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Non-State Actors Working Group, Landmine Monitor Report 2004

Non-State Actors Working Group

Non-State Actors (NSAs)—armed groups operating outside of government control—pose a particularly difficult challenge to efforts to fully universalize the norm prohibiting antipersonnel landmines and address the landmine problem. To address this, country campaigns of the ICBL established the Non-State Actors Working Group (NSA WG) to coordinate, support and initiate 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.[14] The New Zealand campaign continues to manage the group’s electronic communications. The Working Group collaborates closely with local and international entities such as the ICRC and Geneva Call. Geneva Call, an independent, humanitarian Swiss-based NGO, works with ICBL country campaigners, and provides NSAs an opportunity to become engaged in a parallel, complementary process 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).[15] As of September 2004, the Republic and Canton of Geneva, which serves as the guardian of these documents, held 26 signed Deeds of Commitment.[16]

Engaging Non-State Actors

In 2003 and the first half of 2004, country campaigns in partnership with local and international organizations engaged non-state actors in Bangladesh, Burma, Burundi, Colombia, Greater Horn of Africa, India, Nepal, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. The ICBL NSA Working Group conducted two important events in 2003: a mission to Nepal in June 2003 and a workshop on “Lessons Learned in Engaging NSAs in a Mine Ban” held in Bangkok in September together with Geneva Call. To promote its advocacy among states, the ICBL NSA Working Group also co-organized with Geneva Call a public forum during the Fifth Meeting of State Parties in Bangkok in September 2003. At the Meeting of State Parties, the recognition of the importance of NSA engagement was reiterated in the Meeting’s Declaration.

Key developments include:

Burma: On 5 December 2003, the presidents of two Burmese NSA, the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO) and its Rohingya National Army (RNA) and the National United Party of Arakan (NUPA) and its Arakan Army (AA) signed the Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment. Both groups said the human tragedies caused by mine use compelled them to commit to the mine ban despite the Burmese government’s continued use of the weapon. The ARNO and NUPA represent the two main ethnic groups in the hilly terrain of Arakan state, northeast Burma. In October 2000, NUPA, the largest Rakhaing insurgency group, largely Buddhist, and ARNO, representing the Muslim Rohingya, joined forces under the Arakan Independence Alliance (AIA). Both groups operate along Burma’s western border with Bangladesh. ARNO and NUPA are the first two armed opposition groups in the war-torn country to cease use of AP mines and similar victim-activated explosive devices. On 28 April 2004, the ICBL launched a special initiative coordinated by Thailand Campaign member Nonviolence International and called “Halt Mine Use in Burma/Myanmar.” The aim is to convince the ruling military junta and combatants of more than 30 armed opposition groups to halt their use of antipersonnel mines and/or victim-activated improvised explosive devices. NSA WG member Thailand Campaign to Ban Landmines issued a press release on 1 March 2004 welcoming recent talks on cessation of hostilities between the Karen National Union and the State Peace and Development Council of Burma/Myanmar, and calling on them to include landmines in their discussions.

Burundi: The Conseil National pour la Défense de la Démocratie-Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie (CNDD-FDD) signed the Deed of Commitment in a ceremony in Geneva in 15 December 2003. A few weeks later the movement signed a power-sharing agreement with the government of Burundi, aimed at ending the decade-long civil war. The move is significant as the CNDD-FDD still maintains control over its own troops. The Burundi-based Centre Independent de Recherches et d’Initiative pour Dialogue (CIRID) and Geneva Call secured the Deed of Commitment. CIRID and Geneva Call are continuing negotiations with another active group, the Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People-National Liberation Forces (Palipehutu-FNL).

Colombia: The Colombian Campaign to Ban Landmines (CCCM) continued its attempts to engage Colombian NSA on the mine ban in 2003 and 2004, particularly the National Liberation Army (ELN). On 3-6 May 2003, CCCM hosted a Geneva Call delegation and arranged several meetings with the Vice President of Colombia, Francisco Santos, as well as the Colombian Armed Forces, government representatives, NGOs, and UN and international agencies. The delegation also met with ELN spokespersons Felipe Torres and Franciso Galán, both imprisoned at the Itaguí prison in Medellin. They also met with the ELN Central Command, Ramiro Vargas, in Cuba on 7 May. They did not secure ELN’s support for a total mine ban, but there was broad-based interest and support for the idea of setting up a pilot “mine-free zone” in an area controlled by the ELN. In January 2004, CCCM and Geneva Call launched a joint pilot project that is funded by the European Commission and the government of Switzerland. On 4-5 June 2004, the government of Colombia allowed ELN spokesperson Francisco Galán to leave Itaguí prison to address a forum on landmines, NSA and humanitarian agreements organized by CCCM and Geneva Call in Bogotá. Galán delivered the ELN’s first public statement on mine use, stating that the group would consider limiting the mine use and warning civilians in order to reduce the number of mine victims. He included a proposal for peace talks, which was widely covered by the media. The United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) sent a message to the forum’s organizers inviting discussions on its mine policy. The possibility of engaging the Fuerzas Armadas Revoluncionarias de Colombia (FARC) is also being explored. On 17-19 August, CCCM and the Geneva Call convened a national conference for indigenous and Afro-Colombian representatives to discuss the landmine problem in Colombia. On 20 August the same hosts organized the first of ten regional meetings on mines, NSA and humanitarian agreements in Medellin, Antioquia region. A second regional meeting was held on 25 August in Bucaramanga, Santander region.

India (Northern-East) – Nagaland: On 17 October 2003, Thuingaleng Muivah, General Secretary of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Nagaland) (NSCN), the largest and most influential armed group operating in North East India, signed the Deed of Commitment at a ceremony in Geneva. The NSCN is the first NSA operating in India to make such a commitment and its decision to renounce antipersonnel mines, including victim-activated IED may to influence other NSAs to take similar positions. The Indian Campaign to Ban Landmines helped facilitate the discussions between the Geneva Call and the NSCN.

Nepal: An NSA WG delegation visited Nepal from 8-14 June 2003.[17] The mission followed a January 2003 ceasefire agreement, which enabled the NSA WG to conduct a dialogue with the key actors and provided an opportunity to raise the need for landmines to be included in the continuing negotiations between the two parties. Despite continuing political instability, including a sudden change in prime minister and reorganization of the Cabinet at the time of the visit, the Nepal Campaign to Ban Landmines (NCBL) arranged meetings with the Communist Party of Nepal (UML)-Maoist group, newly-elected government officials, and key political parties in Nepal. The delegation also met with approximately 30 Nepalese human rights and peace groups, members of the international community, and broadcast and print journalists of foreign and domestic media. A resumption of the conflict has stalled efforts to secure firmer commitments. The NCBL has continued to draw attention to the mine issue. On 24 February 2004, it organized a meeting with the Geneva Call, the facilitator of peace negotiations, Hon. Padma Ratna Tuladhar, CPN representatives, former government ministers, and parliamentarians to discuss NSA mine use which closed with a call to the Maoists to stop their mine use. On 10 June 2004, NCBL met with various government representatives, including the Ministry of Defence and police to discuss how to half NSA mine use.

Philippines: On 11 September 2003, the Revolutionary Workers Party of Mindanao (Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Mindanao, RPM-M) and its Revolutionary People’s Army (RPA) signed the Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment. So far, there is no reported mine use linked to the RPM-M/RPA. In 2001, the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL) proposed a joint mine clearance operation by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as a confidence building measure. The MILF signed the Geneva Call Deed of Commitment in March 2000, but instances of alleged mine use continue to be reported. While the MILF committed to the joint demining initiative in September 2002, the government peace panel responded on 12 May 2004 that it welcomed the proposal and would consider its possible integration into the peace process activities. The PCBL has initiated steps to coordinate with the Joint GRP-MILF Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) to establish an effective reporting system among residents and local authorities, and a mine risk education and information dissemination campaign. In January 2003, the PCBL drafted a comprehensive domestic law on landmines including provisions on compliance by rebel groups that may be formalized through several available instruments. In February 2004, PCBL published a pamphlet "Towards the 2004 Review Conference on the Ottawa Treaty: From a Perspective of Engaging Non-State Armed Groups.”

Sri Lanka: In 2003 and 2004, the SLCBL continued to monitor progress in joint mine action and ceasefire and peace negotiation between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). One mechanism for engagement is a cross-conflict mine ban advocacy project involving the SLCBL/Inter-religious Peace Foundation (SLCBL/IRPF), Landmine Action-UK and Geneva Call that links local and international organizations involved in mine action in the country, namely the UNDP, UNICEF and the governments of Canada and Switzerland. In September 2003, the SLCBL/IRPF invited the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO), a development organization that grew from the LTTE and conducts mine action in LTTE controlled areas, to attend the “Lessons Learned Workshop” in Bangkok. The SLCBL/IRPF and Geneva Call held meetings with the LTTE in Sri-Lanka and in Europe. The LTTE stated that they are seriously considering signing the Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment once significant progress is made towards peace, and that this is an issue that they would like to discuss in negotiation with the Sri Lankan government. On 15 May 2004, the IRPF, Geneva Call and Landmine Action convened a meeting of NGOs and civil society organizations based in the Jaffna to discuss the landmine issue, including the need for a total ban on antipersonnel mines. The Jaffna Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies provided logistical support and UNICEF, UNDP, and Geneva Call provided funds to hold the workshop.

Sudan: From 29 September to 1 October 2003, the Geneva Call and DoC signatory the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and its humanitarian demining agency Operation Save Innocent Lives (OSIL) held a workshop on landmines in Sudan in Kapoeta, southern Sudan, with funding provided by the European Commission. Upon signing the Deed of Commitment on 4 October 2001, the SPLM/A noted that changing the behavior of its military to give up the weapon was a challenge as was the practical difficulty of disseminating its total ban policy over the vast and remote areas under its authority. Over 100 participants attended the workshop, including the SPLM/A Chairman and Commander-in-Chief, Dr. John Garang de Mabior, political leaders, commanders and soldiers, local civil authorities, mine action NGOs, and international agencies working in Sudan. KCAL and one of the Landmine Monitor researchers for Sudan, Peter Moszynski, contributed to the workshop. The New Sudan Authority on Landmines (NSAL) was launched in May 2004 by the SPLM secretariats. It is tasked with developing capacities to address mine action issues in southern Sudan, establishing priorities for mine action activities overseeing the activities of the New Sudan Mine Action Directorate (NSMAD).

Advocacy, Education & Outreach

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.

Fifth Meeting of State Parties: Several events and activities on NSA were held around the Fifth Meeting of State Parties, held in Bangkok, Thailand. On 13 September 2003, the NSA WG and Geneva Call organized a workshop attended by approximately sixty participants to examine lessons in engaging armed NSAs in the landmine ban. Fourteen country and sub-country case studies were presented.[18] The governments of Australia and Canada provided funds in support of the workshop and the workshop proceedings have been published. On 16 September 2003, the same organizers held a public briefing on engaging NSA on the landmine ban. Approximately sixty people attended the briefing, including ban campaigners, media, and government representatives. The briefing featured a panel of representatives from the Geneva Call, NSA WG, and mine action NGOs that gave examples of progress in NSA-related work, including recognition of the importance of engaging NSA in the declarations of previous annual meetings of Mine Ban Treaty State Parties. The Bangkok Declaration by the Fifth Meeting of State Parties resulted in similar language.[19]

Greater Horn of Africa workshops: The Geneva Call, the Kenya Coalition Against Landmines (KCAL), and the Greater Horn of Africa Mine Action Network (GHAMAN) organized workshops in Nairobi, Kenya on landmines and NSA in February 2003 and September 2003. More than 30 selected experts and representatives of organizations working in Burundi, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda met to strategize and share ideas on how best to engage NSAs in a landmine ban. The government of Italy funded the workshops.

Women NSA: On 27-29 August 2004, more than 30 women combatants or former combatants belonging to rebel armed groups from some twenty countries accepted an invitation by Geneva Call to come together and discuss the landmines issue.

Resolutions: On 22 April 2004, the European Parliament passed a resolution emphasizing the importance of engaging NSA in the mine ban, including by signing the Geneva Call Deed of Commitment. The OSCE passed a similar resolution in July 2004.

Other conferences: From 23-27 June 2004, ICBL NSA WG and Geneva Call members led sessions on NSA engagement in a mine ban during the Barcelona Forum, as part of the International Peace Bureau-sponsored Dialogue, “Toward a World Without Violence.” In April 2004, NSA WG members also shared their experiences during an International Conference on Humanized Globalization and Spirituality-Based Movements in Nagoya, Japan.

NSAWG Point of Contact: Miriam Coronel Ferrer, Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines, mferrer--atsign--kssp.upd.edu.ph or Tobias Gasser, Swiss Campaign to Ban Landmines, tobias@uxo.ch See also: NSA WG website: www.icbl.org/wg/nsa and Geneva Call website: www.genevacall.org

[14] 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.
[15] 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.
[16] From NSA operating in Burundi (CNDD-FDD), Somalia (Banidiri, HPA, Jowhar Administration, Puntland State of Somalia, Rahanweyn Resistance Army, Somali National Front, Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council, Somali Patriotic Movement, Southern Somali National Movement/Somali National Army, United Somali Congress), Sudan (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army), Burma/Myanmar (Arakan Rohingya National Organization/Rohingya National Army and National United Party of Arakan/Arakan Army), India (National Socialist Council of Nagalim), Philippines (Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Revolutionary Workers Party of Mindanao/Revolutionary People's Army), and Iraq (Regional Kurdistan Government Erbil and Sulymania).
[17] The Nepal mission was jointly led by the Philippine and Nepal campaigns, and included representatives from the Australia, Japan and Sri Lankan country campaigns, Non-Violence International-Bangladesh, and Geneva Call.
[18] Burma, Colombia, Somalia, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Guatemala, Burundi, Nepal, India, Jammu & Kashmir, Nagaland, Sudan, South Sudan, and Iraqi Kurdistan.
[19] “We reaffirm that progress to free the world from anti-personnel mines will be enhanced if non-State actors embrace 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, and to allow mine action to take place. We welcome the efforts of non-governmental organizations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations in engaging non-State actors on a ban on anti-personnel mines and express our appreciation for the work of these organizations and as well as our desire that individual States parties that are in a position to do so facilitate this work.” Point 12, “Bangkok Declaration, APLC/MSP.5/2003/5.