posted on Mon 12 Jun 2017 4:10 PM
Briefing on Mine Action and Explosive Threat Mitigation

At the initiative of Bolivia, the Security Council will hold a briefing tomorrow (13 June) under the agenda item maintenance of international peace and security with the title “Comprehensive Approach to Mine Action and Explosive Hazard Threat Mitigation.” Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Alexander Zuev, will brief on the work of the UN related to mine action, including the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS). A mine action worker from UNMAS in Colombia, Nathalie Ochoa Nina, will provide a briefing focusing on her experience in the field. Bolivia has proposed a draft resolution as an outcome, but at press time negotiations were still underway and no action has been scheduled for tomorrow. It seems Bolivia is aiming to get agreement on a draft that could be adopted later this month. It would be the Council’s first stand-alone resolution on mine action.

In preparation for the meeting, Bolivia circulated a concept note recalling that the Council regularly calls for the mitigation of the threats posed by explosive hazards such as landmines, explosive remnants of war, cluster munitions, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), particularly when considering peacekeeping or special political mission mandates, and that the mitigation of such threats is vital to the success of missions and to promoting peacebuilding and stabilisation efforts. The note highlights the importance of mine action for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, mission mobility, the return of displaced persons and refugees, commercial activity, and sustainable development.

The concept note asserts that because of “the cross-cutting nature of mine action and its relevance to promoting the peace and security agenda, it is appropriate for the Security Council to hold a thematic briefing on mine action and to adopt a resolution that will frame a comprehensive approach to mine action and explosive hazard threat mitigation.” It presents the briefing as an opportunity to address how the complexity of these threats has evolved in terms of the types of explosive hazards being used and the action required to mitigate their impact, including the leading role played by UNMAS. It emphasises the growing threat posed by the use of IEDs, particularly by non-state actors in asymmetrical conflicts, and their impact not only on civilians but also UN peacekeeping personnel, negatively affecting mobility and the delivery of mandates. According to the note, 105 injuries and 21 fatalities were caused by IEDs in 167 incidents recorded since 2014 involving explosive hazards and UN uniformed personnel. In addition, the concept note highlights the important role played by UNMAS in implementing and coordinating mine action activities.

It seems that Council members generally welcome the briefing tomorrow as an opportunity to discuss the importance of mine action, with some planning to draw attention to relevant legal obligations under international humanitarian law. However, negotiations on the draft resolution have been rather difficult to date. During consultations on 26 May, Bolivia presented a first draft which at the outset recognised “the increasingly complex nature of the threat posed by explosive hazards” and stressed “the need for a comprehensive approach.” The draft was subsequently discussed on 29 May and 1 June. Following these initial rounds of negotiations, Bolivia circulated a revised draft and held another round of negotiations on 8 June. A third draft was circulated over the weekend.

It seems that during the initial negotiations Council members raised questions about the objective of the proposed resolution and its value-added in the context of other UN initiatives, citing among other things relevant action in the General Assembly such as recent resolutions on assistance in mine action (A/RES/71/72) and on countering the threat posed by IEDs (A/RES/70/80). Some felt that the draft lacked a clear focus and attempted to cover too many issues. As a result, the draft which is now on the table is significantly revised compared with the first version.

Overall, the revised draft seems to have a stronger focus on the protection of civilians. It expresses grave concern over the threat that landmines, explosive remnants of war, and IEDs pose to civilians, as well as to peacekeepers, humanitarian workers, civilian personnel, and law enforcement personnel, and stresses the need to mitigate this danger effectively. It calls on parties to armed conflicts to protect civilians against this threat and end the indiscriminate use of explosive devices in violation of international humanitarian law. It furthermore calls on states parties of treaties related to mine action, including the Mine Ban Treaty, to comply with their international obligations.

With regard to peacekeeping, the revised draft stresses the importance of ensuring that missions and troop-contributing and host countries are adequately equipped and trained to reduce the threat posed by landmines, explosive remnants of war, and IEDs. It furthermore stresses the importance of considering mine action at an early stage during the planning and programming of peacekeeping operations and special political missions, as well as humanitarian emergency responses.

In other provisions, the draft calls on member states to provide mine action assistance and support capacity-building, recognises UNMAS’ coordination role, and welcomes the AU-UN partnership on mine action. It further requests the Secretary-General to provide the Council with information on the threats posed by landmines, explosive remnants of war, and IEDs and efforts to mitigate these threats when relevant, and to also report on the implementation of the resolution.

At press time, another round of negotiations was scheduled for Wednesday (14 June).

For additional background, please refer to the brief on mine action in SCR’s June Monthly Forecast.