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Global Support Towards a Mine-Free World

3 April 2013 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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In the modern world today, a morally outlawed and victim activated weapon, (because no one controls the detonations), the antipersonnel landmine (AP mines) is still being used by a few selective governments and non-state armed groups. Due to indiscriminate use in the past (and present day) of landmines, thousands of people are killed or maimed. The victims include, children, civilians, aid workers, peacekeepers and soldiers.  

AP mines are made of metal and plastic among other materials and contain explosives and pieces of shrapnel. During and after conflicts, these weapons can be found on roads, footpaths, farmer’s fields, forests, deserts, along borders, in and surrounding houses and schools, and in other places where people carry out their daily activities. The danger and the risk is that they can deny access to food, water, and other basic needs, and inhibit freedom of movement, limiting people’s ability to participate in education or access medical care.



AP mine victims
According to the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor (the research arm of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines - ICBL) in 2011 alone a total of 4,286 new casualties from landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) were recorded and this figure is similar to the number of casualties identified in 2009 and 2010, or approximately 11-12 casualties per day. A decade ago, this annual incidence rate was three times as high with at least 32 casualties per day.   




The Impact of Mines/ERW on Children
Since 2005 the Monitor has recorded the average annual rate of child casualties; in 2011 these accounted for 42% of all civilian casualties for whom the age was known. It further mentioned that in some of the most mine/ERW- affected countries in the world, the percentage of child casualties was even higher in 2011. For example, children accounted for 64% of all civilian casualties in Libya, 61% in Afghanistan, 58% in Lao PDR, and 50% in Iraq. With girls making up 17% of child casualties in 2011, boys continued to constitute the majority of casualties by far with girls and women accounting for 10% of casualties.




Countries affected by AP mines
The Landmine Monitor reported as of September 2010, sixty-six (66) states, as well as seven areas not internationally recognized, were confirmed or suspected to be mine-affected with approximately 3,000 km2 of land contaminated with mines. The Monitor further mentioned that, there is no credible estimate of the total number of mines in the ground worldwide, however, the impact of mines can be measured in several ways, including totalling the amount of land that is unusable due to contamination or gathering data about the number of people killed or injured by mines.

In recent times (2012), the Monitor identified Government of Syria using AP mines, and, Israel, Libya and Myanmar have used AP mines in 2011. In this period (2011/12) non-state armed groups was confirmed using AP mines in Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Thailand, and Yemen. With the new conflicts as intensified and use of AP mines by state and non-state parties mine contaminated lands and victims can be higher and due to incomplete data collection, the actual number of casualties was certainly higher than what was recorded according to the Monitor.   




Campaign against AP mines
The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) has been campaigning since 1992 to ban AP landmines around the world. This civil society initiative has been a very successive and as a  result of this on 3rd December 1997 the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT) or known as Ottawa Treaty opened for signature and entered into force on 1st March 1999. The MBT comprehensively prohibits antipersonnel landmines and requires their clearance, and assistance be provided to victims. In recognition for this worthy cause, in 1997 ICBL was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize. The late Princes of Wales Lady Diana was one of the prominent figures in campaigning for banning landmines and to provide support for landmine victims around the world. Today there are many peace loving prominent world leaders in their respective areas that are campaigning and supporting the banning of AP mines around the world.

There are 161 State Parties (already acceded to the MBT) and remaining only 36 Non- state parties (not yet acceded to the MBT) to Mine Ban Treaty as of 2013. As of 2013, 161 State Parties that have signed and this  includes all countries comprising the European Union (EU), all nations in sub-Saharan Africa, all countries in the western hemisphere except Cuba and the US, many countries in the Asia-Pacific, and several nations from the Commonwealth of Independent States. Of the NATO member countries, only the US has not signed.






President Obama, Nobel Peace Prize and AP mines
President Barack Obama became the 44th President of US in 2009 with the support of peace-loving voters in his country, and, with cheering millions of peace supporters around the world. Hopes were high that under this new presidency a new era of peace would dawn. At the time the US was involved with high profile wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On October 9th 2009, the Nobel Committee announced that President Obama had been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize without any concrete commitment by him that the US would be committed to promote including world peace, such as banning of the AP mines in USA. Some of the non-sate parties for the MBT are following the US stance to the MBT. Remaining other non-state parties should not wait until the US accedes to the MBT treaty, just as 161 countries which acceded to the MBT did not wait till the US acceded to the treaty.

The US Campaign to Ban Landmines (USCBL) and the US State Department Officials met at the Twelfth Meeting of State Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty at Geneva in December 2012.  At this meeting US Government delegation mentioned that the US would be announcing the outcome of its three year review of its landmine policy “soon”. Peace-loving people are eagerly waiting to hear the US announcement soon and “soon” meant—at the least—that an announcement of the decision of the review would take place no later than the next Meeting of State Parties in November 2013 as USCBL stated. Otherwise receiving the Nobel Peace Prize would not be meaningful for President Obama if he will be not in a position to announce the US positive stance for banning landmines before he leaves the office.  Ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty by the US would need approval by two-thirds of the Senate, but Obama could also take some immediate steps using his executive powers as USCBL suggests.




Support for mine action
There are five pillars of the Mine Action, these are: i) Demining; ii) Mine Risk Education; iii) Victim Assistance; iv) Stock Pile Destruction; and v) Advocacy for ban of landmines. To become a successive mine action programme each pillar is important and needs to meet certain targets, maintain conditions and norms with each respective pillar.

International contribution for mine action in 2011 totalled more than US$430 million for 6th consecutive year. Since 2006, when international assistance for mine action jumped from $371 million to $464 million, funding has ranged from $437 million to $480 million per year according to the Monitor. Since 2007 to 2011 US became the largest international donor for mine action totalling with $534.5 million though the US is not a State Party to the MBT. From this period the other major 8 contributors are;  Norway $226.3m, Japan $224.3m, EC $185.7m, Canada $154.9m, Australia 124.4m, Germany $115.8m, Netherlands $114.3m, United Kingdom $102.3m. The total international donors’ contribution for mine action in this period was $2,276.2 million.

For the five years from 2007 to 2011, support to Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Lebanon, Sudan, in addition to funds categorized as “global” represented 64% of all contributions. More than 80% of mine action funding supported clearance and mine risk education (MRE) activities. Victim assistance (VA) support fell by US$13.3m from 2010 and represented just 6% of mine action support and also for advocacy 3%, Stockpile destruction 1% and for  various 3%.  



South Asian Region and AP mines
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) consists of eight countries; Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Out of these 8, 4 countries accede to the MBT. These include Afghanistan in September 2002, Bangladesh in May 1998, Bhutan in August 2005 and Maldives in October 1998. Four countries leave not signed; India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The most likely country to accede to the MBT is Sri Lanka mainly because the country was involved in the internal conflict which was over in 2009. Acceding to the MBT would signal that peace would be permanent in post-war Sri Lanka.  The Sri Lanka Campaign to Ban Landmines (SLCBL) is advocating the GOSL to accede to the MBT. In particular it is important for post-war Sri Lanka’s reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation efforts.

The remaining four countries; India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka within the SAARC region are affected by AP mines. It is very important for those four countries to accede to the MBT. This would help a commitment towards regional peace and stability and also show the world that one of the highly populated region soil  would not be contaminated with AP mines and should work towards becoming  a mine-free region such as the EU.  




Sri Lanka’s Mine Action Programme
Sri Lanka’s National Mine Action Programme was initiated in 2002 with the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the support of the international community. Sri Lanka’s Mine Action becomes one of most successful programmes particularly in post-war Sri Lanka. Throughout the mine action programme GOSL has been given a high priority and setting up a well-coordinated programme for demining and mine risk education in particular. With the successive demining programme Sri Lanka was able to resettle more than 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the welfare villages in the war-affected areas. Today there aren’t any IDPs remaining at the IDP camps in Sri Lanka and this shows Sri Lanka’s commitment towards a mine free nation. And also compared to other countries in the region very low level of mine victims reported in the mine contaminated areas of Sri Lanka. Mine casualties reported from Sri Lanka according to the information management system for mine action (IMSMA) records in 2009 was at 26; 2010 was at 47; 2011 was at 23; and 2012 was at 33; which is quite small when compared with mine casualties reported from Afghanistan in 2010/11 was at 2023; Pakistan was at 863; Iraq was at 223; Cambodia was at 497; Myanmar was at 655.

Since the end of the protracted war in 2009 May there were nine demining organizations working in Sri Lanka including the Humanitarian Demining Unit of Sri Lanka’s Army, 6 international humanitarian demining organizations and 2 Sri Lankan humanitarian demining organizations. Sri Lankan estimates of contamination fell sharply from 506km2 at the end of 2010 to 255km2 in July 2011 and to almost 125km2 in February 2012. By the end of March 2013, the National Mine Action Centre (NMAC) reported Sri Lanka’s remaining confirmed hazardous areas (CHAs) totalled 96km².

International contribution for Sri Lanka’s mine action since 2007 to 2011 was US$ 91,500,783. From 2013 onwards Sri Lanka may face funding difficulties for mine action and already 2 international and one local organization ceased their mine action activities in late 2012. GOSL needs to be more proactive to make the necessary provisions from its national budget allocation and also the high level political commitment to keep the same momentum going in the mine action programme otherwise remaining 96km² will not be able to be cleared before the 2020 as it planned in the National Strategy for Mine Action Policy Paper of Sri Lanka. Acceding to the MBT which could be an another strategy to receive additional technical support including funding from the international donor support for Sri Lanka’s post-war humanitarian mine action. This will help to clear the mine contaminated land well before the planned 2020 date.

Writer is a researcher in socioeconomic development. He can be reached at vidyampa@hotmail.com
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