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Norway strengthening the work against landmines

Ambassador Hans Brattskar visited the border between Thailand and Cambodia in December 2018, where NPA partner Thailand Mine Action Center (TMAC) is clearing mines left during the Vietnam occupation of Cambodia after the rule of the Khmer Rouge. Photo: NPA

Norway succeeds to the presidency of the Mine Ban Treaty in 2019. Norway’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Hans Brattskar, has been appointed to this important position.

Brattskar

Ambassador Hans Brattskar

Text: Anne Håskoll-Haugen. Originally published in Appell, the Norwegian People’s Aid magazine, November 2018.

Norway will use the position to increase political focus on the convention. The final objective is a mine-free world. Brattskar is already in Geneva, ready for duty.

The presidency of the Mine Ban Treaty is a natural consequence of Norway’s long-term commitment to banning landmines,” he says to Appell.

According to Brattskar, the government’s new humanitarian strategy will increase efforts towards protection, and effective mine clearance provides better protection of civilians.

“Mine clearance can also be a precondition of getting humanitarian aid through to areas affected by conflict and for displaced persons to be able to return to their homes,” says Brattskar. He therefore thinks it is completely natural for Norway to take over the presidency in order to strengthen global work against landmines.

“What does Norway want to use the presidency for in concrete terms?” we ask.

“Our ambition is that we’ll be able to use the presidency to help give a new boost to global efforts against landmines. We’ll be working to increase political attention about the Mine Ban Treaty in both affected countries and donor countries. I’ll also be having meetings with countries that have not yet signed up to the convention to encourage them to ratify it. We’ll also be working towards acceptance of a good five-year plan that will help us on the way to a mine-free world,” says Brattskar.

Must employ new methods

Hans Brattskar has been in foreign affairs service since 1984 and has long diplomatic experience. Among other positions, he was secretary of state to Børge Brende when he was foreign minister.

“How does Norway view the possibility of achieving the goal of a mine-free world by 2025?”

“The Mine Ban Treaty has been a success and a great deal has already been achieved. We have an agreement with 164 state parties and 53 million landmines have been destroyed. Nevertheless, landmines remain a significant global problem. 58 states are currently affected by landmines, 36 of which are state parties to the Mine Ban Treaty. There is no doubt than a mine-free world is an ambitious target which will require enormous effort. In some particularly badly affected countries, the problem is so big that action will have to continue for some time after 2025 to achieve that target, but in many of the countries it is possible to complete mine clearance activities in good time before 2025”

“What are the greatest challenges in achieving the target?”

“After many years of decline in the number of mine victims, we’ve seen new use of mines and home-made explosives on a large scale in recent years, especially on the part of non-state groupings. The widespread use of home-made explosives in Syria and Iraq, for example, contributes to extremely high civilian losses. This is a cause for concern. Solving this problem will require good coordination and long-term efforts from donor countries. Another challenge is that progress is going too slowly in a number of countries. We can see there is a potential for increasing the rate of mine clearance through increased financing and, equally, by using the newest and most efficient methods for mapping and clearing land.”

Norway has an important role

In order to contribute to greater progress for mine clearance efforts in selected countries, Norway has helped host informal workshops and establish Mine Action Forum, an arena in which national authorities, donors, the UN and various operators can meet to exchange experience and identify remaining challenges such as those in Lebanon, for example.

“Norway is often given part of the honour for the Mine Ban Treaty’s coming into existence. Is it your experience that this is internationally recognised?”

“Norway played a key role alongside a group of other nations and civil society organisations in getting the ban on mines introduced in 1997. I feel that Norway’s role is generally recognised around the world. I think a large part of this recognition is to do with the fact that global efforts against mines and the strengthening of the Mine Ban Treaty have been priorities for all Norwegian governments for over 20 years, irrespective of the governing parties.”

Mine-free world

Nor is there any doubt about appreciation for the efforts made by Norwegian People’s Aid in relation to mine clearance arms destruction around the world, says Brattskar.

“This contributes to Norway’s excellent reputation for global mine efforts. The work of Norwegian People’s Aid is also very important to our presidency.”

“How can Norway continue being an important force, in addition to our having the presidency?”

“Norway must continue being a major donor to global mine clearance efforts. In 2017, the total Norwegian contribution to mine clearance was NOK 329 million. Investment was at the same level in 2018. We will also continue working towards better dialogue between donors, mine clearance operators and national authorities in affected countries in order to bring greater efficacy to the clearance work,” says Brattskar, adding:   

“The Mine Ban Treaty Mine and, subsequently, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, were ground-breaking in that they established clear obligations to provide assistance to the victims of such weapons. Even if our goal is a mine-free world, there will still be mine victims for many years to come. That’s why it is important to follow up on that part of the Mine Ban Treaty too, in collaboration with national health authorities. In addition to that, we can do more to prevent there being more mine victims, for example by teaching the population of affected areas about the risks.”   

08.01.2019 | Hilde Sofie Pettersen