What Was the Ottawa Treaty?

Daniel Walker

The Ottawa Treaty is the common term for an international treaty aimed at banning antipersonnel landmines. The treaty is also sometimes referred to as the Mine Ban Treaty, although its official title is "the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction." The Ottawa Treaty was signed by 122 countries on 3 December 1997 in Ottawa, Canada, and became binding law for all signers on the first day of March 1999. The Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor estimates that between 1999 and 2009, the treaty resulted in the destruction of 2.2 placed anti-personnel mines and an additional 44 million stockpiled mines.

Woman posing
Woman posing

An anti-personnel landmine is an explosive military device designed to be hidden underground and is specifically aimed at human targets. The mine can be either a blast producer, a fragmentation device which projects metal fragments, or a bounding device that springs into the air and then releases projectiles in all directions. The mine explodes when a person triggers its detonator either by direct pressure or by close proximity. Article 2 of the Ottawa Treaty defines these devices as being designed to wound or injure people and differentiates them from anti-vehicle and anti-tank landmines which are not covered by the treaty.

The law is deemed to be in force six months after a country signs the Ottawa Treaty, which is housed at the office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. By 2010, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) stated that 156 countries had ratified the treaty. Another 39 countries, including the United States, the Russian Federation, and the People's Republic of China, had not signed. In addition, the ICBL states that most non-signing countries, including the U.S., are in compliance with and are abiding by the terms of the Ottawa Treaty with only two countries, Russia and Myanmar, continuing to use anti-personnel landmines as of 2010.

Among other requirements, nations that sign the Ottawa Treaty are required to never use, produce, acquire, or transfer anti-personnel landmines. They must destroy all mines in their arsenals within four years, clear all mines out of their territory within 10 years, and offer assistance to other treaty members in clearing mines. In addition, signers are required to pass national legislation banning landmines. Each nation must also make an annual report to the United Nations declaring how many and what types of mines it possesses, where the mines are located, the status of mine production facilities, the number of mines destroyed, and the status of the nation's mine decommissioning program.

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Discussion Comments


@JessicaLynn - I think you forgot to take into account the fact that the US hasn't signed! We are in compliance, but technically we aren't part of the treaty. Do you think the U.N. Should take action against us?

I'm more bothered by the fact that this treaty only covers anti-personnel mines. What about the other ones that aren't covered by the treaty. I feel like the treaty is less effective if it doesn't cover all types of landmines.


Treaties like this are great, but they are voluntary. There isn't any provisions in the treaty to take action against countries that don't choose to participate. I almost don't think the Ottawa Treaty does much good in the long run.

Maybe they should add some kind of addendum to the treaty about taking action against countries who aren't in compliance. Economic sanctions might be particularly effective. After all, the only countries that would sign this kind of treaty are probably the ones that aren't going to use landmines anyway.


The U.S. would sign the treaty if doing so didn't put American soldiers at risk, but it does. For example, one of the things protecting our troops from attacks from North Korea are the landmines between North Korea and South Korea. I think that as a nation, we do agree with the premises of the treaty but U.S. troops come first. We've got to keep our boys safe.


@anamur-- There are different arguments out there about how successful the Ottawa treaty has been, including the argument you support and there are rightful reasons for that.

I'd also like to point out that the Ottawa treaty is a huge accomplishment, despite these concerns because sovereign states rarely give up their sovereignty over arms issues like this. The fact that so many countries signed this treaty show how influential the movement against antipersonnel mines have been.

There is nothing that forced these countries to arrive in Ottawa for this meeting and if they didn't want to support this cause, they didn't have to. But they did because they realize that this is important for civil rights and human rights. Many innocent people get injured or get killed from these landmines and the fact that these nations signed the Ottawa treaty means that they understand this and that they are willing to forego this military tool to prevent any more harm to innocent.

Don't you think that this is an accomplishment in itself? I do. And I think that the coordinators of the movement against antipersonnel landmines completely deserved the Nobel Peace Prize that they were awarded the same year of the treaty.


From what I've heard, this treaty has not been too effective for landmines which were already placed before the treaty was signed. I think it has prevented countries who have agreed to the treaty from using landmines afterward. The problem is however that there are huge numbers of landmines already present in many of these countries. Some governments are not even certain of their numbers and exact locations and find out when an accident has happened.

Does the treaty have any way of checking the status of the countries who have signed? Who's going to make sure that the landmines have been cleared and that the arsenals are destroyed?

I feel like there might be a gap in the application of the treaty. Look at Russia! They have refused to sign the treaty and keep using antipersonnel landmines and no one can stop them.

Also, if the U.S. is already abiding by the treaty, then why won't the government sign the treaty officially? Is it because we might change our mind in the future?

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