On Dec. 10, 1997, Humanity & Inclusion (formerly Handicap International) was co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as a member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Twenty-four years later, the fight to protect civilians continues.
In the 1980s and 1990s, on average 26,000 people a year were killed by anti-personnel mines. The vast majority were women and children.
Outraged by this injustice, Humanity & Inclusion co-founded the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) in 1992. The coalition’s campaign to outlaw these “cowardly weapons” lasted five years.
The campaign led to the formation of a global community protest movement. Within five years, it had won a key victory: the signing of the Mine Ban Treaty in December 1997 in Ottawa, Canada. The first treaty to ban a conventional weapon, it was signed by 121 States. Today it has 164 States parties. The United States is not one of them.
The same year, the members of the ICBL, including Humanity & Inclusion, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their “role in the promotion of international efforts for a total ban on anti-personnel landmines.”
The prize recognized the tenacity of these civil society organizations in pressuring States to ban these weapons.
“As well as being extraordinarily fast, the Ottawa process rewrote the diplomatic rule book on drawing up international treaties,” says Philippe Chabasse, former co-director of Humanity & inclusion who was responsible for the ICBL campaign. “The pressure from NGOs, the media and public opinion opened the way for a form of public diplomacy powerful enough to hold the conventional diplomatic system in check. A decade earlier, many considered the astonishing proliferation of mines and the rise in civilian casualties as ‘collateral damage’ of conflicts.
“The Ottawa Convention was, in effect, not universally legally binding,” he continues. “However, it set a new standard of behavior that had a political influence on the attitudes of non-signatory States.”
“HI was awarded the Nobel prize, which gave us much greater visibility,” Chabasse explains. “The success of our international campaign still serves as a model, two decades on, for other NGOs who want to shift institutional lines in order to work on the causes of the tragedies they are committed to fighting.”
For Humanity & Inclusion, this fight does not end with the ban on anti-personnel mines or the clearance of contaminated areas. There is ongoing work to help victims rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
The organization continues to pursue its campaign and leads armed violence reduction programs in 18 countries. This requires Humanity & Inclusion to work in extremely fragile situations, such as those in Iraq and Yemen, and in countries contaminated by mines or explosive devices left over from previous conflicts, like Colombia and Chad.
Civilians continue to bear the brunt of other weapons, including cluster munitions, which Humanity & Inclusion helped ban under the Oslo Treaty in 2008. Mines killed or maimed 7,000 people in 2020, of whom 80% were civilians.
Humanity & Inclusion also leads a campaign to end the bombing of urban areas, since 90% of bombing casualties in populated areas are civilians.
The fight to end the use of anti-personnel mines and protect civilians is far from over.