The continued action of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, with the creation of the Landmine Monitor – once the Convention was signed – is in this context highly valued as a useful instrument to review the implementation of the Convention. The 1999 Landmine Monitor Annual Report is an impressive achievement and an endeavour worth to be pursued. It is therefore a pleasure to positively answer the invitation for submission of a paper on the activities of the Government of Belgium on anti-personnel mines to be included as an appendix in the 2000 Report. Belgium is one of the countries that has supported this initiative from the beginning onwards and welcomed the organisation of the Landmine Monitor Researchers' Meeting in Brussels from 31 January till 2 February.
Belgium has largely contributed to the setting up of the Convention and has been part of the international movement that led a group of States on 3 and 4 October 1996 in Ottawa to launch a process, intended to set up a complete ban on anti-personnel mines on the short term. Belgium has pursued its action and has shown its commitment by organising the International Conference of Brussels for a Global Ban on Anti-personnel Mines in June 1997. This conference paved the way for the Diplomatic Conference at Oslo and the signing of the Convention in December 1997 in Ottawa. Belgium enjoyed in this respect the support of a large national consensus, so that we have also been the first country in the world to include a total ban on anti-personnel mines in our national legislation by the 1995 Law as amended in 1996.
For the future, Belgium considers three priorities, namely broadening the universalisation of the Convention, monitoring its implementation and giving assistance to countries in the fulfilment of their national obligations under the Convention.
Fortunately, to help us with this task, besides the mechanism laid down in the Convention, additional instruments have been set up, such as the intersessional mechanism, created by the first Meeting of States Parties, in May 1999 in Maputo (Mozambique) and the Landmine Monitor. Within the framework of the intersessional mechanism Belgium is conscious of the high responsabilities it will have to shoulder, together with Zimbabwe, from September 2000 on and for a whole year, as they will be co-chairing the Standing Committee of Experts on the General Status and Operation of the Convention in Geneva. Belgium intends to perform this task as a true custodian of the Convention while working further towards the goal of the final elimination of anti-personnel mines. For this, it will rely on the co-operation of everybody, the States, the international organisations and the citizens.
The process of universalisation is a success. The accession of so many States in such an unbelievably short time can but be interpreted in one way: an international standard has been set that can no longer be ignored or circumvented.But there is still much to do in order to gain universal acceptance. Obtaining complete universalisation is one of the objectives vigorously pursued in Belgium's foreign policy. There are difficult situations for which allowances have to be made. A country in the midst of a conflict will have more difficulties to take the step than a country which does not have to face problems on its territory. However there are still several countries which have not yet taken the step although there appears to be no reason for not going ahead. Belgium appeals to those countries to accede to the Convention.
Obviously, it is not enough to sign and ratify the Convention. The point is that the Convention should be implemented and the world effectively freed from this weapon. Great vigilance is also required because the Convention has been drawn up in an ambitious spirit as tothe 10-year deadline set for demining and the 4-year deadline set for the destruction of anti-personnel mines. Belgium has destroyed its whole stock of anti-personnel mines in September 1997 and has only retained a number of anti-personnel mines for the development of and training in mine detection, mine clearance or mine destruction techniques. This is permitted under article 3 of the Convention. Belgium invites in this context the acceding states to provide the UNSG with the yearly report on their national implementation measures as foreseen under article 7 of the Convention.
Clearing the world of anti-personnel mines is not an easy task. In 1999, Belgium contributed 127 million BEF or – at the current exchange rate – 3,190.007 million USD to international assistance to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Landmine Monitor of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and particularly to Handicap International. Specific support went among others to mine clearance operations in Kosovo and to the continuation of specific programmes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cambodia and Laos. Belgium also gave assistance to Mozambique and supported specific scientific research projects for the development of new mine clearance technologies. These measures will be continued in observance of the principles. More attention will go to Africa.
Belgium will continue its efforts to achieve the goals of the Convention and will do so in co-operation with other States, international organisations and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.