Of the five mine action pillars, advocacy is an important pillar. Advocacy initiatives are intended at creating greater public awareness on the landmine situation, mine action activities, direct and indirect impact of antipersonnel landmine contamination, create a general dialog about the indiscriminate effects of landmines and how the rest of the world tackles similar situations elsewhere. The main aim of advocacy is to create public awareness through all available mediums thereby preventing new causalities and reducing the causality rate, strengthening victim assistance services and sensitising all stakeholders on the issue, while supporting the call on the universal ban of antipersonnel landmines and joining the global mine ban community.
Sri Lanka Campaign to Ban Landmines (SLCBL) is the National Campaign advocating for a total ban on Antipersonnel Landmines in Sri Lanka. SLCBL is a member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Co-Laureate, a leading civil society movement banning antipersonnel (AP) landmines in the world.
Since 2009, the South Asia Small Arms Network (SASA Net)-Sri Lanka functions as the secretariat for the Sri Lanka Campaign to Ban Landmines (SLCBL). SLCBL has successfully initiated dialog with the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Health Services & the Ministry of Social Services on the issues of Antipersonnel Landmines, Trap Guns, Cluster Munitions, use of victim activated devices and more generally use of explosives by unauthorised persons and the need for necessary domestic legislations. SLCBL has included banning AP landmines, cluster munitions, ERW’s and Trap Guns including Risk Education and supporting victims in the campaign mandate. Furthermore, SLCBL/SASA Net’s main focus is on equal access, opportunities and services for People with Disabilities.
SLCBL has mobilised many local partners in the discipline of disability & risk education sectors as new members of the National Campaign. As of 2011, the following local organisations are members of the SLCBL.
- Disability Organisation Joint Front (DOJF)
- Eastern Human Economic Development –Caritas (EHED Caritas)
- Jaffna Jaipur Centre for Disability Rehabilitation (JJCDR)
- Mannar Association for Rehabilitation of Differently Able People(MARDAP)
- Organisation for Rehabilitation of Handicapped in Vavuniya (ORHAN)
- Rural Development Foundation (RDF)
- Sarvodaya Sramadana Movement
- Social Organisation Network for Development (SOND)
- South Asia Partnership-Sri Lanka (SAPSRI)
- South Asia Small Arms Network-Sri Lanka (SASA Net)
- Sri Lanka Foundation for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled (SLFRD)
- Valvothayam - Caritas
Advocacy events carried out by SLCBL/SASA-Net
These were carried out in collaboration with NMAC, UNICEF and other MA stakeholders.
- Meeting with Secretary to the Ministry of Social Services on inclusion of disability into national development programs, victim assistance in the context of mine action, setting up the National Authority for People with Disabilities through proposed disability rights bill and speedy ratification of United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD).
- National mine action awareness event on the theme ‘Towards a Sri Lanka free from the threat of Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War’ was conducted in Colombo on 25 November 2011 for electronic and print media and stakeholders of mine action representatives from the SLCBL member organisations. The key note address was delivered by Judge CG Weeramantry, former Vice-President, International Court of Justice, The Hague (1990-2002) on “Mine Ban Treaty-International Law & Human Security Aspects”. Presentations were made by the Ministry of Health Services, Ministry of Social Services, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Economic Development on victim assistance, disability rehabilitation & service availability.
- Two day “Advocacy Workshop” in Colombo on 24 and 25 November 2011 for representatives from the SLCBL member organisations. The campaigners were educated on advocating for banning landmines and assisting victims and preparation of Campaign advocacy strategy. They actively participated in the national public awareness event.
- A one day workshop on the theme “Awareness on the Threat of Trap Guns & Antipersonnel Landmines” was conducted on 02 September 2011 at Siyambalanduwa in partnership with SLFRD–Siyambalanduwa Branch. Representatives from Social Services, Health, Education, Police & Civil Society organisations and trap gun/Land Mine victims participated at this event.
- Meeting with Mr. Karunathilaka Amunugama, Secretary to Ministry of External Affairs, Colombo on reviewing the GoSL ‘s position on International disability & disarmament instruments and encouraged the participation of the GoSL representative at meetings of State Parties.
- “Sthreee Mela” an event organized by SLCBL in collaboration with the Ministry of Child Development & Women’s Affairs & “Waw Bandi Rata Kanthawoo” – a women’s organization operating in the North Central Province. The event was conducted in Anuradhapura from 27-28 June 2011. “Voice of Sri Lankan Women”, an exhibition & seminar series, organized at the provincial level by a coalition of Women Organizations in Sri Lanka, provided a platform to discuss issues relating to women, gender, political leadership & contributions by women for development under the UN Resolution 1325. SLCBL specifically highlighted Gender in Mine Action in order to emphasise the role of Sri Lankan women’s contribution to make “Sri Lanka Free from the Threat of Antipersonnel Landmines & ERW”, the vision statement of the Sri Lanka National Mine Action Strategy.
- The SLCBL/SASA Net actively participated in the MRE curriculum development process for the Sri Lanka Police Academy. During these sessions SASA-Net contributed extensively addressing the Trap Gun issue which has similar issues as AP landmines and ERW. The trap gun issue is a nationwide issue to which the Sri Lank Police has a significant role to play in prevention and apprehension of perpetrators. However this is seldom discussed in social development forums.
- SLCBL/SASA Net organized a Seminar/Workshop to mark the “International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance to Mine Action, 4 April” on 31st March 2010 in partnership and collaboration with Ministry of Defence (Sri Lanka Army), NMAC, UNICEF & UNDP. This event was organized mainly for the electronic and print media in order to sensitize and create awareness on the issue and threat of AP Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW).
- Facilitated the participation of GoSL representative at the Second Review Conference of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction held in Cartagena, Colombia in November 2009.
- Meeting on 04th November 2009 in Colombo with Mr. S M Chandrasena, Minister of Nation Building & Estate Infrastructure Development at his Ministry.
- Meeting with Mr. Prasad Kariyawasam, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Colombo to lobby for a representative from the GoSL to attend the 2nd Review Conference of AP Mine Ban Convention in Colombia as an observer.
- Meeting on 30 October 2009 with two cabinet ministers namely Professor Tissa Witharana, Minster of Science and Technologies (General Secretary/Leader of Socialist Party- Sri Lanka) and Mr. Due Gunasekara, Minister of Constitutional Reforms and National Integration (General Secretary/Leader of Socialist Party- Sri Lanka) in Colombo.
- Two one-day seminars titled “International Law on Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War” were conducted in Colombo on 27 and 28 October 2009 for stake holders from mine action, namely Rehabilitation, Mine Action and Legal Professionals from Government, Security Forces, United Nations, International Agencies, International and National Non Government Organisations and Disability Peoples Organisations and Media. The seminar series consisted of two sessions each day, with a high level opening segment and a participatory workshop level segment. This event was organised by SASA Net in collaboration with UNICEF, EU, International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD).
- Facilitated the participation of two medical professionals and two mine action professionals representing the GoSL at the Bangkok Workshop on Achieving a Mine-Free South-East Asia on 1-3 April 2009 and the Victim Assistance Experts Parallel Workshop from 31 March – 3 April 2009. The Bangkok Workshop was the second of five regional workshops that were organised in advance of the Second Review Conference of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction.
- SLCBL participated (representing the Victim Assistance and Advocacy partners) at the UNICEF Technical Working Group (TWG) meetings 2009 in Negombo, 2010 in Mannar and Ampara, and 2011 in Polonnaruwa & Marawila; representing .
- Participated as the Victim Assistance and Advocacy partner for UNDP consultative process in setting up the National Mine Action Centre in 2009 & 2010.
History of banning antipersonnel landmines in Sri Lanka:
Initial activity towards a ban of AP mines by GoSL and LTTE commenced in 1999 under the auspicious of the Inter Religious Peace Foundation (IRPF), a movement for peace & reconciliation comprised of religious leaders. However, since late 2005, when the Ceasefire Agreement signed between GoSL and LTTE reached a stalemate and with the devastating impact of the Tsunami, the IRPF moved away from mine ban activities and concentrated more on Tsunami relief activities.
In 2003, the Landmine Ban Advocacy Forum (LBAF) was formed, a forum that comprised of UN agencies, members of likeminded Governments and Mine Action (MA) stakeholders including UNDP, UNICEF, UNHCR and I/NGOs involved in MA & Aid Relief. LBAF functioned under the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA). LBAF included IRPF as a forum member; representatives from Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Humanitarian Demining Unit (HDU) of Sri Lanka Army (SLA) took part as observers. However, IRPF did not contribute much to the LBAF work due to inter organisational political differences. LBAF was successful in engaging GoSL representatives and in sensitising the issue.
In 2005, LBAF successfully lobbied the GoSL to submit a Voluntary Article 7 Transparency report to the Ottawa Treaty States Parties and also to become a party to CCW and its protocols including optional protocol II (Protocol V only entered into force in 2006). It also engaged the media intensively by issuing media releases, briefings and conducting training on the land mine issue. In addition it conducted joint programs with GoSL and UNDP/UNICEF, mass media campaigns through print and electronic media and also by forming the Eminent Persons Group in late 2007. LBAF was very active from 2003 to 2007, but became defunct due to withdrawal of donor funding and operational constraints due to the changed security situation that prevailed in Sri Lanka in the latter part of 2007.
Since February 2009, the present SLCBL came into existence as an informal group with the administrative/secretarial support of South Asia Small Arms Network (SASA Net), a movement campaigning for control/ban of illegal small arms and of trap guns. SASA Net is the lead agency for the present SLCBL. SASA Net took steps in formalizing SLCBL in close collaboration with other interested organisations, aiming to work in partnership with all MA stakeholders including state stakeholders while carefully taking the then prevailing security & political situation/context into consideration.
South Asia Small Arms Network (SASA-Net) is a South Asian Movement against Small Arms. SASA-Net was founded by over 30 CSO groups in South Asia. It aims to bring organizations and activists from different parts of the region to lobby policy makers, build public awareness and share information on small arms and light weapons. SASA-Net Sri Lanka was formed on 29th April 2004 with civil society representatives from 20 organizations. Sri Lanka is the first country in the region to take steps to establish a National Commission on Small Arms. The objectives of SASA-Net is:
- To contribute towards a peaceful South Asia by reducing the impact of small arms and light weapons (SALW) on the lives of the people in the region.
- To bring organizations and activists from different parts of the region to lobby policy makers, build public awareness and share information on small arms and light weapons.
- To mobilize civil society by raising public awareness and knowledge about the impact of small arms and light weapons on their communities, highlighting the connection between proliferation and gun violence and socio-economic and political underdevelopment.
- To entrust each respective government to set up appropriate mechanisms to address the issue of small arms light weapons proliferation including reforming legislation on arms control and harmonizing laws throughout the region.
- To agitate for regional co-operation between governments and civil society to take joint action against proliferation and misuse of small arms in the region.