he world is getting ready to end the menace of the victim-activated weapons known as Anti-Personnel (AP) mines from the earth on or before 2025. This was officially revealed at the recently concluded 3rd Review Conference (RC) of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) which was held in Maputo, Mozambique from June 22 to 27, 2014. The Review Conferences take place every five years to review the progress made on five components of mine action (mine clearance, victim assistance, mine risk education, stockpile destruction, and advocacy for banning AP mines) and also to discuss and adopt the next five-year work plan.
Victims of Mines
Due to the lack of data collection in the past and the continued under reporting of data in some areas, information regarding mine accidents and their survivors is largely inadequate, so that it is not possible to give a total number of people worldwide who have been killed or injured by AP mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). However, the global research arm of the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor has been reporting the available data since 1999. They have reported nearly 90,000 casualties from AP mines and ERW during the period between 1999 and 2012.
In 2013; 3,628 casualties of mine and EWR were reported, compared with 9,220 in 1999. This represents a reduction of one-third the casualty figures due the success story of the APMBC.
"Since the war ended in 2009, a successful mine action programme has been revived by the GoSL. With the support of the international community it was able to achieve significant progress in the socioeconomic development arena"
Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention
In the early 1990s not a single government would have considered imposing or endorsing a ban on landmines. The change of heart was achieved by a successful coordination effort that brought together like-minded civil society organisations to form the ICBL, which played a particularly key role in the adoption of the APMBC. Since 1999, when the APMBC or the Ottawa Treaty came into effect, it endorsed the ban on the development, production and trade of AP landmines and promoted the destruction of AP mine-stockpiles, the clearance of land where landmines had been laid, and the provision of aid to victims.
The APMBC was adopted on September 18, 1997 and entered into force on March 1, 1999. The ICBL was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. As of 30 June, 2014, 161 states agreed to be bound by the Convention, which is a remarkable achievement. The APMBC is working towards making AP mines weapons a concern of the past. Nonetheless, there are still 36 countries remaining outside the treaty.
Royals joining the campaigning work
HRH Diana, Princess of Wales campaigned against AP mine proliferation until her death. She helped to raise funds for the clearance of AP mines in mine-affected countries, to provide support for victims and towards the banning of the weapon globally. It was revealed that the last letter Princess Diana wrote (dated August 11, 1997) before her fateful trip to Paris, referred to the issue, “I could not help but be deeply moved by the experience which hardened my resolve to ensure that the world does not forget that those who have been so needlessly maimed by these terrible weapons will need care and support for many years to come.” Now her son Prince Harry is continuing his mother’s campaign activities and we will need his full commitment in the coming decade to achieve the goal of zero mine contamination and commit to complete it by 2025.
Maputo outcome - Maputo +15 Declaration and Maputo Action Plan
The 3rd Review Conference on Mine Free World held in Maputo ended by coming up with a valuable declaration in which the community campaigning for a ban on landmines renewed its commitment to the convention. The Maputo +15 Declaration, reaffirms its commitment to ending the suffering and casualties caused by AP mines and charting the path forward in the global effort to eradicate landmines and putting forward the target completion date of 2025. The Declaration was signed and adopted by the state parties attending the conference.
Maputo Action Plan having got its 31-point work plan approved by the states present, recognizes that there is much more to do and strongly asserts that completion in a decade can be done through states working harder and better.
The APMBC is currently 15 years old. It will be an historical convention if it is able to achieve its goal of abdicating and banning AP mines from the earth in another 10 years’ time or before 2025. This will strengthen the collective will of like-minded humans to rally against inhuman activities that can be eradicated to create a world that is a better place for humans and animals to live.
His Holiness Pope Francis’s statement on AP mines and his intended visit to Sri Lanka
His Holiness Pope Francis sent a message in June this year to the 3rd Review Conference of the APMBC in Maputo, Mozambique. In the message, he mentioned the importance of banning landmines globally and he urged the international community to put the treaty into effect immediately. He also urged all countries to commit themselves to the destruction of all existing mines and impose a complete ban on their production, “so that there are no more victims of mines” and so that “no child must live in fear of mines.”
The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will visit Sri Lanka early next year, which is a very important development for Sri Lanka at this juncture. With regard to AP mines; Sri Lanka is a country still grappling with the clearing of mines and continues to come across victims, but Sri Lanka still is not a state party to the APMBC. As His Holiness’ message mentioned that “For civilians in former war zones, the environment around them is a constant threat when it should be a source of fruitfulness, development and the joy of living.
Landmines wound innocent civilians, prolong war and nurture fear long after conflicts have ended.” On the victims of landmines, the message said, “they carry – on their bodies and their lives – sign of an inhuman weapon, an irresponsible weapon, a weapon of cowards.”
A visit by the Pope to a mine-affected country like Sri Lanka needs to be highlighted to get support from the donor community to finish the clearance job well ahead of the target date of 2025. His Holiness should be able to meet AP mine victims and visit mine-affected areas. This would add a new dimension to current efforts to attract world attention towards the aim of eradicating this weapon from the earth, and towards continuing support for AP mine and ERW victims on their long-term psycho-social and socioeconomic rehabilitation and recovery processes.
I personally believe in the importance of such an initiative, since I have been involved in the anti-AP mine campaign as a volunteer in Sri Lanka since the late 1990s. The Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) had introduced AP mines to Sri Lanka produced them on a massive scale and also started using them as an offensive weapon. The famous Madu Church in Sri Lanka was heavily mined by the LTTE and soon after the war ended in 2009 the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) gave high priority to mine clearance operations in the area surrounding the Church and opened it to the devotees from Sri Lanka and all round the world. Sri Lanka still has 82 square kilometres to be cleared in the areas in the northern and eastern regions of the country.
"Since the war ended in 2009, a successful mine action programme has been revived by the GoSL. With the support of the international community it was able to achieve significant progress in the socio-economic development arena. The GoSL should ban this weapon on moral and ethical grounds. This will not only be in solidarity with Pope Francis’ visit to Sri Lanka but would also have the ultimate goal of a mine-free world. In a broader context, any religion will not allow the use of such a weapon and in particular it totally violates the fundamentals of Ahimsa in Buddhism"
Since the war ended in 2009, a successful mine action programme has been revived by the GoSL. With the support of the international community it was able to achieve significant progress in the socio-economic development arena. The GoSL should ban this weapon on moral and ethical grounds. This will not only be in solidarity with Pope Francis’ visit to Sri Lanka but would also have the ultimate goal of a mine-free world. In a broader context, any religion will not allow the use of such a weapon and in particular it totally
violates the fundamentals of Ahimsa in Buddhism.
Vidya Abhayagunawardena is a Country Researcher in Sri Lanka for the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor. His latest publication was on “Commonwealth States on Disarmament and Development A Socio-economic Analysis.”