Civil Society and Mines – Hand in Hand

The success of the International Coalition to Ban Landmines was due to the fact that it was put together as a network of NGOs around the world who had a common goal of banning antipersonnel land mines. In my opinion, NGOs attempting to campaign for similar issues could follow the same framework, but they will run into limitations.

General international humanitarian law prohibits the use of indiscriminate weapons, as well as the use of weapons that cause unnecessary suffering. Mekata uses this humanitarian law and norm and explains that it is understood that this is understood worldwide, irregardless of treaty obligations, but cannot be checked upon as mechanisms to enforce it did not exist beforehand. The CCW Convention adopted by the UN in 1980 failed to take into account landmines and the long-lasting effects of them when unsuspecting people come into contact with mines in the field, and in order for the ban to happen, civil society has to be aware of the impact of mines.

Governments also have to be lobbied, as evidenced in the article where Mekata describes that “neither governments nor the public in the major Western countries knew much about the long-lasting, indiscriminate, and inhumane effects of antipersonnel mines.” Thus, the ICBL had to frame landmines into an issue to create public awareness, stigmatizing and attaching negative emotions to landmines. A productive example of how a nonprofit mobilized civil society to influence legislators to take a stand happened in France, where then-President Francois Mitterrand announced the government’s decision to request the CCW. Initiative also had to be started from a civil society which depended on public opinion and the willingness to take a stand. In Japan, this was shown as there was not a developed history of NGOs, with undeveloped frameworks as compared to the Western countries. The JCBL eventually took shape in Japan and with information from the ICBL, they managed to influence the government, insofar as receiving a phone call from the prime minister, which was considered “an unheard of gesture in Japan,” and government officials testified that civil society organizations had been well ahead of them in obtaining information.

The ICBL coalition used a network of workers from nonprofits who were mostly humanitarian workers, and managed to frame this aspect of their knowledge into influencing how legislators and civil society would think of landmines, and this eventually helped to garner enough traction which led to the convention to ban landmines. I would say it was not a unique moment in time, but due to the fact of effective framing by the NGOs and how they managed to use personal networks and the media to push their message across. The issues today that we face are more complex, involving more diverse security issues such as drones, ideological threats and ethnic cleansing involving the Islamic State which involve more than an exact weapon or system to target, and a more salient real-time threat. The methods used could be replicated, but it would have to involve actual fighting and efficient and quick decisions to deal with terrorist threats in today’s time.

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One thought on “Civil Society and Mines – Hand in Hand”

  1. As the blog posting underlined the network of NGOs was of great value to the ban of land mines. They were important to attract society and government attention to the number of civilian victims around the world, and to show them that just a ban would have effective results. However, it is important to highlight the role of the Canadian government in this process. The initiative of a government made the issue gain more speed and power, being the participation of Canada specially important when the Foreign Minister surprisingly announced in Ottawa that in the next year Canada would host a treaty-signing conference. The establishment of a date was significant since it prevented countries of postponing the problem, and made them fix their position.

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