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Non-State Actors Working Group, Landmine Monitor Report 2003

Non-State Actors Working Group

One of the key challenges to fully universalize the norm prohibiting antipersonnel landmines is that posed by the involvement of Non-State Actors (NSAs)--armed groups operating outside of government control--in the landmine problem. Country campaigns of the ICBL established the Non-State Actors Working Group (NSA WG) to address this key challenge. The NSA WG coordinates, supports and initiates ICBL activities aimed at promoting NSA engagement in the landmine ban.

The NSA WG is comprised of 23 country campaigns and is co-chaired by the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Swiss Campaign to Ban Landmines.[1] It collaborates closely with Geneva Call, an independent, humanitarian NGO which provides NSAs, who are not eligible to sign international agreements, an opportunity to become engaged in a process parallel and complementary to the Mine Ban Treaty through the “Deed of Commitment for Adherence to a Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines and for Cooperation in Mine Action” (DoC).[2] Today, the government of Geneva holds 20 signed Deeds of Commitment.

Engaging Non-State Actors

In 2002 and the first half of 2003, NSA-related work by country campaigns and/or in partnership with Geneva Call engaged non-state actors in Angola (Cabinda), Bangladesh, Burma, Chechnya, Colombia, India, Indonesia (Aceh), Iraqi Kurdistan, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Western Sahara.

Key developments include:

Iraqi Kurdistan: In August 2002, during a Geneva Call mission to northern Iraq, both Kurdistan regional governments--led by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)--signed the DoC.[3] In a unilateral declaration, the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan gave its support for Geneva Call's work and agreed to cooperate "in its sacred campaign aimed at putting a total ban on the production, stockpiling and use of such deadly, inhumane devices.”

Sri Lanka: In November 2002, the Sri Lanka Campaign entered into a partnership with Geneva Call and Landmine Action to promote the mine ban norm with both parties to the conflict. The government of Sri Lanka expressed its willingness to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty, if the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) made a similar commitment under the DoC. In December 2002, Geneva Call representatives met with Anton Balasingham, chief advisor and political negotiator, and the peace delegation of the LTTE in Bern, Switzerland, where the LTTE said they were seriously considering the possibility of signing the DoC. On 29 January 2003, a regional ICBL delegation visited a demining training and an MRE program in Killinochi, in the LTTE-controlled area and met with the Director of the Humanitarian Demining Unit (HDU) of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO).

Somalia: Another highlight of NSA engagement on the mine ban front unfolded in Eldoret, Kenya on the sidelines of the Somali National Reconciliation Conference. The conference, convened by the East African regional organization, Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), provided an excellent opportunity to advocate for a ban among participating Somali factions. On 11 November 2002, 15 factions, including the Transitional National Government, Puntland, and key members of the Somalia Reconciliation and Restoration Council, signed the DoC.

Nepal: In June 2003, members of the NSA WG undertook a mission to Nepal where they met with representatives of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), as well as officials of the Royal Nepalese Army. Campaigners called for the inclusion of a ban on mine use in the Code of Conduct guiding the cease-fire between parties to the conflict. Maoist leader Khrisna Bahadur Mahara said he would discuss with the Maoist leadership a long-term commitment to a total ban on antipersonnel mine use through the DoC.


Helping governments to understand that the effort to engage NSAs in the ban process is not an attempt to legitimize their legal status under international humanitarian law or to afford them international recognition is crucial to obtain government support for this effort and requires continued outreach and discussion.

On 17 September 2002, during the Fourth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, the NSA WG in collaboration with Geneva Call organized a roundtable discussion at the United Nations attended by approximately 100 people. In an unprecedented discussion, government representatives and opposition groups discussed the landmine issue face-to-face. During the 4MSP week, NSA participants (including DoC signatories from Sudan, the Philippines and Iraqi Kurdistan) met with UN agencies, governments, the ICRC, the ICBL and mine action organizations. One highlight of these meetings was the conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding between UNMAS, the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) for emergency mine action support.

Following the lobbying efforts of members of the NSA WG, Geneva Call and a group of like-minded governments, wording in the final declaration of the 4MSP stated, “We reaffirm that progress to free the world from anti-personnel mines would be promoted by the commitment by non-State actors to cease and renounce their use in line with the international norm established by this Convention. We urge all non-State actors to cease and renounce the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines according to the principles and norms of International Humanitarian Law.”

During the 4MSP, Switzerland and Italy indicated their strong support for efforts to engage NSAs in the mine ban. On 15 October 2002, the Italian Senate acknowledged the importance of engaging NSAs in a mine ban and supporting NGO efforts in this area.

On 24 October 2002, the European Parliament increased the budgetary allocation for European Commission mine action support, and included, for the first time, funding for NGO activities to engage NSAs in the landmine ban.

On 3 February 2003, representatives of over 23 governments attended a workshop organized by the NSA WG and Geneva Call during intersessional Standing Committee meetings of the Mine Ban Treaty, in which they expressed their views, concerns and experiences on the engagement of NSAs in the ban process. Representatives from the Philippines and Sri Lanka described their governments’ engagement with NSA on landmines and the practical benefits of doing this. Other topics ranged from implementation of mine action programs in NSA-controlled areas to issues of verifying NSA commitments.

For more information, contact the ICBL NSA Working Group Co-Chairs: Miriam Coronel Ferrer, mferrer@kssp.upd.edu.ph, or Elisabeth Reusse-Decrey, ereusse@worldcom.ch.

[1] Country campaign members of the NSA WG include: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Australia, Colombia, Canada, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand, Palestine, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, UK, and Zimbabwe.
[2] Under the DoC, armed groups commit themselves to a total prohibition on the use of antipersonnel mines and other victim-activated explosive devices, under any circumstances; to undertake, to cooperate in, or to facilitate programs to destroy stockpiles; to demine contaminated areas; to provide assistance to victims; to promote awareness programs; to facilitate the monitoring and verification of their commitments by Geneva Call; and to ensure that the prohibition on use of antipersonnel mines and any other victim-activated explosive devices are communicated to the rank and file.
[3] Both the PUK and KDP leaders are now members of the Iraq’s new governing council.