The central question Bryden asks in International Law, Politics and Inhumane Weapons: The Effectiveness of Global Landmine Regimes is whether treaties controlling the manufacture, stockpiling and use of landmines have succeeded in reducing the horrific effects of victim-detonated explosives around the world. Bryden comes to this topic through his work: first at the British Ministry of Defence, then as a project manager for the Department for International Development and most recently as a security analyst for the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces. Bryden calls into question the assumption that “adherence to and observation of treaty provisions will generate mine action payoffs that improve the lives of people living with landmines.”
Through regime theory, the study of international rules and their influence on the behavior of states, Bryden analyzes the history and impact of two landmine treaties: the 1996 Amended Protocol II (APII) of the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects and the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention or APMBC). He notes that APMBC grew out of an unprecedented movement composed mainly of nongovernmental organizations, and many governments jumped onto the bandwagon without clearly understanding their responsibilities. Implementation, he says, “provides the litmus test of whether states’ willingness to cut a positive international figure by joining a regime with evident humanitarian credentials is matched by the political will to accept the costs associated with their new obligations.”
The book places modern mine-control efforts within the historical context of previous arms-control initiatives such as the 1925 Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare (Geneva Protocol) and the Hague Declaration 3 (the Hague Conventionof 1899 prohibiting the use ofexpanding bullets).1,2 “Over time,” says Bryden, “these two historical regimes have proved effective in raising the political costs of continued use [of inhumane weaponry].” Bryden is also fascinated by the differences and similarities of the mine action-related protocols (such as APII) and APMBC, two distinctly separate documents created through unrelated processes but with similar objectives.
However, Bryden feels that the final form of APMBC was influenced heavily by a desire for consensus and that some provisions of the convention were unrealistic for developing nations most heavily affected by landmines. For Bryden, a troubling gap exists between the government actors and international bodies who design the landmine conventions and the mine action field workers who see the daily effects of landmines on human life—and for whom the conventions appear to have changed little on the ground. He identifies humanitarian concerns as “the driving motor that led to the rapid formation of” the APMBC, yet “elements of the mine action community are—quite deliberately—detaching themselves from implementation because their interests lie in mine action and not in the regime per se.”
Bryden is deeply critical of the lack of international oversight related to compliance, saying: “The absence of strong verification and monitoring provisions within either landmine regime raises questions over their ability to evolve, with evident considerations for effectiveness.” He describes persistent difficulties in identifying mined areas, which in turn impede states parties’ ability to adhere to clearance deadlines, and he claims that some states parties deliberately suppress information in order to appear compliant with the treaty. In addition, he notes that because humanitarian demining consumes significant resources, as the number of landmines in an area diminishes, authorities have incentive to terminate demining before 100 percent clearance is achieved. He also feels that the fanfare around stockpile destruction may serve to disguise lack of compliance in other more important areas.
The book concludes with a concise summary of the disjunctions between treaty goals and mine action priorities. Bryden argues that the numbers produced by those implementing the treaties do not reflect the humanitarian impact; in fact, they often camouflage the lack of progress for people living in small mine-affected communities. He maintains that mine action practitioners are developing better analytical and information-gathering skills while the “regime implementation cluster is unable to bridge the gap between adequate and effective resources.”
Bryden warns that the conventions’ inherent flaws threaten to disintegrate international support for them, endangering future initiatives to control the use of weapons that cause unnecessary suffering. He points to those in the field who understand the realities of mine action, the “epistemic community” that can offer recommendations for effective mine clearance and victim assistance. By paying closer attention to the needs and benefits of the mine-affected, he says, we can do away with distractions and regain the original vision of the APMBC. [Insert JMA icon]
~ Cameron Macauley, CISR staff
- “1925 Geneva Protocol.” United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. http://bit.ly/J4BOqT. Accessed 7 June 2013.
- “The 1899 Hague Declaration concerning expanding bullets: A treaty effective for more than 100 years faces complex contemporary issues.” ICRC. http://bit.ly/17u3511. Accessed 7 June 2013.