Minister of State Kent Welcomes Government of Nicaragua Declaration Nicaragua Is Free of Anti-Personnel Mines

(No. 195 - June 18, 2010 - 4:30 p.m. ET) The Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas), today issued the following statement welcoming Nicaragua’s declaration that it is now free of anti-personnel mines:

“Canada congratulates the government and people of Nicaragua on this remarkable achievement and commends the courage of the men and women who risked their lives to clear Nicaragua of these devices and other explosives from past conflicts.

“This marks the first time that an entire region that has suffered the scourge of these indiscriminate weapons has been declared free of anti-personnel mines.

“Canada has contributed more than $6 million over the years to assist in the clearance of 179,000 landmines and to support rehabilitation and job-creation projects for landmine survivors in Nicaragua.

“Canada is proud to have played a leadership role in an international initiative that has contributed to strengthening peace and bringing stability to the lives of so many.

“Central America becoming free of anti-personnel mines is a significant milestone on the road to our goal of a mine-free world.”

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A backgrounder follows.              

For further information, media representatives may contact:

Meredith McDonald
Senior Communications Adviser
Office of the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)

Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada

Backgrounder - Anti-personnel Mines in Latin America

On December 3, 1997, 122 states signed the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (the Ottawa Convention). It entered into force on March 1, 1999. To date, 156 countries—almost 80 percent of the world’s states—have ratified or acceded to the Convention, and many of those who remain outside it have adopted its norms.

States Parties to the Convention are obliged, among other things, to:

  • immediately end the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines (APMs);
  • destroy all stockpiled APMs within four years;
  • clear all APMs in areas under their control within 10 years;
  • rehabilitate and reintegrate mine survivors into their societies as full, productive members; and
  • provide assistance to States Parties in need to meet their treaty obligations (this applies to those States Parties able to do so).

Achievements to date

The Ottawa Convention is among the most successful disarmament treaties ever established. In a little more than 10 years, through the collective efforts of states, UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and civil society:

  • the number of known direct victims has been reduced from approximately 26,000 per year to fewer than 7,000;
  • at least 38 nations have ceased production of APMs, and the trade in APMs has all but ceased;
  • more than 42 million stockpiled mines have been destroyed;
  • approximately 1.1 billion square metres of land have been cleared or deemed mine-free and returned to productive use;
  • thousands of landmine survivors have been rehabilitated and reintegrated into their societies as full productive members; and
  • Central America has become the first mined region in the world to be declared mine-free.

Remaining challenges

Despite the successes, work remains to be done:

  • 78 countries continue to suffer varying degrees of landmine contamination;
  • there are approximately 400,000 mine survivors worldwide, many of them require some measure of ongoing care;
  • 36 states remain outside the Convention; and
  • states not party to the Convention have stockpiled an estimated 160 to 180 million mines.

Canada and the Convention

Canada initiated the process that led to the Ottawa Convention and in 1997 became the first state to sign and ratify it. Since then, Canada has maintained a high level of support for all elements of mine action—clearance, stockpile destruction, risk education and victim assistance, as well as advocating making the Convention universal and fully implemented. Since then, Canada has traditionally been among the top five international donors to mine action and consistently within the top ten. Over the past decade, Canada has contributed more than $300 million to mine action.

Canadian support to Nicaragua’s mine action program

Nicaragua’s new mine-free status makes Central America the first post-conflict region of the world to become mine-free. Since 1998, Canada has contributed over $7 million through the Organization of American States (OAS) to mine-action activities in Central America; of that amount, over $6 million went to mine-action activities in Nicaragua.

This contribution to the OAS program has gone primarily to helping clear the 179,000 landmines planted during the internal conflict in Nicaragua in the 1980s. Under the OAS program, mines were removed from the Nicaragua-Honduras and Nicaragua-Costa Rica border areas.

Canada made the largest bilateral contribution to the OAS program, delivering on the security pillar of Canada’s enhanced engagement in the Americas. Canada also actively supported the peace processes that ended past conflicts in Central America.

Canada recognizes and supports the OAS, which, in turn, supports the efforts of affected countries in the Americas through its Comprehensive Action Against Anti-personnel Mines Program. The distinctive aspect of the program is its humanitarian focus, as it seeks to re-establish safe and secure living conditions for those affected by mines, reduce the risk and dangers of unexploded ordnance and anti-personnel mines, and return previously mined land to productive use. Through this multilateral program, a number of donor and contributing countries, international organizations and non-government entities participate in this effort in addition to beneficiary countries.