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Laws & Treaties

Several international agreements regulate or ban the use of landmines and explosive remnants of war. These instruments are part of international humanitarian law.  International human rights law protects the rights of persons affected by these weapons. 

The United Nations engagement in mine action is guided by relevant international law and it actively promotes full adherence to and compliance by States and parties to armed conflict, where applicable, with relevant treaties and international instruments, in particular the anti-personnel mine ban treaty, the convention on conventional weapons and international human rights instruments. It is the policy of the United Nations to contribute to the United Nations larger efforts to help ensure compliance with relevant resolutions and international legal norms and standards. Explore the body of international law that guides and informs mine action.

Strategy & Guidance

Fourteen UN departments, agencies, programmes and funds constitute the United Nations Inter-Agency Coordination Group on Mine Action. Together they provide various mine-action or related services in more than 40 countries. Policies, strategies and guidance materials have been developed to ensure all UN entities are taking a common approach to resolving problems of landmines and explosive remnants of war and are working toward the same or mutually reinforcing goals. In some cases, the documents guide the entire sector, while in others, the documents provide guidance for efforts in a particular field, such as victim assistance or advocacy. Read the United Nations key documents.

Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty

The most well-known treaty in the area of mine action is the 1997 anti-personnel mine ban treaty ("Ottawa Convention"). The treaty, which imposes a total ban on antipersonnel landmines, resulted from negotiations led by a powerful and unusual coalition involving governments, the United Nations, international organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and over 1,400 nongovernmental organizations through a network known as the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) . This unprecedented coalition used advocacy to raise public awareness of the impact of antipersonnel landmines on civilians and to rally global support for a total ban.

In December 1997, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and its coordinator, Jody Williams, won the Nobel Peace Prize. The anti-personnel mine ban treaty entered into force on 1 March 1999. As of December 2013, 161 countries had ratified or acceded to the treaty. 

Download the full text versions of the Convention here: [English] [French] [Arabic] [Chinese] [Spanish] [Russian]

When a country becomes a "state party" to the treaty, it agrees never to use, develop, produce, stockpile or transfer antipersonnel landmines, or to assist any other party to conduct these activities; to destroy all stockpiled antipersonnel landmines within four years; to clear all laid antipersonnel landmines within 10 years; and, when it is within its means, to provide assistance for mine clearance, mine awareness, stockpile destruction, and victim assistance activities worldwide. Under Article 7, each state party is required to report to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on appropriate measures undertaken to fulfill its treaty obligations. For more information visit Office of Disarmament Affairs' Article 7 Report Database.

Convention on Cluster Munitions

The Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted by 107 countries on 30 May 2008 in Dublin, Ireland. The convention was opened for signature on 3 December 2008, and as of 28 March 2011 had 108 signatories, and had been ratified by 55 states. The convention entered into force on 1 August 2010, six months after the 30th state submitted its instrument of ratification.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits all use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions. It also provides countries with deadlines for clearance of affected areas and the destruction of stockpiled cluster munitions. It includes articles concerning assistance to victims of cluster munitions incidents.

Under the Convention on Cluster Munitions States Parties will be obligated to:

  • destroy their stockpile of cluster munitions within eight years of entry into force (Article 3);
  • undertake to clear and destroy cluster munition remnants located in cluster munition contaminated areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible, but not later than 10 years after becoming a State Party (Article 4);
  • provide age- and gender-sensitive assistance to cluster munition victims, including medical care, rehabilitation and psychological support, as well as provide for their social and economic inclusion (Article 5); and
  • submit annual reports on the Convention on Cluster Munitions implementation activities Secretary-General of the United Nations (Article 7).

Download the full text versions of the Convention here: [English] [French] [Spanish]

Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons – Protocols II and V

The 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons (formally known as the 1980 Convention on Prohibitions and Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects) has five parts, or "protocols." Only two of them are related to mine action. Amended Protocol II deals with landmines, booby-traps and other devices, and Protocol V deals with the problem of explosive remnants of war (ERW).

Under Protocol V, States Parties and parties to armed conflict are required to take action to clear, remove or destroy ERW (Art. 3), and record, retain and transmit information related to the use or abandonment of explosive ordnances (Art. 4). They are also obligated to take all feasible precautions for the protection of civilians (Art. 5) and humanitarian missions and organizations (Art. 6).  States Parties in a position to do so should provide cooperation and assistance for marking, clearance, removal, destruction, and victim assistance, among other things (Art. 7 & 8). Protocol V entered into force on 12 November 2006.,/p>

Watch "Before The Blast" documentary film about the CCW Protocol V.

For more information visit Office of Disarmament Affairs' Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons website.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Some 650 million people in the world live with disabilities—about 10 per cent of the world’s population. They lack the opportunities of the mainstream population. They encounter myriad physical and social obstacles that:

  • Prevent them from receiving an education;
  • Prevent them from getting jobs, even when they are well qualified;
  • Prevent them from accessing information;
  • Prevent them from obtaining proper health care;
  • Prevent them from getting around;
  • Prevent them from “fitting in” and being accepted.

Human Rights Law

International human rights law establishes the rights of persons, including those affected by mines and explosive remnants of war.  Mines and explosive remnants of war can affect the exercise of a number of political, economic, social, civil and cultural rights, including the right to life and to personal integrity, freedom of movement, the right to food, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to health care, and the right to education. Five of the core human rights treaties all contain relevant provisions in these areas.

The newest international human rights treaty is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It was opened for signature on 30 March 2007 and is expected to come into force rapidly. The Convention has particular significance for mine action as it details the rights of survivors of mines and explosive remnants of war.  While the Convention does not identify new rights, it provides guidance on how to ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise their existing rights without discrimination.  It provides a solid legal framework for the provision of victim assistance to survivors of mines and explosive remnants of war.

You can download both the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (PDF) and the toolkit (PDF) designed to support efforts to advocate for the ratification and implementation of the convention. The toolkit  was developed by UNMAS with the assistance of OHCHR, UNHCR, UNICEF and other United Nations Mine Action Team (UNMAT) Members in coordination with Survivor Corps. It will familiarise field practitioners with the content of the Convention, and guide efforts to encourage ratification and to contribute to implementation and monitoring.

For more information on the international human rights treaties and treaty bodies, visit the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) website.

Refugee Law

The Convention relating to the Status of Refugees adopted on 14 December 1950 and its 1967 Additional Protocol establish the legal framework for the protection of refugees. The United Nations' Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement identify the rights and guarantees relevant to the protection of internally displaced persons and provide a framework consistent with international human rights law, humanitarian law and refugee law. Refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) or returnees often lack traditional protection coping mechanisms, and are inherently mobile and hence especially vulnerable to the consequences of land mines, explosive remnants of war (ERW) and cluster munitions. Apart from the real and imminent threat of harm, the presence of these weapons restricts free movement and consequently seriously risks limiting access to basic means of survival, including water and food, farmland, and medical services. For refugees who opt to return home, land mines, ERW and cluster munitions continue to pose serious restrictions on the returnees' ability to re-establish themselves and render their reintegration process sustainable.

These challenges are at the forefront of many of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) protection programmes extant today. In close cooperation with its operational partners, UNHCR is committeed to mine action advocacy and ensuring that harm to refugees, IDP's and returnees is reduced.

For more information visit UNHCR's website.

Other International Humanitarian Law

In addition to restricting the means and methods of warfare, international humanitarian law protects persons who are not or are no longer participating in the hostilities. The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols are international treaties that contain the most important rules limiting the most deleterious effects of war. They protect people who do not take part in the fighting (civilians, medics, aid workers) and those who can no longer fight (wounded, sick and shipwrecked troops, prisoners of war).

For more information on international humanitarian law, visit the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) website.

The Strategy of the United Nations on Mine Action 2013-2018

The Strategy presents the common objectives and commitments that will guide the UN in mine action over the next 6 years.

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Gender Guidelines for Mine Action Programmes

The United Nations Guidelines for Mine Action Programmes are intended to help United Nations mine action policy makers and field personnel incorporate gender per- spectives in all relevant mine action initiatives and operations.

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