Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

The Evolutionary Dynamics of the Movement to Ban Landmines

Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

The Evolutionary Dynamics of the Movement to Ban Landmines

Article excerpt

In an attempt to demonstrate the vitality and significance of the transnational, nonstate realm of world politics, in this article, we examine the global mine-ban movement during the period 1991-2002. In doing so, we make two claims: The first is that, at least in the case of the mine-ban movement, the nonstate realm has proved highly successful in generating power to affect outcomes in innovative and effective ways. Our second claim--the more innovative of the two--concerns the evolutionary dynamics of the mine-ban movement, and, by extension, of the nonstate realm of world politics.

By way of amplifying our first claim, we note that the mine-ban movement did not seek to take control of traditional sources of state power such as taxation and military force (as transnational criminal organizations often do) or to work primarily through state mechanisms such as the judicial process or the United Nations (as many environmental and human rights organizations do). Rather, it generated power by flooding global media with unsettling statistics and images and by using the internet and other technologies to build an extensive, transnational coalition that could not be discounted, co-opted, or, ultimately, denied political space. (1) This network placed such tremendous pressure on states that eventually a small group of them agreed to work with it to achieve a bold set of humanitarian goals, even though doing pushed these states outside conventional negotiating structures and brought them into opposition with the major powers of the world.

The speed with which this landmark process in the humanitarian politics of the global era occurred is among the mine-ban movement's most remarkable features. The principal impetus to ban antipersonnel landmines (APLs) arose only a decade ago, when nonstate actors (NSAs) engaged in a variety of development and other activities in mine-infested countries, determined that the human costs of APLs outweighed their military value and resolved to act together to have them banned. In the early 1990s, states responded to NSA pressure by trying to address the APL issue through existing arms-control processes. When this strategy floundered, grassroots activism continued to mobilize support and push for a comprehensive mine ban until a small group of states agreed to design and pursue a novel approach. Working hand in glove with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), a coalition of more than one thousand nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), these states prepared a binding multilateral treaty outside convent ional statecentric fora. In less than two years, the treaty was negotiated, signed, ratified, and became law. The ICBL's story demonstrates that state behavior can be affected by NSAs in a clear and decisive manner--even when the major powers of the world oppose the changes being advocated. (2)

With regard to our second claim--about the evolutionary dynamics of the nonstate realm--the first point to be made is that state-based fora for negotiating changes to the status quo are slow and cumbersome. Discussions focused on supplementing human rights with a protocol or treaty on indigenous peoples have crawled along for two decades; (3) attempts to strengthen environmental regimes, such as the Framework Convention on Climate Change, have proceeded at a snail's pace for more than a decade; and efforts to integrate sustainable development principles into institutions governing world trade have made little headway since the 1980s. Similarly, efforts in the early 1990s to expand prohibitions on military weapons through existing channels proved, in the case of APLs, so unproductive that a critical mass of states soon turned away from the process in frustration. One obvious problem in each of these cases is that official mechanisms are readily infiltrated and disabled by other political agendas, as was demons trated clearly in the United Nations Security Council during the Cold War. …

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