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The Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World

World leaders will adopt a powerful declaration and action plan recommitting themselves to overcoming the challenges that remain.
( [email protected] ) Nov 30, 2004 11:55 AM EST

The Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World, the landmark First Review Conference of the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel mines, is being held in Nairobi, Kenya, 29 November-3 December, 2004. Leaders of the 143 States party were brought together to the Convention to assess progress towards ending the suffering these abhorrent weapons cause. The Nairobi Summit will mark the most significant gathering of world leaders to address the global landmine problem since the historic Convention signing in Ottawa, Canada in December 1997.

The Convention was adopted in Oslo on 18 September 1997 and opened for signature in Ottawa 3-4 December 1997 at a ceremony that featured the participation of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. And for their determination in calling for the Convention, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and its coordinator Jody Williams were awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.

Since the Convention entered into force on 1 March 1999, three-quarters of the world's States have joined the Convention, destroying over 37 million mines and cooperating to clear mines in most countries affected. Worldwide use and production of anti-personnel mines have decreased dramatically, as has trade in these items. Most importantly, the annual number of mine victims has dropped significantly in mine-affected countries where the Convention's requirements are being fully respected.

Tremendous progress has been made in these five years, however, the landmine crisis is not over. Anti-personnel mines are still killing thousands of men, women and children every year. Countless more lose their limbs and are disabled for life. The Convention promised these people the help they need to rebuild their lives and live in dignity. It promised mine-affected communities that they would one day live free of the fear of death and mutilation by anti-personnel mines.

The purpose of the Convention is “to put an end to the suffering and casualties caused by anti-personnel (AP) mines.” It seeks to fulfill this purpose through the pursuit of four core aims: Universal acceptance of a ban on AP mines, The destruction of stockpiled AP mines, The clearance of mined areas, and Providing assistance to mine victims.

Meanwhile, The Convention’s States Parties have designated Ambassador Wolfgang Petritsch, Austria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, as President of the Summit, charging him with leading preparations for the international meeting, and Ambassador Esther M. Tolle, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kenya, has been named Secretary-General of the Summit, in charge of host country Summit organization.

The Nairobi Summit will have the crucial task of outlining the work that still needs to be done to fulfil the promises. The Convention sets deadlines for mine-clearance, and the first of these is in 2009. These deadlines will only be met if the governments assembled at the Nairobi Summit agree a robust plan of action and increased resource commitments for the next five years. These years will be the real test of whether the Convention can deliver on its promises.

Governments, international organizations, the International Committee of the Red Cross(ICRC) and other members of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, as well as the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and other civil society representatives from all over the world, gathered in Nairobi to take stock of the progress made towards the global elimination of anti-personnel mines.

Political figures from mine-affected and donor states took part in the Summit, including the President of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, the Governor General of Canada, Adrienne Clarkson, and the Vice-President of Colombia, Francisco Santos Calderón. The Deputy Prime Ministers of Cambodia, Tajikistan and Thailand have also confirmed their participation. In addition, a dozen other heads of state are expected to participate in the convention. Personalities taking part in the Summit include Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, who will convene a special summit of landmine survivors. Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Jody Williams and Shirin Ebadi, and this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, will lead a panel on responses to war. A host of world class runners, including world marathon record holder Paul Tergat and Ethiopian athletics legend Haile Gebrselassie, participated in the Run Towards a Mine Free World on Saturday 27 November.

By Ethiopia, the 144th state to accept the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel mines, having given an announcement on the first day of the Convention, "every state in Sub-Saharan Africa except Somalia has now accepted the Ottawa Convention’s comprehensive solution to the humanitarian catastrophe caused by anti-personnel mines", said Ambassador Petritsch.

He added, "Ethiopians can now look forward to a brighter future without the terror of landmines,”

noting that Ethiopia will now destroy its existing stockpiles of anti-personnel mines within four years, clear mined areas within ten years, and cease any use, production or transfer of the weapon immediately.

The Nairobi Summit will run from 29 November to 3 December. It is expected that United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan will address the Summit during its high level segment, scheduled to take place December 2-3. The Secretary-General has called for the highest possible representation at the Summit. His Excellency Mwai Kibaki, President of the Republic of Kenya hosts opening ceremonies on 28 November. The Holy See has indicated that Pope John Paul II will address the Summit via video. Queen Noor of Jordan will convene a Survivors Summit at which landmine survivors will engage world leaders on their obligations to provide assistance under the Ottawa Convention. As of early October, approximately 20 states had indicated that they would participate at the ministerial level or higher. Heads of UN agencies, such as Carol Bellamy of UNICEF, are also expected to attend. A colourful array of side events will take place, including a Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Forum, international youth activities and cultural events.

At the Summit, the international community is expected to adopt a powerful action plan to address challenges that remain on the path towards a mine-free world. Heads of state and ministers of foreign affairs from several countries are expected to address the Summit’s high level session on 2-3 December.

"This Convention has been one of the real success stories of the international community in recent years," stated Peter Herby, Head of the ICRC's Mines-Arms Unit.

At the Nairobi Summit, world leaders will assess the enormous progress made in ending the suffering caused by anti-personnel mines since the Convention was established. In addition, they are expected to adopt a powerful declaration and action plan recommitting themselves to overcoming the challenges that remain.