to do. For countries like Mozambique, the extension must be granted and coordinated, and donor support should follow to enable the implementation of the national strategic program.

States bear the primary responsibility in designing and implementing strategies, plans and programs for mine action within their borders. However, many States Parties like Mozambique are still in need of assistance. The United Nations Development Programme, other international organizations, nongovernmental organizations and governments able to do so should play a vital role by mainstreaming mine action into their activities in mine-affected countries. In addition, local capacity building should be at the center of every effort to ensure sustainability of mine action in these countries.

The challenge is great, but there is an equally important opportunity to attain the goals of the Convention through a coherent, coordinated and collective action. JMA icon


Dos Santos HeadshotMaria Isabel Macedo dos Santos joined the Department for Studies Planning and Information in Mozambique’s Instituto Nacional de Desminagem in 2003. In 2004 she participated in the first UNDP Senior Mine Action Manager’s Course at James Madison University. From 1994 to1996, dos Santos worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Maputo as a Protection Assistant. She holds a BBA from Monroe College in New York, and an MA from St. John’s University in New York.


  1. Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, Oslo, Norway. 18 September 1997. The document was opened for signature in Ottawa, Canada, 3 December 1997, commonly known as the Ottawa Convention. Accessed 11 November 2008.
  2. Article 5 of the Ottawa Convention requires that signatories: identify all mined or mine-suspected areas; ensure these areas are marked, monitored and protected to protect civilians; and destroy or ensure destruction of all mines in these areas as soon as possible and no later than 10 years after the Convention’s entry into force. The Ottawa Convention is available at Accessed 11 November 2008.
  3. “Mine Action.” Global Ban on Landmines. 22 July 2008. International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Accessed 11 November 2008.
  4. Fraser, Leah. Evaluating the Impacts of the Ottawa Treaty. Landmines and Human Security. State University of New York. 2004.
  5. King, Colin. Demining: Enhancing the Process. Landmines and Human Security. State University of New York. 2004.
  6. International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Landmine Monitor 2007. “Mozambique.” Accessed 13 November 2008.
  7. Vodoz, Olivier. Statement. 8th Meeting of the State Parties. Jordan, Dead Sea. Accessed 13 November 2008.
  8. The 8th Meeting of the State Parties was held from 18–22 November 2007at The Dead Sea, Jordan. Accessed 13 November 2008.
  9. Instituto Nacional de Desminagem: The Five-Year National Mine Action Plan 2002-2006. Maputo: 19 November 2001. Accessed 13 November 2008.

Contact Information

Maria Isabel Macedo dos Santos
Department for Studies Planning and Information
Instituto Nacional de Desminagem Mozambique
32 Rheinbanenalle 14199
Berlin / Germany
Tel: +491 757 276 729
Web site: