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Speech by Jonas Gahr Støre (Norwegian Foreign Minister) at the Civil Society Conference at the 10th Anniversary of the Mine Ban Treaty, Towards Human Security, Oslo, Norwegian Red Cross, 17 September 2007.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues and friends of the convention.

All meetings in this hall, named after Henry Dunant, have been important events – and today’s meeting is no exception.

It is an honour to speak to an audience that includes people like Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi – and Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams, who will come later today, I have been told – and ICBL Ambassadors Song Kosal, Firoz Ali Alizada and Tun Chanareth, and former ICRC president Cornelio Sommaruga, just to mention a few. And it is a pleasure to be among such dedicated people fighting for a good cause.


Some say that this group of people are what you would call idealists.

I would argue that they are not if the label is inspired by the traditional sense of the word – which suggests naivety and wishful thinking.

I would rather say that they are the true realists of this world. Because they have grasped the urgency of the real issues of our times – and they have decided to do something real to make much needed changes.

At the outset let me, on behalf of the Norwegian Government, express my gratitude to all of you who represent civil society. I want to thank you for the commitment and the determination you demonstrate in all your efforts to improve human security, to improve people’s lives, in communities affected by landmines.

To put it quite simply: Without you, there would be no Mine Ban Convention, and most likely no International Criminal Court and no Kimberly process.

Without you, there would be no Security Council resolution 1325 and no groundbreaking new Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Without you, there would be no real discussion on how to tackle the many problems caused by small arms and light weapons. And without you we would not have passed the half-way mark in the process to ban cluster munitions.

It is, of course, states that negotiate and implement international treaties. And we must continue to hold states accountable to the humanitarian imperative.

However, more than a century of experience has shown us that national and international civil society actors are crucial in at least three ways:

In short, we are grateful to you. We need you, to demand answers and adequate responses from us.


In 2002, the Peace Research Institute in Oslo (PRIO), the Norwegian Red Cross and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a symposium on the future of humanitarian mine action to mark the fifth anniversary of the Mine Ban Convention. Some years earlier – in June 1998 – some of you who are present today, such as Steve Goose and Mary Wareham, met here and agreed to launch the Landmine Monitor Initiative.

Since then small arms, international humanitarian law, conflict trade, human rights and other human security issues have been addressed in this room. I remember several of those meetings from my tenure as Secretary General of the Norwegian Red Cross.

Most of these events have in common that they have focused on identifying practical policies to address real-life issues, not least to identify new partnerships that can take the work forward. The issue of methods in foreign policy – including new partnerships – was also what we discussed earlier this morning at the conference on the project on Norway’s interests in a globalised world (i.e. “Refleksprosjektet”).

Looking back a decade, we can see that the 1997 Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention was the result of exemplary diplomatic craftsmanship and the ability to form new partnerships.

The convention’s core rationale, objective and commitments are summed up neatly in the first paragraph of Article 1: “Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to use anti-personnel mines.”

It is difficult to define a state’s obligation under an international treaty more clearly, more simply, than that.

And also – which is very significant – although not all countries are states parties to the Mine Ban Convention, it has in fact established a new international norm that is, to a large extent, also observed by non-states parties and non-state actors. This means that in reality, although they may be used in certain rough circumstances, it is now unacceptable to use anti-personnel mines – and most other kinds of landmines as well.

It is not only the clarity of the convention that makes it a fine piece of work. It is also the way it unites several international agendas in one common platform.

The convention is more than a legal ban on a certain class of weapons. It is also a structured action plan for working towards a mine-free world. It specifies deadlines for stockpile destruction and clearance of all mined areas. Thus, it sets clear and accountable targets for national implementation.

The articles on assistance and cooperation turn what could have been merely a disarmament treaty – which of course it also is – into a framework for humanitarian and development assistance – in a true spirit of cooperation and partnership. This is a truly comprehensive approach in practice.

The clarity of the convention and its focus on action ensured immediate recognition of its importance and impact. This is, by the way, something we see every day at the Ministry. We know that global mine use has been dramatically reduced since the convention was adopted here 10 years ago.

At the same time, large mine-affected areas have been cleared and opened up for civilian and economic use. Thousands of mine survivors have received assistance and rehabilitation.

All of this means that the convention led to the immediate and measurable improvement of the security and safety of thousands of people and communities all over the world. At the same time, it has enhanced their development opportunities.

But the convention has also had an impact on another, and perhaps more subtle area – that of multilateral diplomacy.

We had seen for years that the established framework and forums failed to deliver effective responses to the real security threats to people, such as in the Balkan wars, the Rwanda genocide and the landmine crisis. Public confidence was at a low, and something needed to be done to restore it.

The Ottawa process did exactly that. By reinventing the rules, like accepting civil society as a genuine partner in the process, setting deadlines and introducing measurable targets, this process achieved a lot more than just the Mine Ban Convention.

It also breathed new life into the multilateral security system.

The Mine Ban Convention helped us get a better and more robust understanding of the term “human security”, which was relatively new at the time.

The core of the convention is an understanding of security that puts people and their communities first. – Values that Henry Dunant would have shared with us. And maybe even more importantly, it is a concept of security that is based on universality and reciprocity: improved human security for some cannot be achieved by reducing the security of others.

The Mine Ban Convention was the first in a series of attempts to codify human security, and it was quite successful in doing so.

The burning question that we need to ask is whether we – honestly – have been successful in developing this security concept. Have we?

Before I attempt to answer, let me turn to the process that produced the convention, the Ottawa process.

The Ottawa process demonstrated to the world what it is possible to achieve when politicians do what they must do when faced with a lack of progress: seek new solutions, provide leadership and thus create new political momentum.

When Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy took the initiative in 1996 to launch the Ottawa process, it was an example of policy trumping a stalled bureaucracy.

But the real triumph of the Ottawa process was the tools, the method – the strategic partnership – it forged: a partnership between international civil society actors, such as the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the International Red Cross (ICRC) on the one hand, and pro-ban states such as Norway, Canada and South Africa, and many others, on the other hand.

By inviting civil society into the process as active participants, not just observers, the pro-ban states injected an internal dynamism into the process. And organisations took their share of the responsibility for the process.

Such an internal dynamism had been completely lacking in earlier negotiations. The consensus practice followed under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), combined with the lack of external exposure, resulted in non-committal and weak solutions with little relevance to the situation of people living in mine-affected areas.

The Ottawa process turned these dynamics upside down. Instead of a “race to the bottom”, the participants found themselves in a process where they were constantly being challenged by civil society actors – not on the streets, but in conference rooms, at roundtables, in the day-to-day negotiations. This was the big change.

The formation of cross-regional partnerships between states – between affected states and other states – was also crucial to the success of the negotiations. Civil society played a role in bringing people together. This is their key strength.

And civil society acted as a watchdog. It ensured that the participating states stayed on course.

But the role, I believe, was also much broader. The participation of civil society meant that a whole new range of expertise – and experience – was brought into the process. This expertise consisted of hands-on knowledge of the true nature of the issue. It brought home the extent and the magnitude of the mine problem. The appalling nature of the problem.

This helped to frame the problem and the possible solutions in new ways, by expanding the problem from a narrow military technical issue into a broader humanitarian, development and human rights issue.

And I am convinced that it is precisely for this reason that the convention has remained relevant ever since its adoption. It has many stakeholders.

This is not to say that civil society made the negotiations easier. Quite the contrary. And now I am speaking as a representative of a state. There are people in this room who remember very well how difficult it was to gain acceptance for introducing victims’ assistance in the text – up to the very end. But a difficult negotiation process may well guarantee a relevant and legitimate long-term result.

In the years following the adoption of the convention, many analyses of its success have focused on the business model design of the Ottawa process. It was a time-bound process, with a clearly stated objective, and supported by highly efficient and eloquent civil society actors.

Thus, the Ottawa process was by and large a knowledge-based process where empirical evidence from the areas in question drove the policy discourse. Civil society provided knowledge, ranging from technical details on weapons to how landmines were maiming and killing people.

And maybe this is one of the most important lessons to be learned from the process:

Rather than narrowing the agenda and participation when we are faced with complex and difficult issues, we should consider broadening participation and opening the discussions – enlarging them.

In short, the nation state is still a key player, but no longer the sole broker in international relations. Private-sector activities and decision-making interact with key aspects of international peace and security, directly and indirectly. In new alliances, just as we now also see in the issue of health and foreign policy.

All modern conflicts are in one way or another linked to processes in the global marketplace, in both positive and negative ways. Civil society actors play an increasingly important role in shaping global policy discourse on a number of key challenges in fields like security, environment, energy, trade and development – not least in the field of global health – to mention a few.

There are key lessons to be learned. Those of us who represent states need to apply this global framework to our work. We need to actively encourage civil society participation in international security negotiations, if for no other reason than to increase the effectiveness and, not least, the legitimacy of the negotiations and processes.


My point is that we see this at close hand now in the ongoing process aimed at banning cluster munitions.

When Norway initiated that process earlier this year, we knew we needed civil society participation from the very start.

Here too, we saw that the traditional processes failed to deliver results. We have learned the lessons, and we have made a study of this. Negotiations were stalled. It was essential to explore alternative approaches and alliances.

Now, we are in the middle of the process towards an international agreement on a realistic ban on cluster munitions. Our aim is to finalise this work by the end of 2008. A lot of hard work still lies ahead of us. But we are committed to doing whatever we can to make it happen.

In this process it is, once again, civil society that provides critical expertise and additional empirical evidence for the participants in the discussions.

Had this not been done, I doubt that we would be where we are now – with more than 80 states supporting the Oslo Declaration – and with supporting activities surfacing all over the world almost every week.

So what are the lessons for states? States should actively explore the potential of partnerships with civil society to achieve progress on the human security agenda. States should continue to engage politically with other states and with the UN. They should encourage, facilitate, and advocate more openness and inclusiveness in international peace and security policy processes.

Clearly, states and NGOs have very different roles. I know. I have been on both sides. We have different responsibilities, constituencies and agendas. Civil society actors should not attempt to act as if they were governments. Governments do not behave like NGOs or IGOs. It is states that adopt and implement international treaties. And states have opportunities when taking political initiatives.

The challenge for us now is to take the lessons further, into other human security processes – for example in relation to small arms, and the efforts to prevent a new nuclear arms race.

To take one example – of what some think is “yesterday’s issue”: In the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, Norway is leading a seven-nation initiative to bring states together, on a cross-regional basis, to deal with the disarmament issue. All stakeholders are needed, and in this particular process we have succeeded in mobilising the UK – a nuclear-weapon state, and South Africa – a member of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Initiatives like this may help to enhance the dialogue that is required to achieve positive results in the area of nuclear arms control. But make no mistake. To succeed we still need civil society mobilisation. People need a wake-up call. Nuclear disarmament is not yesterday’s news. It a burning issue for today and tomorrow.



The Mine Ban Convention we are celebrating today is, of course, important for Norway.

It brings together several key components of Norwegian foreign policy, such as the advancement and development of international humanitarian law, the promotion of peace and sustainable development, the commitment to effective and democratic multilateralism, and solidarity with war victims.

Over the years, Norway has invested considerable resources in the process that led to the convention, the implementation process and – even more importantly – concrete mine action projects all over the world.

This has meant that Norway has been ranked among the top three mine-action contributors, together with the USA and the EU. Norwegian national interest is the main reason for making these large investments.

It is in Norway’s interest to improve the security of people. To improve the safety of people who are forced to live in war-torn societies, exposed to mines and other explosives, subjected to lawlessness and other challenges in a conflict zone.

It is in Norway’s interest to defend an international system based on the rule of law and respect for human rights.

It is definitely in Norway’s interest to promote an effective, democratic multilateral system that is capable of responding to the real security needs of people everywhere.

The Mine Ban Convention is about all of these issues. It is, therefore, easy for me to say that, seen in retrospect, our investments have yielded more than adequate returns.

There is also another aspect to this. That is how the Mine Ban Convention has provided us with opportunities and experience to make a more focused contribution to global affairs. We have so much to learn from it. A role that has shifted from that of a participant within an established framework to that of an actor – even for “small states”. We want to actively shape the agendas and the arenas where processes are taking place. We want to seize the opportunities.

The ongoing process towards an international ban on cluster munitions is a natural continuation and part of that new role. We are now actively applying the lessons learned from the process leading up to the Mine Ban Convention.

Our engagement has also provided us with valuable new partners, both among other states – in particular mine-affected states – and among international civil society actors.


Dear friends,

The process that led to the convention we are celebrating was in essence a political process. When the established bureaucratic and diplomatic systems failed to produce an acceptable response to the landmine crisis, it became a political challenge.

Prompted by civil society’s calls for action, a number of politicians in several countries rose to that challenge. They took bold steps. They also took political risks.

As politicians we have both the privilege and the obligation to lead. We must find new ways and look for solutions to burning issues. Especially when established modes of analysis and operation are blocking progress.

This is particularly important in questions where basic human security is threatened and action needs to be taken. The mine ban movement – the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and UN organisations – challenged political leaders to take action.

Failure to respond would in fact have meant that thousands of people living in mine-affected areas would have continued to be forced to leave in fear for their lives and livelihoods. Productive land would have lain idle, and we would have had little control over the use of landmines in the future.

Gathered together on an occasion like this, we need to ask ourselves:

Are there similar situations today? Situations where basic human security is threatened? Situations where current multilateral response systems have failed to deliver relevant solutions?

The answer is of course yes, and the logical follow-up question is: what do we do about it?

Part of the answer, dear friends, is a stronger and more relevant United Nations. A key to achieving that is of course much needed reform – from the Security Council and down.

In the meantime, we must revive the innovative spirit and determination that marked the landmine process in order to find new ways of addressing current challenges to human security. I look forward to learning from the discussions on these issues that you will have here today.

We still have a way to go before we reach the ultimate aim of this process – a mine-free world. Although significant human and fiscal resources have been mobilised and dedicated to mine action, clearing all remaining areas will take considerable time and effort.

The action plan for reaching our aims is the Landmine Convention. The challenge is to implement it fully. So far we have done pretty well.

Some states parties will exercise their legitimate right to seek an extension from the original deadlines for clearing all mine areas. To me this is a sign that the convention was designed to be implemented in the real world. It is a sign of realism.

The main challenge will perhaps be to secure the resources needed to meet the obligations under the convention, and to use these resources in the most efficient way. New methods of land release are promising in this respect. Securing long-term assistance to mine survivors is also of vital importance.

Again, we are also relying on you in civil society to continue to advocate to our constituency the importance of committing these resources.

Another challenge for us is to expand the principles underpinning the convention of measuring weapons against their humanitarian impact on other security areas. These are established principles of international humanitarian law and they made the landmine process possible.

We are building on these principles now, as I said, in the cluster munitions process.

I see no reason why the very same states that adopted the Landmine Convention shouldn’t join us in our effort to reach agreement on a realistic ban on those cluster munitions that cause unacceptable humanitarian consequences. Now we are 80 states – can we grow to more than 150?

Both the humanitarian and the development impact should also be the basis for our efforts to tackle the global small arms and light weapon problem. A broad approach to the small arms issue will help us to design appropriate responses, responses that result in concrete improvement in the human security of people living in the affected communities.

Let me conclude by thanking you for, and congratulating you on your contributions towards the ban on antipersonnel mines and for advancing the human security agenda.

Thank you.