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Non-State Actors Working Group , Landmine Monitor Report 2000
LM Report 2000 Full Report   Executive Summary   Key Findings   Key Developments   Translated Country Reports

Non-State Actors Working Group

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines made the ad hoc working group on Non-State Actors (NSAs), originally formed in 1997 on the initiative of the Colombian, Philippine, and South African country campaigns, into a full working group in at its General Meeting in May 1999. The objective of the working group is to develop a complementary process to engage armed opposition groups in all aspects of the humanitarian solution to the landmine crisis, including an unconditional ban on the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of antipersonnel landmines, and obtaining the cooperation of NSAs in integrated mine action.

The Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines and Mines Action Canada have co-chaired the working group since May 1999. As of May 2000, the membership had expanded to include: the Afghan Campaign, Australian Network, members of the Colombian Campaign, Indian Campaign, Irish Campaign-Pax Christi, Italian Campaign, Kenya Coalition, Mines Action Canada, Nepal Campaign, Pakistan Campaign, Palestine Campaign, Philippine Campaign, South African Campaign, Swiss Campaign, Thai Campaign, the UK Working Group on Landmines, and the Zimbabwe Campaign.

The NSA Working Group is committed to an impartial application of the principles of international humanitarian law. The working group believes in engaging NSAs through dialogue and education, appealing to appropriate legal and normative points of reference and to political self-interest, and, as necessary, pressure. The working group stresses the importance of consultation with the communities affected and of careful attention to the impact of landmine work on initiatives aimed at establishing a just and lasting peace.

Overview of NSAs and Landmines

The majority of contemporary wars involve one or more armed groups operating autonomously from officially recognized governments. A recent survey indicated that there are over 190 non-state armed groups with a basic command structure and a capacity to plan armed operations, active in over 60 countries around the world.[1] According to information in the Landmine Monitor Report 1999, landmines were used by NSAs in forty-four countries during the 1990s.[2]

In the majority of situations in which there are reasonably certain reports that landmines are in use, NSAs are involved, either as users (and sometimes producers) or targets of landmines. Landmine Monitor 2000 research identifies likely use of antipersonnel mines by approximately thirty NSAs in at least eighteen conflicts in 1999 and 2000, including in Afghanistan, Angola, Burma, Chechnya, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia/Abkhazia, India/Pakistan (Kashmir), South Lebanon, Nepal, Philippines, Senegal, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Turkey/Northern Iraq, Uganda, Yugoslavia/Kosovo (see country reports). The report identifies likely use by eleven governments in eleven conflicts.

This demonstrates the necessity of engaging non-state groups as well as states in a solution to the landmine crisis. Aware of the impact of mines on their constituents, or, more recently, of the global movement to eliminate landmines, some NSAs have issued public statements about their use of landmines and their willingness to support mine action activities in areas under their control. As with states, the public positions taken by NSAs vary in their level of understanding and acceptance of the humanitarian principles impelling the ban movement, and in their implementation. Some such public statements were listed in the Landmine Monitor Report1999.[3] Updated information about the landmine policies of various NSAs can be found on the NSA working group website and in the documentation of the March 2000 conference on landmines and non-state actors (see below), or obtained directly from the NSA database.[4]

One of the most encouraging NSA statements on landmines made recently was issued by the RPA-ABB, a Maoist group operating in the Philippines. Their statement of March 2000 admits past error, renounces future use and production of antipersonnel mines and concludes, "Fighting for genuine peace, social justice, political liberty, and a safe and clean environment are all in the service of the human race. Destroying the world and sacrificing innocent lives with the use of anti-personnel mines does not serve this purpose."

Customary international humanitarian law, which is taken to apply to non-state as well as state actors, offers a common global framework in which such unilateral statements can be evaluated. IHL states that, "In any armed conflict, the right of the parties to the conflict to choose methods or means of warfare is not unlimited." Three general principles are relevant to landmines: prohibitions on weapons whose harm is disproportionate to their military objectives, weapons which are inherently indiscriminate, and weapons whose use violates "the public conscience."[5] The ICBL believes that these principles require non-state actors to adopt a complete ban on the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of antipersonnel mines.

In the end, however, international humanitarian principles are only practically relevant if NSAs accept them; the process of convincing NSAs and their publics of their relevance and of the importance of implementing a total ban is primary. Ultimate progress in this area is measured not in terms of the public positions taken by NSAs, important as these can be as reference points, but in terms of their implementation of an effective ban, together with progress on mine clearance and victim assistance in areas under NSA control. This is the work in which several NSA Working Group members have been engaged over the past year.

Activities of the Working Group and its Members since March 1999

During the past year, the members of the NSA Working Group have participated in a number of initiatives, including: a South Asia regional workshop on landmines hosted by the ICRC in Sri Lanka in August 1999; a workshop on Non-State Actors hosted by the Henri Dunant Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva in December 1999; the Intersessional Standing Committee of Experts on the General Status and Operation of the Convention in January 2000; and the Wilton Park conference on Engaging Non-State Actors in Humanitarian Principles in March 2000 in the UK.

One of the chief efforts of members of the working group over the past year was a conference, "Engaging Non-State Actors in a Landmine Ban," held in March 2000 in Geneva. The conference brought together over one hundred representatives of governments, NGOs, NSAs and international organizations to discuss issues around NSAs and landmines. A summary report and conference proceedings are available from the NSA Working Group.

Drawing on the findings of the conference, the working group has begun developing a framework for approaching NSAs. The Working Group also developed public communication material, including an introductory brochure and a website, in order to increase public understanding of its objectives, work and progress.

Immediately following the March conference, several members of the working group launched the "Geneva Call," a new international NGO based in Geneva that will promote humanitarian principles to NSAs and serve as a mechanism to hold NSAs accountable for their unilateral declarations banning antipersonnel mines and other humanitarian norms articulated in the Geneva Conventions and Protocols.

The Non-State Actor Database independently housed at International Alert in London has continued to provide information to the Working Group, developing its files on NSAs and in April 2000, producing an updated global survey of NSAs, categorized by region and country, that have been, are, or are potential mine users. The Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines has contributed valuable research in the field of international law as it applies to NSA use of landmines.

Research and outreach have continued at the field level. The Thai Campaign developed an outreach plan and information kit for NSAs operating in Burma. The Thai Campaign's systematic approach to NSAs in Burma, combining transparency of objectives with confidentiality, has begun to pay off in terms of some groups questioning their continued use of landmines. The Australian network met earlier with Karen and Karenni groups on the Thai-Burma border and has raised the issue with representatives of the military regime. The Philippine Campaign briefed leaders of the Karen National Union and the National Council of the Union of Burma on the landmine issue and discussed the possibility of a future workshop on the issue.

Members of the working group have conducted consultations in January 2000 with Sri Lanka experts on strategies to involve both the government and LTTE in a ban; have entered into dialogue with NSAs in the Philippines; have met with Xanana Gusmao and a very supportive Jose Ramos Horta of East Timor to encourage East Timor to make a statement on landmines; and have conducted research on NSAs operating in Nepal.

The Indian Campaign organized two regional landmine seminars in Jammu and Kashmir in July and August 1999. Both representatives of NSAs and Indian military officers took part in these meetings. In February 2000, a regional workshop was held in Southern India and Naxalites were invited to attend. A landmine seminar and photo exhibit were held at the beginning of March 2000 in North East India and representatives of NSAs operating in the region were again invited to attend.

The Pakistan Campaign (PCBL) is promoting awareness in the tribal belt of Pakistan. PCBL has held several meetings with local administration and government officials in which it has communicated its concerns on the use of landmines in those areas. It has held meetings with local elders and religious scholars.

Members of the working group have also visited Yugoslavia/Kosovo in July 1999 to discuss a mine ban with the now disbanded KLA/UCK; conducted talks with the Polisario in the Western Sahara in March 1999; initiated communication with NSAs in Guatemala, Mexico and Colombia. The Zimbabwe campaign has conducted local and regional research in Southern Africa.

<Working Group on Victim Assistance | Ethics and Justice Working Group Report>

[1] Martin Rupiya, "One Man's Terrorist is Another's Liberator," March 2000, citing Non-State Actor Database, "Non State Armed Actors: Region and Country Survey." Updated survey, from April 2000, available from nsadba@international-alert.org.
[2] ICBL NSA Working Group, "The use of landmines by non-state actors," Information Paper prepared for the January 2000 meeting of the SCE on General Status and Operation of the Convention.
[3] Landmine Monitor Report 1999, pp 943-944.
[4] NSAWG website is www.icbl.org/wg/nsa; NSA database (housed at International Alert in London) can be reached at nsadba@international-alert.org.
[5] Two background papers on the international legal framework for NSAs and landmines, “The Ottawa Treaty and Non-State Actors” and “The International Criminal Court and Rebel Groups,” have been prepared for the Working Group by Sol Santos of the Philippine Campaign and can be obtained from the NSA database.