The workshop, Mine Action as a Confidence Building Measure, was held in Almaty, Kazakhstan on 26-27 March 2007. The workshop was hosted by the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Kazakhstan supported by Canada, Slovenia, the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance (ITF), and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). It was Co-Chaired by General (Ret.) Maurice Baril of Canada, Special Advisor to Canada’s Ambassador to Mine Action, and, Mr. Stanislav Vidovi?, Head of the Security Policy Division of Slovenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.The purpose of the workshop was for the States of Central Asia and the South Caucuses, along with other States and interested organizations, to discuss the humanitarian problems caused by anti-personnel mines, the place of mine action in confidence building and the role of the Ottawa Convention as a comprehensive framework for mine action.
Representatives of the following States from within the region participated: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Other participating States included Canada, Slovenia, and Spain in its capacity as Chair in Office of the OSCE. Participating organizations included the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the ITF, the OSCE, the Swiss Demining Foundation (FSD) and the United Nations Mine Action Service UNMAS).
Based upon the proceedings of the workshop, the Co-Chairs concluded the following:
- Workshop participants acknowledged the humanitarian problems caused by anti-personnel mines and other explosive remnants of war, particularly the manner in which the indiscriminate nature of anti-personnel mines results in civilian injuries and deaths and the manner in which mines and other explosive remnants of war impede reconstruction, reconciliation and social and economic development.
The workshop featured a productive exchange of views on mine action as a confidence building measure and on the role of the Ottawa Convention as a framework for mine action. The quality of this discussion underscored the value of holding regional dialogues on mine action and the implementation of the Convention and on the role that regional organizations can play in supporting the pursuit of the Convention’s aims by their Member States.
Advancements in the state of the art of mine action were highlighted, including; the need to integrate mine risk education into mine action programmes; the need to integrate efforts to assist victims into existing structures of States that concern themselves with health care, rehabilitation and reintegration; and, methods and means to efficiently and effectively release suspected dangerous areas, demine and ensure quality.
A compelling case was made from a military point of view regarding the extremely limited utility of anti-personnel mines. While this presentation was well received and while participating States not parties to the Ottawa Convention indicated openness to eventual accession to the Convention, some indicated that they are not willing to accede to the Convention in the near term. Nevertheless, there was a sense that some States not parties are proceeding with domestic steps to permit accession.
It was suggested that the participating states and partner states to the OSCE consider security concerns common to these states in the framework of respective sub-regional organizations such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Organization for Co-operation and also through this framework form the basis to stop the use of the APL’s as a means for ensuring military security. In particular it was also suggested that the OSCE CSBM (confidence building security measures) regime could be used as a tool to achieve this goal.
It was well noted that a wide range of actors exists to support States in the region in fulfilling their international obligations or national responsibilities concerning mine action. In addition to assistance available on a bilateral basis, it was highlighted that the United Nations system, regional organizations such as OSCE and non-governmental organizations, the ICRC and unique structures such as the ITF, the GICHD and the Convention’s support unit (ISU) established by the GICHD stand ready to contribute to States’ efforts.
The competent manner in which States Parties to the Ottawa Convention in the region are seizing their responsibilities was underscored, with Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan all highlighting actions that they are taking or have taken to implement the Convention. In addition, it was noted that other States in the region are taking steps to address problems within their countries caused by mines and other explosive remnants of war, and, in particular, the demining capacity developed by the workshop’s host country, Kazakhstan, was highlighted.