The Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty turns 20

Two decades ago, the adoption of the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty marked an unprecedented diplomatic victory against these cowardly weapons. The treaty led to a fall in casualty numbers, the destruction of millions of mines, and a virtual end to their use. Since 2014, however, the use of mines has increased in many current conflicts, with a resulting rise in casualty numbers. 

c_S-de-Groeve_Handicap-International__Navea_a_landmine_victim_in_Cambodia.jpgNavea, 18, lost her leg after stepping on a landmine in Cambodia. 

The Ottawa Treaty was adopted on September 18, 1997 on the initiative of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) of which Handicap International is a founding member. The Treaty bans the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of anti-personnel mines and places an obligation on countries to assist victims. A major victory for the States and organizations involved, it was the world’s first treaty to ban a conventional weapon.

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With 162 States Parties, representing more than 80% of the world’s countries, the Treaty has enjoyed 20 years of undoubted success. Twenty-eight States and one territory have completed their mine clearance programs since the Treaty entered into force. In addition, at least 23,600 sq. ft of mined land has been cleared and 51 million mines stockpiled by States have been destroyed. The use of anti-personnel mines is now widely stigmatized across the world.

However, since 2014, the number of casualties has increased after 15 years of steady decline. The 2016 Landmine Monitor report, which measures the impact of the Ottawa Treaty, reveals that the number of new casualties of anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war almost doubled between 2014 and 2015 to at least 6,461 people killed or injured by these weapons in 2015, compared to 3,695 in 2014, an increase of 75%. This is the largest number of casualties reported by the Landmine Monitor since 2006. 

“Mines still present in 63 countries and territories continue to kill and maim,” says Anne Héry, head of advocacy at Handicap International.Almost every hour, a new casualty of these weapons is reported somewhere in the world. More than three quarters of these casualties are civilians, and a third are children. Although clear advances have been made in the fight against mines, our struggle is not over yet. We need to remain vigilant against these weapons and must continue to mobilize States to rid the planet of this scourge and to provide assistance to casualties over the long-term.” 

The Monitor also recorded the highest number of casualties of improvised mines (explosive devices produced by belligerent parties acting as anti-personnel mines) since the publication of the first Annual Report in 2000, with 1,331 casualties or 21% of casualties reported in 2015. The actual number of casualties is likely to be higher.

“To coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Ottawa Treaty, Handicap International is calling on the international community to implement all of the obligations set out under the Ottawa Treaty,” Anne Henry continues. “This includes: clearing contaminated areas to remove the threat to civilians from anti-personnel mines; destroying stockpiles; stepping up efforts to help casualties and families who are victims of these weapons; calling on remaining non-States Parties to join the treaty; and increasing funding for the fight against mines and explosive remnants of war.”

The U.S. and the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty

The U.S. has been planning on joining the treaty since its creation in 1997, but President Bush reversed the U.S. policy stance in 2004. The Obama administration finally announced in December 2009 that the U.S. had initiated a comprehensive review of its landmine policy. In 2014, the Obama administration promised that the U.S. would stop producing or purchasing landmines. However, the U.S. has yet to join the treaty. Sign our petition, urging President Trump to get back on track and fulfill the promise the U.S. made to the international community 15 years ago and to submit the treaty to the Senate for ratification now!  

About the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL)

In 1992, Handicap International joined forces with the Mines Advisory Group (UK), Medico International (Germany), Human Rights Watch/Arms Project (US), Physicians for Human Rights (US) and Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (US) to found the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), a coalition since joined by more than 1,000 organizations from some sixty countries. The coalition launched an international public mine action campaign that ended, in 1997, in the adoption of the Ottawa Treaty, the first treaty to ban a conventional weapon. The same year, the NGO members of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, including Handicap International, were rewarded by the Nobel Peace Prize for their “role in the promotion of international efforts for a total ban on anti-personnel landmines.”