ALERT- 4 April: International Mine Awareness Day | April 4, 2020
Today, HI, co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), and co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, celebrates the International Mine Awareness Day. The COVID-19 outbreak is now an additional threat for mine/ERW survivors, their families and affected communities and is putting additional constraints on mine action operations. Globally at least 60 million […]
Today, HI, co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), and co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, celebrates the International Mine Awareness Day.
The COVID-19 outbreak is now an additional threat for mine/ERW survivors, their families and affected communities and is putting additional constraints on mine action operations.
Globally at least 60 million people live with the risk of landmines and other unexploded ordnance. Landmine/ERW survivors, their families and affected communities often live in marginalized areas where access to services, especially, health care, rehabilitation, psychosocial support and education services, and socio-economic opportunities can be limited or completely lacking. In these conditions, they might not be able to protect themselves efficiently against the virus, by adopting preventive measures. The situation might also further increase their socio-economic exclusion in an environment where human security is constantly endangered.
Amidst this crisis, we reaffirm the necessity to respond to the needs and fulfil the rights of mine/ERW survivors, their families and affected communities, and to ensure the realisation of the commitment towards a mine-free world.
Resounding victory and challenges ahead for the Ottawa Convention
In 1997, the Ottawa Convention prohibiting the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel mines marked a turning point in the fight against landmines. In 20 years of application, the Convention has proved effective: 164 States are parties to the Convention, making the ban on landmines a universal norm of international humanitarian law. In twenty years, the use of landmines has become a dreadful exception, limited to a few areas of the world and strongly condemned by the international community.
The Ottawa Convention has almost completely dried up the trade of this weapon: In 1999, 50 states were still producing landmines and 160 million landmines were stockpiled. Today only 11 states still produce these weapons and stockpiles are less than 50 million landmines.
The annual number of recorded casualties have divided in the period 1999–2018, however, this still represent more than 120,000 casualties (Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor) in total. 2018 was the fourth year in a row with exceptionally high numbers of recorded casualties due to landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW)- including improvised types that act as antipersonnel mines, cluster munition remnants, and other ERW. The available funding for victim assistance has been decreasing, with the exception of 2018: for the first time in seven years, funding dedicated to victim assistance as part of the global mine action budget have increased in 2018.
This alone shows that the fight to end the use of these indiscriminate weapons is far from over! States Parties in a position to provide assistance should continue keeping people at the centre of their action to support better access to vital services for persons injured, survivors, affected families and communities in humanitarian crisis, situations of protracted conflict, and in development contexts. All situations where they will also be hit the hardest by the COVID-19 crisis.
We cannot enjoy the luxury to take the Ottawa Convention for granted. It needs continuous strengthening instead of being cowardly attacked by some states.
US new landmine policy: an abhorrent decision
The U.S. is one of the few countries that has yet to join the 1997 Ottawa Convention, sharing ranks with China, Egypt, India, Israel, Pakistan, and Russia. Although not a signatory, the U.S.complied in practice with its obligations under the Convention. The previous 2014 policy allowed for possible use of landmines only in the Korean peninsula, along the commitments of no further use or production, towards the ultimate goal of joining the Convention. The new policy discards these previous commitments! How can the new policy state that landmines are “a vital tool in conventional warfare” when the U.S. military hasn’t chosen to use them in decades?
HI denounces this abhorrent decision and calls the U.S. to reverse this decision that threatens the progress towards a mine-free world.
“UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for an ‘immediate global ceasefire’ to prioritize the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States’ decision appears totally irrelevant in the current context. Landmine is not a ‘vital tool’ as said by the US administration in its decision last January. What is ‘vital’ is to join worldwide efforts to combat the COVID-19.” said Emmanuel Sauvage, Head of the Armed Violence Reduction Division at HI, “We urge the Trump administration to reverse this decision and to concentrate on the first actual priority: addressing the vulnerabilities of 60 million people living in mine/ERW affected countries where COVID-19 could further increase vulnerability of people affected directly or indirectly by mines.”