Ten years after the historic treaty banning antipersonnel mines became binding international law campaigners in some 60 countries around the globe are taking action this week to once again draw the world's attention to the horrific consequences of landmines and to call for renewed efforts toward a mine-free world.
"The Mine Ban Treaty has made a major difference on the ground in dozens of mine-affected countries, but despite the successes to date, too many people's lives remain impacted by un-cleared minefields, too many mine survivors are denied decent living conditions, and too many mines are still stockpiled" said Sylvie Brigot, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). "We always knew that pursuing a mine-free world would be a long-term mission, but it can be done. States Parties need to recommit themselves to doing everything in their power to end the suffering caused by these weapons. This is 'mission possible'." To date, 156 states have joined the treaty and, as reported by the ICBL Landmine Monitor the stigma attached to the use of antipersonnel mines means that only two governments - Burma (Myanmar) and Russia - and a handful of non-state armed groups employed these weapons in the past few years. Some 42 million antipersonnel mines have been destroyed from stockpiles since 1997; only 13 of the more than 50 countries that manufactured antipersonnel mines in the early '90s still have a production capacity; trade in antipersonnel mines has virtually stopped; and large tracts of land have been cleared and returned to productive use. However, despite the goodwill and continued partnership between governments and civil society, the task of ensuring full compliance by Mine Ban Treaty members is an ongoing challenge. Belarus, Greece, and Turkey failed to meet their four-year stockpile destruction deadline on 1 March 2008 although they have since indicated that they are committed to destroying their stockpiled antipersonnel mines as soon as possible. Some states have been unacceptably slow in fulfilling their mine clearance obligations, potentially putting thousands of civilian lives at risk. Fifteen States Parties, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mozambique, Nicaragua, the United Kingdom and Yemen, had to ask last year for an extension of their ten-year deadline for clearance of mine-affected areas. Programs to address the lifelong needs of mine survivors - estimated at almost half a million people worldwide - are still grossly inadequate in the vast majority of affected countries. Thirty-nine countries - two of which originally signed the treaty but have not ratified it - have not yet formally joined the treaty and thus remain at odds with the widespread international rejection of the weapon. "Over the past decade we have seen elements of the new diplomacy that created the Mine Ban Treaty applied to tackle other issues, particularly cluster munitions," said Brigot. "We strongly support the new Convention on Cluster Munitions. However, as with the Mine Ban Treaty, the real value of this agreement will be the difference it makes in the lives of people affected on a daily basis by these weapons, and how it will avoid new victims." The ICBL - a worldwide network of some 1,000 civil society organizations, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 - is marking the 10th anniversary of the Mine Ban Treaty's entry into force with events and activities in more than 60 countries. This includes tree-planting in formerly mine-affected areas in Georgia, a creative campaign to mark dog waste in Spain with "danger: mines" warning signs, a march in the streets of the mine-affected Casamance region of Senegal, an art installation on the border between Greece and Turkey, the DVD launch of the landmines documentary film "Disarm" and dozens of media events and roundtables with decision-makers.