Working Towards a Mine-Free Hemisphere
by Suzanne L. Fiederlein, MAIC
The government of Ecuador served as the host of the Americas Regional Mine Action Conference "One More Step Toward a Mine-Free Hemisphere" held in Quito, Ecuador, on August 12–13, 2004. The government of Canada and the Organization of American States Mine Action Program (AICMA, for its initials in Spanish) co-sponsored the conference, the fourth in a series of annual meetings convened in the region since 2001.
The regional gatherings have promoted the exchange of information among members of the mine action community in the hemisphere and fostered a sense of common purpose as the countries strive to reach the goal of a hemisphere free of the negative effects of anti-personnel landmines. This year's conference, like the one in Lima, Peru, in 2003, also served as a regional preparatory meeting for the Ottawa Convention Review Conference to take place in Nairobi, Kenya, from November 29-December 3, 2004. Over 100 participants from both within the Americas and beyond attended the Quito event.
The meeting's agenda included an opportunity for each country delegation to report on the status of its mine action program, as well as regional updates on the mine action pillars of mine clearance, mine risk education, victim assistance and stockpile destruction. Mr. Kerry Brinkert of the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) provided an overview of the implementation of the Ottawa Convention in the Americas and other participants reported on preparations for the upcoming Nairobi Review Conference. A panel was included in this year's conference that reported on the newly drafted (November 2003) Protocol V of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) pertaining to Explosive Remnants of War (ERW). Conference proceedings are posted on the AICMA-Ecuador website at http://www.aicma-ec.org/conferencia_regional.htm.
Among the noteworthy announcements that emerged from the gathering was
that all of the States Parties in the hemisphere should have met the
requirement to destroy their stockpiled mines by the time they reach
Nairobi. Furthermore, all of them will have launched a clearance
program by that time, considering Chile's commencement of demining
operations this past August, with Costa Rica and El Salvador already
having completed clearance and Honduras finishing in 2004. Colombia
continues to work on developing its mine action program, even as its
internal conflict remains unresolved; it announced plans to clear its
first minefield in October. One remaining issue that arose on several
occasions during the conference was the number of landmines the
countries were retaining for development and training purposes under
Article 3 of the Ottawa Convention. The countries agreed that
transparency on this matter was essential.
*All photos courtesy of Nelson Castilla, OAS/AICMA-Ecuador.