Landmine Monitor 1999

Government of Austria

Austrian initiatives and activities

First of all Austria congratulates the ICBL on the First Landmine Monitor Annual Report. It is impressive to see such a comprehensive report to be elaborated in such a short amount of time.

With the entry into force of the Ottawa Convention on 1 March 1999, its full and effective implementation is one of our priority foreign policy objectives. Already when Austria formulated the draft for the Convention, we were convinced that transparency and openness were essential to promote compliance. As a result Article 7 stipulates very clear and specific reporting obligations for states parties. Those reports will be considered by the Meetings of the States Parties. They will also provide us with a benchmark for progress in ridding the world from anti-personnel mines. Moreover, they will contain invaluable information for mine action, information that in our view should be retrievable by all interested actors in mine action. Therefore Austria hopes it will be possible to decide so at the First Meeting of States Parties.

As in other foreign policy fields dealing with human security, an independent assessment provided by NGOs constitutes an interesting complementary source of information. Governments and media alike will read Landmine Monitor against the background of official statements and draw their conclusions. Since Austria attaches particular importance to implementation, transparency and openness, a financial contribution was given to the Landmine Monitor project.

The fruitful partnership between governments and NGOs was a hallmark of the Ottawa Process. In our view, it will be even more so in the implementation of the Convention. Mine action in the field is mostly done by NGOs and international agencies. Their activities are funded primarily by governments. Consequently, Austria advocates that international coordination and cooperation efforts should not limit themselves to states and international organizations, but should include NGOs on all relevant issues. Our approach implies increased coordination and cooperation also among NGOs active in mine action. The preparation of a common portfolio on projects by HI, MAG and NPA was a welcome first step.

Currently the Austrian government is funding mine action projects in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Mozambique and Namibia. But sustainable political and financial support for mine action has to be buttressed not only by officials, but by the public as such. On the basis of an initiative of Austria's Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schüssel, the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation ran a fundraising drive for mine victims in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Cambodia in 1998. In addition to the substantial sum that was raised, Austrians were confronted for months daily with the plight of mine victims in radio, TV and print media. Even a year afterwards the lasting impact can be seen in increased media coverage on mine related matters.

Advocacy has to remain in the forefront. Advocacy with regard to media and the broad public on one hand, and on the other hand aimed at speeding up universalization. The rapid entry into force and the impressive numbers of both ratifyers and signatory states can only serve as an encouragement to work for universalization on political level as well as expert level. In those talks Austria has encountered a lot of interest among some non-signatory states, but also the need to work together with them in order to resolve their problems keeping them from signing. The Austrian armed forces have reached out to their counterparts in a number of countries providing them with expertise on questions of military doctrine as well as technical issues such as cost-effective and environmentally safe stockpile destruction.

The Convention offers a comprehensive framework that should be used to achieve more coherent and focused international cooperation in mine action. Together we can fulfill the promise of the Convention - a world without the dangers of anti-personnel mines. Austria is looking forward to make its contribution.