Landmine Monitor 2000

The United Nations’ role in Implementing the Compliance Aspects of the Ottawa Convention

The United Nations’ role in Implementing the Compliance Aspects of the Ottawa Convention

By Angela Woodward

Verification Research, Training and Information Centre (VERTIC), London[1]


The Ottawa Convention seeks to encourage compliance through mutual transparency and co-operation, rather than through an intrusive and adversarial verification mechanism of the type established by other disarmament treaties.[2] The treaty does not have a standing secretariat or other standing compliance body. As the treaty’s Depositary, it was the United Nations which was given a central role in facilitating the gathering and exchange of information about states parties’ compliance, as well as in pursuing questions related to possible non-compliance. Article 7 of the treaty requires states parties to submit declarations to the UN Secretary-General detailing their compliance efforts under nine categories; the UN is in turn responsible for disseminating such information to all states parties. Article 8 of the treaty contains mechanisms for clarifying compliance which also rely on the assistance of the UN. This paper will detail the mandated role of the UN in facilitating compliance with the Ottawa Convention and examine the effectiveness in this role to date.

The role of the United Nations in Regard to Article 7

Pursuant to Article 7, each state party must submit to the UN Secretary-General reports detailing their activities pursuant to the treaty.[3] Each state party is required to update its initial report no later than 30 April each year. The United Nations is responsible for collating the information and transmitting it to the states parties.

Procedural aspects of implementing Article 7

The treaty does not stipulate the form or method of transmission of Article 7 reports to the UN, nor does it stipulate how the UN should transmit these to states parties.

The First Meeting of States Parties, held in Mozambique in May 1999, adopted standard forms for states parties reporting under Article 7.[4] The meeting also recommended that states submit their reports electronically to the UN in order to expedite their receipt and dissemination. Reports may be submitted in any of the six authentic languages of the Convention.[5] They are to be entered into the database in the languages in which they are submitted.[6]

The UN Department for Disarmament Affairs (UNDDA), the Department responsible to the UN Secretary-General for handling his responsibilities under the Ottawa Convention, created an ‘Article 7 Transparency Measures’ database to receive and organise the information received.[7] The UNDDA chose to display the Article 7 reports on the database in full (by state party) and also under each category being reported (by state party). The database is accessible not just to states parties but also to the general public on the UN website,[8] following a decision at the First Meeting of States Parties to facilitate its use by other states and organisations involved in mine action activities.[9]

Effectiveness of Article 7 implementation

As of 3 May 2000, forty-three states parties had submitted Article 7 reports.[10] At that time thirty-eight were late in submitting their reports.[11] The remaining states parties were not yet required to submit them since 180 days had not yet elapsed since the treaty entered into force for them.

Among the states that have responded, most are from the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) at the UN. The states late in reporting are all mine-affected and/or developing countries. These states have been encouraged to submit their overdue reports by other states parties and many pro-convention organisations. The UNDDA does not see itself as having a role in requesting the submission of overdue reports.[12]

To date reports have been submitted in Arabic, English, French and Spanish.[13] There is no funding available at this stage to translate documents into all official languages of the Convention.[14] However, it was recommended at the First Meeting of States Parties that states parties submit their report in more than one of the official languages, so that such reports may be added to the UN database.[15] While the UNDDA is prepared to include such additional documents,[16] multiple language versions provided by states parties have not to date been posted on the database.[17]

The standard forms were designed to elicit only the information that states parties are legally required to submit under Article 7. A 'supplementary information' category was included on each form to allow those states that wished to do so to provide further information.[18] While this is entirely in line with the openness that the treaty promotes, few states have chosen to use the opportunity. It has been proposed to include an additional form to allow for further supplementary, voluntary reporting, with particular emphasis on Article 6 obligations.[19]

As to the requirement for states to submit annual reports by each April, it has not been decided whether this should involve a new report being submitted or simply amendments to the previous report, thereby creating a 'rolling text'. As of 3 May 2000, 12 states parties had submitted their annual reports under Article 7(2).[20] The Second Meeting of States Parties needs to specify whether or not it is satisfied with the manner of reporting and whether or not future reports should be submitted in a different form.[21] The UNDDA does not envisage changing the structure of the database presentation until it receives such clarification.[22]

Despite the fact that states parties are encouraged to submit their reports electronically, only 30% of reports submitted to date have been electronic.[23] This increases the work of the UNDDA in entering the information and inevitably delays its availability on the database. Bilateral and multilateral assistance needs to be coordinated and regularised to ensure that all states have access to the necessary technology. Some states parties may still mistrust the authenticity of the reports on an electronic database, since these reports do not have the standard diplomatic attestations of printed official documents. The UNDDA is attempting to encourage confidence among states parties by reproducing the information exactly as received. Future development of the database may allow states parties to input their own information.[24]

While the database is fulfilling the letter of the UN’s mandate to transmit Article 7 information to all states parties, its effectiveness from the states parties’ perspectives will be learned at the Second Meeting of States Parties. The cost-effectiveness and accessibility of electronic means were factors in the decision to promote the use of an electronic database over traditional hard copy document circulation. However, the technology required for states to access the database effectively is more advanced than is required to submit documents electronically.[25]

It has been suggested that the Article 7 database might be integrated into the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) developed by the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) at the behest of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS). There would clearly be political, financial and technical issues to be considered in any potential integration. The official status of the Article 7 reports would need to be maintained on any database outside the UN. Integration of the database into IMSMA would necessitate further development and implementation of both database systems.[26] Moreover, IMSMA is not yet being widely used by states parties for its existing purposes.

The Second Meeting of States Parties should discuss the issue of the costs of implementing Articles 7 and 8 by the UN. Article 14 states that costs will be borne by states parties.[27] However, the cost of developing and implementing the Article 7 database was not factored into the initial scale of assessment.[28] The UN has simply absorbed the cost of the necessary technology and human resources,[29] despite the fact that its own budget is under severe pressure. Funding for Articles 7 and 8 implementation cannot continue to be sourced from general UNDDA funds, as these are assessed from all UN member states, including non-states parties to the Ottawa Convention. Yet the UN has reportedly not sought extra resources from states parties in fulfilling its obligations under Article 7, even though some states parties may have been prepared to assist unilaterally had they been aware of funding problems. Funding for future maintenance and development of the database needs to be addressed by states parties. They may wish to consider funding a dedicated UNDDA staff member who would be responsible solely for collating and disseminating Article 7 reports.

Problems in State Reporting

The existence of a standard form for reporting has not resulted in standardised reports being submitted by all states parties. Some states are experiencing difficulty acquiring and determining the necessary information to include in their reports. Resource and personnel shortages, lack of clarity as to the submission procedure, combined with competing reporting requirements of many other treaties can delay the compilation and submission of reports. Some information required, such as the location of areas that are mined or suspected of being mined, simply has never been accurately determined in some states before. Information held by militaries concerning numbers and types of anti-personnel mines owned, possessed, stockpiled or destroyed is not always available to those compiling the report. This may be due to several factors, including bureaucratic ineptness or secrecy. The culture of secrecy that often surrounds landmine capabilities needs to be addressed: the Convention was intended to usher in a new mode of transparency and openness in landmine disarmament that needs to be recognised by all involved with the treaty. As many states are obliged to report on mine action under various multilateral agreements, it would be helpful in those states parties which have not already done so, to appoint a specific person or section within an appropriate government ministry to be responsible for compiling and submitting the necessary information, as is required, for instance, under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Assistance in reporting

Some states require technical assistance in carrying out their obligations under the Convention, including the obligation to report. Any request made to the UN for assistance is directed to UNMAS, which is responsible within the UN system for co-ordinating the provision of assistance to all mine-affected countries. However UNMAS' responsibility for assisting states in the preparation of Article 7 reports is unclear. Article 7 reporting is viewed by UNMAS as an issue for the UNDDA.[30] If a request for assistance with Article 7 reporting is made by a Mine Action Centre, UNMAS may send a technical expert to the state to assist in the collection of information, for example by liasing with government ministries: this has not happened to date.[31] Requests for assistance may also be made to the GICHD, although, unlike the UN, they have no treaty-mandated role in implementing the Convention.[32] Some states parties are prepared to offer assistance to others in compiling reports when requested to do so. It is heartening that the Second Meeting of the Standing Committee of Experts on the General Status and Operation of the Convention[33] encouraged the development of guidelines for completing Article 7 reports.[34]

The Role of the UN under Article 8

Article 8 details fact-finding procedures to be followed if a state party requests clarification of compliance by another state party. Should this article ever be invoked, the UN may be called on to facilitate exchanges of information between states parties; exercise its good offices; convene a Special Meeting of the States Parties to consider a question relating to compliance; or facilitate a fact-finding mission. The UN is required, in the meantime, to maintain a list of experts who may be called on to conduct fact-finding missions and to communicate this list to all states parties.

As in the case of Article 7, the UN’s role in implementing Article 8 has also required some clarification of procedures which were not made clear in the treaty itself. The Standing Committee of Experts on the General Status and Operation of the Convention has agreed that the list of experts for fact-finding missions should only be transmitted to states parties.[35] The Committee recommended that this Article be operationalized shortly ‘in order to have all structures and the necessary methodology in place for a smooth execution whenever needed’.[36]

The UNDDA requested all fifty-five states parties as of April 1999 to submit the names of experts to be included on this list. As of 3 May 2000 only twelve states have made such submissions.[37]

It is essential to have the necessary infrastructure in place to facilitate any requests for clarification or fact-finding missions which may be instituted, if only as a continuing reminder that such missions are possible. Canada’s draft recommendations[38] in this regard are a useful starting point, and it has been agreed that they will be discussed at the Second Meeting of States Parties. These will focus on, inter alia, the standards of evidence to be used for initiating “requests for clarification”; encouraging states parties to submit lists of experts; procedures for ensuring an efficient and speedy deployment of any fact-finding missions; and issues related to the costs of any Special Meeting of States Parties under Article 8 and of fact-finding missions.

It is important to recognise that ‘quiet diplomacy’ is also at work in ensuring compliance with this convention. If a state party suspected of acting against the treaty is persuaded to come into compliance through demarches by another state party, then a more positive result may be achieved than by using the Article 8 process. The politicisation of the issue and creation of an adversarial situation is thus avoided. Whether this will be achieved in all suspected cases of non-compliance would depend very much on the relationships between the relevant states parties.


Implementation of the compliance mechanisms in the Ottawa Convention has begun during this first year of reporting. Refinements and improvements can now be made to achieve a system that is generally acceptable to states parties.

Effective monitoring of compliance requires states to submit their Article 7 reports to the UN in a proper and timely manner. Assistance to states parties that are having difficulty in obtaining, collating or submitting the required information to the UN may need to be formalised so that effective remedies can be instituted in these cases.

The UN’s Article 7 Transparency Measures database is currently a useful tool in monitoring compliance, but its effectiveness should be enhanced. The assessed contributions of states parties should be sufficient to cover such improvements. If not, governments should consider making voluntary contributions for this purpose. The amounts required are tiny compared to the costs of implementing the treaty generally and compared to the compliance costs for other treaties. In the absence of a standing secretariat for the Ottawa Convention, the UN needs the support of all states parties to fulfil the tasks the treaty has ascribed to it.

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[1] This is the second report prepared for Landmine Monitor by VERTIC. The first, on national ratification and implementation legislation was published in Landmine Monitor Report 1999: Toward a Mine-Free World as ‘Landmines in International Law: Ratification and National Implementation’, pp. 1037-1046. A longer version was published by VERTIC as Joe McGrath and David Robertson, ‘Monitoring the Landmine Convention: Ratification and National Implementation Legislation’, VERTIC Research Report no. 5, September 1999. See for details.
[2] For example the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards agreements required by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons allow for regular on-site inspections. The Ottawa Convention is, however, a hybrid humanitarian/disarmament treaty. For a detailed analysis of the verification provisions of the Ottawa Convention see Trevor Findlay, ‘Verification of the Ottawa Convention: Workable Hybrid or Fatal Compromise?’, Disarmament Forum, UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), Geneva, no. 4, 1999.
[3] Items that shall be reported on are detailed in Article 7(1)(a)-(i) Ottawa Convention.
[4] APLC/MSP.1/1999/1 p. 6. The standard reporting forms are contained in APLC/MSP.1/1999/1 Annex II.
[5] Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish (Article 22 Ottawa Convention).
[6] APLC/MSP.1/1999/1, Annex III, p. 25.
[7] The UN is also prepared to receive 'hard copy' reports from states parties not 'in a position to use electronic communication means...'; APLC/MSP.1/1999/1, Annex III. p. 25.
[9] APLC/MSP.1/1999/1, Annex III, p. 25.
[10] States parties that had submitted reports under Article 7 were: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, Fiji, France, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Germany, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Niue, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
[11] States parties that were late in submitting reports under Article 7(1) were: Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chad, Costa Rica, Djibouti, Dominica, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Iceland, Jamaica, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Monaco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nicaragua, Niger, Panama, Paraguay, Qatar, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Samoa, San Marino, Solomon Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Uganda and Venezuela.
[12] The UNDDA did, however, present a report listing the due date of Article 7 reports to the Second Meeting of the Standing Committee of Experts on the General Status and Operation of the Convention (Geneva, 29-30 May 2000); APLC/MSP.2/2000/L._ . This report will be continuously updated for submission to the Second Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, September 2000.
[13] As of 3 May 2000, only Belgium and Canada had submitted in more than one language.
[14] The First Meeting of the Standing Committee of Experts on the General Status and Operation of the Convention (Geneva, 10-11 January 2000) recommended that a summary document relating to the Article 7 reports be translated into all six authentic languages for presentation to the Second Meeting of States Parties to be held in Geneva in September 2000. Article 7 reports will be provided at that meeting in the language of submission to the UN.
[15] First Meeting of States Parties document APLC/MSP.1/1991/1, p. 26.
[16] VERTIC interview with Carolyn Cooper and Tamara Malinova, UNDDA, New York, 14 January 2000.
[17] As of 30 June 2000.
[18] Form F ‘Status of programs for destruction of APMs’ does not contain a supplementary information category. Form I ‘Measures to provide warning to the population’ seeks solely a narrative response.
[19] A decision on the inclusion of ‘Form J’ (‘Other relevant matters’) will be made at the Second Meeting of States Parties. Form J was proposed by Canada, at the Standing Committee of Experts meeting on the Status and Operation of the Convention, Geneva, 29-30 May 2000.
[20] Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Mexico and Switzerland Thailand and the United Kingdom. There is no consistency between states parties reports on the time period that the Article 7(2) reports cover; many overlap with the reports submitted under Article 7(1). If states parties submit their Article 7(2) reports on time, by 30 April each year, the workload of the UNDDA will increase dramatically at this time.
[21] VERTIC interview with Carolyn Cooper and Tamara Malinova, UNDDA, New York, 14 January 2000.
[22] VERTIC interview with Carolyn Cooper and Tamara Malinova, UNDDA, New York, 14 January 2000.
[23] Carolyn Cooper, UNDDA, verbal report to the Second Meeting of the Standing Committee of Experts meeting on the Status and Operation of the Convention, Geneva, 29-30 May 2000. These electronic reports were transmitted either by email, or on computer disk.
[24] States involved in funding mine action are encouraged to input their own information on the Mine Action Investments database overseen by UNMAS.
[25] The receiving computer must have its internet browser set to support advanced internet applications. In particular, applets and the internet language ‘Java’. A high-speed modem is also advisable given the large size of some of the reports. Reports containing maps, photos or other graphic images, and reports submitted in Arabic, take longer to download than text-only reports.
[26] The GICHD contracted the development of IMSMA to the Centre for Security Policy at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland. The UNDDA 'Article 7 Transparency Measures' database was developed in-house at the UN.
[27] Article 14(2) Ottawa Convention.
[28] VERTIC interview with Carolyn Cooper and Tamara Malinova, UNDDA, New York, 14 January 2000.
[29] VERTIC interview with Carolyn Cooper and Tamara Malinova, UNDDA, New York, 14 January 2000.
[30] VERTIC interview with Stéphane Vigié, Policy Advisor, UNMAS, New York, 19 January 2000. The UNDDA is not mandated to assist states parties in compiling and transmitting Article 7 reports, and in any event, does not currently have the resources to be able to do so.
[31] VERTIC interview with Stéphane Vigié, Policy Advisor, UNMAS, New York, 19 January 2000.
[32] In practice, the GICHD has aided those states parties who have requested assistance with Article 7 reporting.
[33] This is one of five Intersessional working groups whose establishment was recommended by the First Meeting of States Parties held in Maputo, Mozambique in May 1999. The meetings have been hosted by the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD). The first meeting of this Standing Committee was held in Geneva, 10-11 January 2000. The other Intersessional Working Groups focus on mine clearance; victim assistance, socio-economic reintegration and mine awareness; stockpile destruction; and technologies for mine action. Further information about these working groups is available on the GICHD website:
[34] Draft Report of the Second Meeting of the Standing Committee of Experts on the General Status and Operation of the Convention, Geneva, 29-30 May 2000, p. 3.
[35] Draft Report of the First Meeting of the Standing Committee of Experts on the General Status and Operation of the Convention, Geneva, 10-11 January 2000, p. 3.
[36] Draft Report of the First Meeting of the Standing Committee of Experts on the General Status and Operation of the Convention, Geneva, 10-11 January 2000, p. 3.
[37] Email from Carolyn Cooper, UNDDA, 11 May 2000.
[38] Draft Recommendations with Respect to the Implementation of Article 8 of the Mine Ban Convention, presented to the Second Meeting of the Standing Committee of Experts meeting on the Status and Operation of the Convention, Geneva, 29-30 May 2000 (contained in that meeting’s Reference Documents at 6.1). These recommendations were accepted by the Standing Committee of Experts.