United Nations, New York, USA, March 01, 2019 – Delegates speak with staff members from the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) at the event “A World Free of Mines: For a Safer Tomorrow” on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the entry into force of the Mine Ban Treaty today at the UN Headquarters in New York.
Photo: Luiz Rampelotto/EuropaNewswire
By Kurt Wheelock
UNITED NATIONS, March 1 — When Norway’s foreign minister Ine Eriksen Søreide spoke about land mines in the United Nations on March 1, she cited the hope given the the Mine Ban Treaty that was signed in Oslo back in 1997. She said that Norway now contributes some $40 million a year for land mine work in 19 countries, and will be hosting another meeting on the topic in November 2019 – when, she said, the weather will probably be like Friday’s was in New York, snowy and brisk.
She said, “People cannot move back to areas where mines are still used.”
For Friday’s event in the UN, marking the 20th anniversary of the Treaty’s coming into force, her concept note stated that “Norway has been a staunch supporter of this Treaty since the early campaign. We have been a donor for global mine action for 25 years. We aim to use our presidency in 2019 to bring renewed political attention to the Mine Ban Convention.
“The 20-year anniversary on 1 March 2019 of the entry into force of the Mine Ban Treaty provides an opportunity to bring renewed attention to weapons which continue to kill and injure during and long after a conflict has ended. Landmines are not a problem of the past. Over the past few years, landmines have again been used as tools of war, including by armed non-state actors. With the number of casualties from landmines on the rise again and the highest annual total of child casualties recorded since 1999, there is an urgent need for the international community to broaden the scope of prevention measures and effective mine risk education for vulnerable communities, IDPs and refugees.”
The event began with slam poetry by UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and poet Emi Mahmoud. It then featured the UN Permanent Representatives of Mozambique, Iraq and Cambodia, countries impacted by land mines. Another speaker was Zlatko Vezilic, Interim Country Director, Norwegian People’s Aid, Cambodia – he was mentioned by name by Minister Søreide, as a person who knows the risk that land mine removal represents.
Norway is a champion of the Mine Ban Treaty, recounting its history: “a few months after the adoption of the Convention, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the campaign’s coordinator Jody Williams were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo for their efforts to, within the space of a few years, change ‘a ban on anti-personnel mines from a vision to a feasible reality.’ The Mine Ban Convention has been a success story: To date, 164 states have joined the Convention, and thereby committed themselves to never, under any circumstances, use, develop, produce, stockpile, retain or transfer landmines. The total ban on landmines has led to widespread stigmatization of these weapons and a strong norm against their use.
“As a result of the Convention’s provisions on stockpile destruction and clearance, more than 51 million mines have been destroyed, large tracts of lands have been cleared, and 26 states have been declared mine-free. The Mine Ban Convention was also the first international agreement to recognize states’ duty to provide assistance for the care and rehabilitation and social and economic reintegration of victims. This was important legal provision that would be further developed in the Convention on Cluster Munitions and pave the way for increased funding for organizations working to provide medical and psycho-social support for survivors and other persons with disabilities.
Norway acknowledges that “challenges remain. Over the last few years, there has been an increase in the use of improvised landmines as tools of war, and the number of civilian casualties from landmines is once again growing.
“One of the main challenges in the years to come concerns the widespread use of homemade devices, produced and placed by non-state actors. To achieve the goal of a mine free world, it is clear that states, humanitarian organizations and civil society must intensify their efforts to implement the prohibitions in the Mine Ban Convention. Norway has given substantial financial support to states and organizations working to solve the problem caused by landmines since the early 1990s. Norway is currently funding mine action in 20 countries, and will continue to give priority to countries that demonstrate strong national ownership and clear progress towards completion.”