After a dizzying number of flights, meetings, and new experiences my first week as a MAC Young Professional (YP) has come to an eventful close. In settling in Lusaka- and my third continent is in as many weeks- there is plenty to share with my dedicated readership of five (Hi Mom, Dad, and brothers). In the interests of brevity I will begin my recap at the beginning.
I had the privilege of attending the Mine Ban Treaty Intersessional Meetings held through the 27th of May to the 30th of May in Geneva, Switzerland. Convened annually, intersessional meetings allow for an opportunity for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and other civil society partners to review progress made in meeting targets towards implementation of various Mine Ban Treaty obligations. In addition, intersessional meetings provide a platform from which states can report on difficulties they have faced in implementation and for an exchange of information regarding various aspects of the treaty between civil society, survivors and states. As a bully pulpit, the intersessionals serve as a useful tool to ensure agreed upon treaty timelines are met and broken commitments are censured.
Evidently, this past week was opportune time to attend an intersessional meeting and witness the oversight mechanisms embedded in the Mine Ban Treaty at work. News of reported anti-personnel mine use in Yemen dominated the agenda at the conference. The findings of various media and human rights sources depicted what was characterized as the most serious violation of the Mine Ban Treaty since it’s existence. As a signatory and State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty, Yemen had committed to no use of anti-personnel landmines under any circumstances, as well as their eventual clearance, and destruction of existing stockpiles. Through it’s alleged new deployment of landmines, Yemen would be testing the feasibility of a treaty long regarded as one of the most successful in international law.
The grave nature of the allegations delivered a quick and focused response from ICBL campaigners and other civil society organizations tasked with oversight of the treaty. The news set in motion a flurry of action from ICBL campaigners who collaborated to lobby, pressure, and negotiate with Yemen and various states attending to express their concern at the findings and to gain a commitment to a serious reversal of actions detailed in the findings. Success in these efforts initially seemed unlikely, with many states hesitant to publicly condemn Yemen, however a week’s worth of consistent pressure eventually yielded results. By the culmination of the intersessional meetings public concern at the violation was expressed by 15 countries, along with official commitment to a serious investigation from Yemen’s Ambassador to the U.N.
My first official week as an YP served as a useful crash course on the continuing viability of the Mine Ban Treaty. The treaty occupies less resonance in public consciousness, as it had at its signature, but it’s enforcement continues to be actively pursued by the key stakeholders that helped shape its creation. More importantly my week at the intersessionals clearly displayed how much work remains to be done on the treaty’s application. While the treaty has drastically reduced the number of landmine victims , the Yemeni case helpfully illustrates the need for continued work on the issue. By keeping states accountable, through mediums like the intersessional, hope remains for greater breakthroughs.
A few days in Lusaka has already provided me with a number of new stories and experiences to share. More to come in my next post.
For now I will leave you with a mash-up of photos from my trip thus far: