March 2, 2017 The International Campaign to Ban Landmines
Eighteen years ago today, the Mine Ban Treaty, also known as the Ottawa Treaty, entered into force, establishing a global norm against the use of anti-personnel landmines. Previously used far and wide as a weapon of choice in the 1980s and 1990s, the global community had come to realize the pernicious impact of landmines on civilians and their communities, long after the end of conflict.
The Mine Ban Treaty Turns 18:
What Does it Mean? The International Campaign to Ban Landmines
The signing of the Ottawa treaty was one of the highlights of my career at the United Nations . . . The determination of the States parties has made the Ottawa Treaty one of the great successes of international diplomacy."
-- Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, 2 March 2016
(March 1, 2017) -- Eighteen years ago today, the Mine Ban Treaty, also known as the Ottawa Treaty, entered into force, establishing a global norm against the use of anti-personnel landmines. Previously used far and wide as a weapon of choice in the 1980s and 1990s, the global community had come to realize the pernicious impact of landmines on civilians and their communities, long after the end of conflict.
Governments and civil society stood together to reject landmines as a relic of the past -- an unacceptable weapon for any humane and responsible actor.
"One of the greatest legacies of civil society in the 20th century is the International Campaign to Ban Landmines that helped to achieve the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997. It is an historic achievement that not only banned the use, production, export and transfer of mines, but also provided legal obligations to support clearing mines. It is also the first weapons treaty in the world's history to include language for assistance to victims of the weapons that the treaty addresses."
-- Ken Rutherford, Director of the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery and a landmine survivor, 28 February 2017.
Today, just months away from the 20th anniversary of both the adoption and the signing of the Mine Ban Treaty, we celebrate the positive change brought about by this life-saving treaty.
* The annual number of landmine casualties today are just a fraction of what they were in 1999
* The use of anti-personnel landmines by States is increasingly rare
* 51 million stockpiled landmines have been destroyed- and every landmine destroyed is one that will never kill or injury a person. Congrats to Poland for being the most recent State to complete stockpile destruction!
* 28 States have completed landmine clearance since 1999, with Algeria being the most recent state to announce completion
This is enormous progress that has saved countless lives and increased opportunities for development around the world.
However, more work remains. Last year, use of improvised landmines by non-state armed groups increased while national and international support for mine action was lower than in most recent years.
Mine victims in most mine-affected States still struggle to access needed services and to participate as full citizens in their communities. States Parties have made the commitment to finish the job by 2025; with focused and collaborative efforts, we will achieve this goal.
And while global statistics are important to see how far we have come, the impact on the lives of individuals reminds us all of why we started this in the first place and why we must stay the course until the job is done.
"After my accident, all aspects of my life were filled with hopelessness. My future was uncertain. Then I learned about the Mine Ban Treaty, and things started to make sense: I was finding answers to my worries. Now, I am fighting for my rights as entrenched in the Treaty, and in doing so, I am also fighting on behalf of thousands of fellow victims."
-- Mamady Gassama, founder of the Senegal Association for Mine Victims and a landmine survivor, 27 February 2017.
Why the Ban ICBL
Until the 1990s, antipersonnel landmines had been used by most armed forces of the world, in one form or another, causing tens of thousands of casualties a year and creating many hardships for affected communities that could no longer safely access land, buildings, and natural resources.
The horrendous effect of landmines on communities throughout the world was witnessed by the founding member organizations of the ICBL, which joined forces in 1992 to address the problem. It soon became apparent that the only real solution to address the landmine crisis was a complete ban on antipersonnel mines.
No technical changes or changes to the rules on their use could change the fact that an antipersonnel mine is inherently indiscriminate. Once planted it will never be able to tell the difference between a military and civilian footstep and will remain a threat to communities for decades to come.
The ICBL, in close partnership with a small number of states, the ICRC, and the UN, therefore put in motion what was later known as the "Ottawa Process" that led to the adoption of the Mine Ban Treaty in September 1997.
The Mine Ban Treaty, which includes a comprehensive ban on all antipersonnel mines as well as several measures to redress the harm from past use, was adopted in Oslo (Norway) in September 1997, and opened for signature on 3 December 1997 in Ottawa (Canada.)
While numerous challenges remain, landmine use has dramatically dropped thanks to the Mine Ban Treaty, as has global production and trade. Additionally, tens of millions of antipersonnel mines have been destroyed, large areas of contaminated land have been cleared and returned to communities for safe use, and landmine victims' rights and needs are receiving greater attention by affected states.
(January 17, 2017) -- This month marks the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's visit to Angola. During that visit she donned protective gear and walked through a recently cleared minefield, and met with landmine victims at the Red Cross's prosthetic clinic. At this time, negotiations on the Mine Ban Treaty were ongoing and Princess Diana's visit to the minefield and her subsequent advocacy helped galvanize public opinion against antipersonnel landmines.
The anniversary affords an opportunity to review what has been done over the last two decades. The results worldwide are astonishing. In Angola, the below picture shows the comparison of what the minefield Lady Di visited looked like 20 years ago and what it is now: a city street with no signs of its past.
In February 1997, BBC1 aired a special on her trip, available in three parts on YouTube:
Princess Diana's visit was coordinated by the British Red Cross, and the minefield aspects were last-minute additions to the program. I have been told that the HALO Trust team received a call from the trip organizers one afternoon asking if Lady Di could visit a minefield the next day.
Recognizing the opportunity, HALO made the necessary arrangements. Looking at the photos and the video, I am struck by how terrifying the experience must have been. Every step she took she could see the warning signs and the white stakes mark where a landmine had been laid and removed.
Since Princess Diana's death in August 1997, other members of royalty have stepped forward. Jordan's Prince Mired bin Raad serves as the special envoy for universalization of the Mine Ban Treaty and has traveled to multiple countries including China, the United States, Tonga and Peru to encourage accession to the treaty. Princess Astrid of Belgium serves in a similar role, promoting the Mine Ban Treaty and advocating for the rights of landmine survivors.
Prince Harry, Lady Diana's younger son, has also carried on her mantle serving as the patron of the HALO Trust's 25th anniversary appeal and traveling to Mozambique and Angola to witness the mine clearance work. The presence and interest of royalty in landmines ensures that public attention and support continues.
The situation of landmine victims in Angola and in Bosnia and Herzegovina was also a large focus of Diana's advocacy.
When the movie "Diana" came out a couple of years ago, the Daily Mail tracked down a landmine survivor who had met with Lady Di in Angola, Ms. Sandra Tigica, and gave an update on her life.
In August of 1997, Princess Diana made her last formal trip, visiting landmine survivors in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the founders of Landmine Survivors Network.*
In the years following that trip, an annual sitting volleyball tournament was held in her honor, emphasizing her role in bringing attention to the issues. If the anniversary of Diana's visit leads to a 20-year review of the progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina, that would be a positive.
*After many years of important work promoting the rights of landmine survivors, the Landmine Survivors Network (then called Survivor Corps) closed down in 2010.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.