Handicap International calls on President Obama to ban landmines
Handicap International is calling on the Obama administration to join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which marks its 14th year of entry into force today, 1st March. This life-saving treaty counts 161 States Parties, but countries including China, Iran, Russia, Syria and the U.S. have yet to join.
More than 1.1 million people worldwide have signed Handicap International petitions pushing for the eradication of landmines since 1992. In the past five months, the charity has collected an additional 52,868 signatures – the majority from Americans - urging President Obama to submit the treaty to the Senate for ratification. More than 5,000 signatures came from the UK public.
“As a fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner, President Obama has the moral responsibility to take a firm stand against landmines,” says Elizabeth MacNairn, executive director of Handicap International U.S. Handicap International is a co-winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, as one of the six founding members of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines which led to the signing of the Mine Ban Treaty.
The U.S. has an estimated stockpile of 10.4 million anti-personnel mines. However, it has not used antipersonnel mines since 1991 or produced new mines since 1997. The U.S. is the only member of NATO and the only country in the western hemisphere, aside from Cuba, that has not joined the Mine Ban Treaty. Despite not being a States Party to the treaty, the U.S. has committed more funds than any other country to landmine clearance, victim assistance, and other mine action, supplying $534.5 million in aid since 2007.
The Mine Ban Treaty prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines. Since its creation in 1997, almost 4,000 km² of mined land has been cleared and nearly 135 million landmines have been destroyed. Despite this significant progress, millions of landmines, some dating back to World War II, still lay hidden in more than 60 countries.
President Obama launched a review of U.S. landmine policy in 2009 to determine whether the U.S. will join the treaty. In a statement delivered in December 2012, at the 12thMeeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Geneva, Steven Costner, Deputy Director of Weapons Removal and Abatement at the U.S. Department of State, said “our review has identified operational issues related to accession [to the treaty] that require careful consideration. This consideration is ongoing, and we expect to be able to announce a decision soon.” He later defined “soon” as meaning before the next Meeting of States Parties scheduled for November 2013.
Landmines and other explosive remnants of war are unable to differentiate between the step of a solider and that of a child. These indiscriminate weapons claim roughly one new victim every two hours. According to the 2012 Landmine Monitor report, more than 70 per cent of victims are civilians, of which 42 per cent are children. The report also notes that there are hundreds of thousands landmine survivors worldwide, most of whom will need support for the rest of their lives.
“The use of landmines is a very serious violation of humanitarian principles,” says Aleema Shivji, Director of Handicap International UK. “Laid during periods of conflict, anti-personnel mines affect innocent civilians first and foremost, even long after conflicts have ended.”
Handicap International is the world’s most comprehensive mine action charity, providing rehabilitation care to mine victims, preventing casualties by clearing and destroying mines and explosive weapons, educating affected populations about the risks, and advocating for an all-out ban on landmines and cluster munitions. The organisation has been fighting against the scourge of landmines for 30 years, and has run mine action projects in nearly 50 countries.
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About Handicap International
Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Handicap International is an international aid organisation working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. Working alongside people with disabilities and vulnerable populations, we take action and raise awareness in order to respond to their essential needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights. Handicap International is a co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Cluster Munition Coalition. www.handicap-international.org.uk