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.
Humanity & Inclusion has launched a 5-year plan to train the Cambodian Self-Help Demining (CSHD)—a local mine action organization—to take over residual contamination actions after 2025, when Cambodia aims to be landmine-free.
Contamination is considered massive in Cambodia with more than 270 square miles littered with landmines or cluster munitions, remnants of the Vietnam War and civil war in the 1970s and 80s. Over 1 million landmines and almost 3 million explosive ordnances such as cluster munitions, grenades, and mortars have been removed in Cambodia since 1992. But clearance efforts must continue to reach the designation of mine-free.
Under the International Mine Ban Treaty, a country is declared "mine-free" when all "reasonable" efforts have been made to ensure the country's decontamination, but sporadic explosive ordnance may remain in overlooked areas. In those instances, international mine action leaves the country and passes the responsibility to local organizations.
CHSD was officially founded in 2007 by Aki Ra, a Khmer man and former child soldier. CSHD works in rural villages throughout Cambodia with a group of approximately 25 mine clearance specialists. Since 2008, the organization has cleared weapons from nearly 3 square miles of land.
Training mine clearance experts
How are surveys implemented to identify contaminated areas? How are former battlefields cleared? How can organizations intervene immediately after an explosive ordnance has been reported by a resident? Humanity & Inclusion has been training a dozen CSHD mine action specialists in these tasks since January 2021, including procedures of intervention, planning, and security rules. Humanity & Inclusion is also training the CSHD experts to conduct sustainable and cost-efficient operations and to ensure quality management with technical supervision.
“Humanity & Inclusion supports the clearance experts in their current mine detection and disposal operations," explains Julien Kempeneers, Humanity & Inclusion's Regional Armed Violence Reduction and Humanitarian Mine Action Specialist. "The proposed training is largely dedicated directly to clearance and survey with a target of 8.7 million square feet cleared in target areas this year. We also focus on the cost efficiency of the operations. CSHD estimates that the cost of clearance is about 35 cents per 10 square feet.
"Humanity & Inclusion is supporting CSHD in becoming an autonomous key player within five years," Kempeneers continues. "The local organization will remain in the country after 2025, when other international organizations will be leaving. This is our main goal of development: to empower local actors to take on this responsibility.”
The training started in January and will end in December.
Landmines threaten communities
With an estimated 4 to 6 million explosive ordnances left over after conflict, Cambodia is considered to be among the most affected countries. Explosive ordnances severely affect civilian security and rural livelihoods by impeding access to productive resources, markets and broader development, such as building schools, hospitals or wells.
Civilians collect items of ordnance for their value, as scrap metal, or the explosives they contain. If not disposed of safely, the consequences are often fatal or lead to lifelong disabilities. Given the magnitude of contamination and the country’s current response capacity, the threat remains a major safety and development obstacle for Cambodians in nearly half of its 14,300 villages.
The partnership with CSHD focuses on the Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces, where an estimated 12,300 residents will benefit from safer access to their environment and improved access to resources. The goal is to hand over cleared land to local communities, so they can use it for housing and farming.
These mine action activities are funded by the U.S. Department of State Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (WRA).
Humanity & Inclusion, along with its fellow campaigners at the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines - U.S. Cluster Munition Coalition (USCBL-USCMC), is encouraged by a Congressional letter sent today to President Biden, urging him to put the U.S. on the right path toward joining the 1997 Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty by 2024.
The letter, led by long-time anti-landmine champions Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, counts bipartisan support from 21 Democrats and Republicans across both chambers of Congress. It underscores the importance of backing away from a 2020 Landmine policy enacted by President Trump, which effectively gives U.S. troops the green light to research new landmines, and to deploy these indiscriminate weapons in combat. In one section of the letter, they write:
"We are writing to urge you, as a first step, to reinstate the Obama policy, and by doing so reaffirm the United States as a leader in the global effort to reduce the carnage caused by anti-personnel mines. We further urge you to direct the Pentagon to expeditiously review its plans for the defense of the Republic of Korea and provide a classified report to you and the Congress describing the options for defending the Republic of Korea with alternatives to anti-personnel mines, and of finally putting the United States on a definitive path to accede to the treaty – an important U.S. foreign policy goal announced by President Clinton and reaffirmed by President Obama – by 2024. In addition to the more than two decades during which the Pentagon was directed to develop alternatives to anti-personnel landmines, this would provide three more years to finalize plans for such a transition."
The letter ends with a plea: "We urge you to put America on a path to make this longstanding goal a reality." The authors note that the U.S. joining the Mine Ban Treaty "is the right thing to do for our country, for the world, and for our men and women in uniform."
Jeff Meer, U.S. Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion, and Steering Committee Chair for USCBL-USCMC responded to the letter, saying,
"Ending the use of landmines is a moral issue, not a partisan one. This bipartisan message from members of Congress is welcomed. We continue to encourage President Biden to retire landmines and bring the United States into the Mine Ban Treaty. The majority of the world's countries and all our NATO allies have done this, recognizing that a weapon that routinely kills indiscriminately has no place in the arsenal of a modern and just military.”
Since January, more than 8,000 Americans have signed a Humanity & Inclusion petition urging President Biden to join the Mine Ban Treaty. This petition remains open until the Biden Administration takes action toward ending our country’s use, production, stockpiling, and transferring of anti-personnel landmines.
Last year, the USCBL-USCMC issued a memo outlining policies the President should adopt. In that memorandum, the campaign highlighted changes made in January 2020 under the Trump Administration that would allow for use of victim-activated anti-personnel landmines anywhere in the world, expanding the previous policy that restricted those actions to the Korean peninsula. Today's Congressional letter calls for immediately reversing those Trump-era policies.
On April 8, UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that: "Biden has been clear that he intends to roll back this policy,” referring in part to campaign promise to reverse President Trump’s policy. We urge him to do so immediately.
In a letter dated April 28, directors of arms control, humanitarian, human rights, religious, veteran and other groups as well as former members of Congress, the former president of National Defense University, and former landmine ambassadors, further called on the President to “set the United States on a short and direct path to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty by declaring the United States’ intent to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty by 2023 as part of the new policy.”
The United States has not used anti-personnel landmines since 1991, excluding the use of a single munition in 2002. All other NATO allies and a total of 164 countries worldwide have agreed to universally foreswear all anti-personnel mines under the Mine Ban Treaty.
The U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines – U.S. Cluster Munition Coalition, alongside 30 directors of arms control, humanitarian, human rights, religious, veteran and other groups, as well as former members of Congress, ambassadors and military leaders called on President Biden today to move to the right side of history on landmines. In a joint letter, they pressed him to "adopt a policy that sets the United States on course not just to “curtail the use of landmines,” but to ban their use, production, acquisition, and transfer and to swiftly accede to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty."
Humanity & Inclusion, co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and Chair of the Steering Committee for the The U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines – U.S. Cluster Munition Coalition, is proud to add its name to the letter, which follows and is also available in pdf format.
April 28, 2021
President Joseph R. Biden
The White House
cc: National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan;
Secretary of State Antony Blinken;
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin
Dear Mr. President:
We appreciate the statement by our UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield on April 8 that: "President Biden believes we need to curtail the use of landmines. Now, there has been some discussion of the previous administration’s landmine policy… Biden has been clear that he intends to roll back this policy, and our administration has begun a policy review to do just that.”
In response to the announcement that the administration is conducting a policy review, we -- the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines - U.S. Cluster Munition Coalition (USCBL-USCMC) and our partners -- strongly encourage you to adopt a policy that sets the United States on course not just to “curtail the use of landmines,” but to ban their use, production, acquisition, and transfer and to swiftly accede to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.
Over the past twenty years, the world has rejected antipersonnel landmines through the Mine Ban Treaty – to which 164 countries, including every other member of NATO, are states parties – in recognition of the horrific effects of landmines on civilian communities around the world. While not a signatory, under President Barack Obama’s 2014 policy the U.S. had functionally adhered to key provisions of the Mine Ban Treaty – except those prohibiting the U.S. from ordering the use of landmines on the Korean peninsula.
While the Obama administration brought U.S. policy further in line with the Mine Ban Treaty, it did not take specific measures toward U.S. accession. Under the 2014 policy, the U.S. committed not to assist, encourage, or induce other nations to use, stockpile, produce, or transfer antipersonnel mines outside of Korea. It also committed to no future production or acquisition of antipersonnel mines, while allowing current U.S. stockpiles to expire.
However, the new landmine policy announced in January 2020 by the Trump administration further set the U.S. apart from its allies and the global consensus by allowing for the use of landmines anywhere in the world. While the new policy claims that non-persistent mines minimize civilian harm, the Mine Ban Treaty rejects the use of such mines and the faulty premise underpinning them.
Decades of efforts to enhance the “safety” of landmines have failed. No matter the technology, landmines are indiscriminate weapons. Regardless of their lifespan, they are victim-activated and do not distinguish between a combatant or a civilian while active, rendering them incapable of abiding by international humanitarian law.
In recognition of the dangers landmines pose to civilians and U.S. service members alike, the United States has not used antipersonnel landmines since 1991, excluding the use of a single munition in 2002; it has not exported them since 1992; and has not produced them since 1997. In the last five years, only the government forces of Syria, Myanmar, and North Korea, as well as non-state actors in conflict areas, have used antipersonnel landmines.
Of the more than 50 countries that once produced landmines, 40 have ceased and renounced production. Under the U.S. landmine policy introduced by the Trump administration, the United States would join the small handful of countries that defy the global norm against landmines by permitting production of these banned indiscriminate weapons.
We have a moral obligation to the past victims of landmines and to future generations to do better.
Additionally, despite significant backsliding on U.S. policy regarding antipersonnel landmines, the U.S. can and should be proud of its world-leading funding and technical support to mine clearance, stockpile destruction, mine risk education, and victim assistance efforts across the globe -- amounting to more than $177 million in 2019 alone. We urge your administration to continue this important humanitarian mine action work.
Recommendations for a New U.S. Landmine Policy
As you and your team evaluate current policy, we urge you not simply to go back to the Obama-era policy, but to build back better.
- Consult with civil society and victim advocates during the policy review and in advance of any policy change or announcement.
- Commit to actively and constructively participate in regular meetings of the Mine Ban Treaty.
- Commit to increasing support to Humanitarian Mine Action, particularly in the State Department’s Conventional Weapons Destruction programs and the Defense Department’s Humanitarian Demining Research and Development program.
- Ban the use of antipersonnel landmines without geographic exceptions, including the Korean Peninsula.
- Ban the development, production or acquisition of all antipersonnel landmines, including so-called non-persistent landmines.
- Ban the sale or transfer of any type of antipersonnel landmine to any other government or partner.
- Set the United States on a short and direct path to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty by declaring the United States’ intent to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty by 2023 as part of the new policy.
- Lay out an accelerated timeline for the destruction of stockpiled landmines and provide concrete plans and mechanisms for public reporting on progress.
We appreciate your commitment to improving U.S. landmine policy and welcome the opportunity to work with your team as it moves forward with the policy review.
Joyce Ajlouny, General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee
John M Barrows, President & CEO, International Eye Foundation
Federico Borello, Executive Director, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)
Darren Cormack, Chief Executive Officer, Mines Advisory Group (MAG)
Lt. General (USA, Ret) Robert G. Gard, Jr, Member, Board of Experts, Federation of American Scientists
Susan Gunn, Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Steve Goose, Executive Director, Arms Division, Human Rights Watch
Senator Tom Harkin, Harkin Institute
Lisa Haugaard, Co-Director, Latin America Working Group
Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. Nathan Hosler, Director, Church of the Brethren, Office of Peacebuilding and Policy
Liz Hume, Acting CEO & President, Alliance for Peacebuilding
Karl Frederick Inderfurth, Adjunct Professor, George Washington University
Asif Khan, Director of Public Affairs, Helping Hand for Relief and Development
Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
Sera Koulabdara, Executive Director, Legacies of War
Lora Lumpe, Chief Executive Officer, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
Jeff Meer, US Executive Director, Humanity & Inclusion and Chair, USCBL-USCMC Steering Committee
Stephen Miles, Executive Director, Win Without War
Bridget Moix, US Executive Director, Peace Direct
Michael J. Nyenhuis, President and CEO, UNICEF USA
Paul O'Brien, Executive Director, Amnesty International USA
Dr. Chantal de Jonge Oudraat, President, Women In International Security (WIIS)
Dianne E. Randall, General Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation
Tessie San Martin, President/CEO, Plan International USA
Maria Santelli, Executive Director, Center on Conscience & War
Larry Schwab MD, Co-Director, West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines
Robert Schwartz, Vice President, Global Health Partners
Nora Sheets, Coordinator, Proud Students Against Landmines (PSALM) and Co-Director, West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines
Sandy Sorensen, Director of Washington Office, United Church of Christ
Amb. Donald Steinberg, former President’s Special Representative for Humanitarian Demining
John Tierney, Executive Director, Council for a Livable World and Executive Director, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and Council for a Livable World
Jose Vasquez, Executive Director, Common Defense
Samuel A. Worthington, Chief Executive Officer, InterAction
Jeff Abramson, Coordinator, USCBL-USCMC
By signing the petition below, you are helping us tell President Biden and his administration to end our country’s use, production, stockpiling, and transferring of anti-personnel landmines. These landmines are outdated and inaccurate weapons of war that kill and maim thousands of innocent men, women, and children every year. 164 countries—including all of the members of NATO except the U.S.—have signed an international Mine Ban Treaty and it’s due time we join them.
Three decades after the end of conflict, landmines and other explosive weapons continue to contaminate parts of Cambodia–making it unsafe for people to live and farm and limiting access to resources in some regions. These weapons remain an obstacle in more than 6,400 of Cambodia’s 14,300 villages.
To protect civilians, Humanity & Inclusion has teamed up with the local organization Cambodia Self-Help Demining (CSHD) to launch a new project to remove explosive weapons, teach locals how to stay safe and avoid explosive remnants of war, and create long-term mine action plans in Cambodia’s Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces.
The 12-month, $500,000 project is funded by the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
Humanity & Inclusion’s team will support CSHD in surveying land, removing landmines and explosive ordnance, and raising awareness among residents. The ultimate goal is to see CSHD build its own capacity to manage an autonomous mine clearance operation in Cambodia by 2025.
“We are excited to take on such an important project working alongside local villages to ensure people can live and work safely, without fear of losing their lives or limbs to explosive weapons,” says Emmanuel Sauvage, director of the Armed Violence Reduction unit at Humanity & Inclusion. “We are grateful to the U.S. government for recognizing the danger these leftover weapons pose for civilians in their everyday lives and for the support to develop sustainable local mine action capacities.”
In recent decades, organizations like Humanity & Inclusion have assisted the Cambodian government in its efforts to become mine free. With support from the U.S. government and other donors, organizations have removed more than 1 million landmines and 3 million other explosive remnants of war from approximately 700 square miles of land. But civilians are still in danger in another 772 square miles of land that is contaminated by such weapons.
Humanity & Inclusion counts more than 25 years of experience in mine action and first started clearing weapons in Cambodia in 1994. CSHD is a local organization that works to remove weapons in rural villages. The organization was founded in 2007, by a former Khmer child soldier.
This new project will support at least 35 staff in mine action activities, directly benefitting at least 500 people and indirectly helping more than 12,000 people across the two provinces have safer access to their land and resources.
Image: A man wearing protective gear kneels on the ground in a Cambodian village in 2012. He's placing a sign that warns of explosive remnants of war. Copyright: Eric Martin/Figaro Magazine/HI
Humanity & Inclusion landmine clearance continues in Colombia despite the Covid-19 crisis and an upsurge in violence.
In the first half of 2020, mines killed or maimed 181 people in 14 departments of Colombia, according to figures from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
In Colombia, the second most heavily mined country in the world after Afghanistan, Humanity & Inclusion has led mine clearance operations since 2017. Teams focus their work on three departments plagued heavily by internal violence: Cauca, Meta and Caquetá.
Thanks to the generous support of the United States of America via the U.S. Department of State’s office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, the Swiss Embassy in Colombia - Swiss Development Cooperation, and donations from thousands of individual donors, Humanity & Inclusion’s Colombian team takes a holistic approach to mine action.
Teams teach civilians to understand the risks posed by mines and what to do if they come across these deadly devices. Explosive ordnance technicians clear mines. And specialists assist victims of explosive devices to regain their strength and independence with physical therapy, psychological support, and access to inclusive employment.
Adapting to new challenges
Humanity & Inclusion continues its efforts despite growing internal violence and population displacement, the emergence of new illegal armed groups who plant explosive devices to protect coca crops and deter rivals, and the Covid-19 crisis.
Despite this complex situation, Humanity & Inclusion continues to adapt its work to ensure safety of staff and civilians. The organization developed a safety plan to continue working while implementing personal precautionary measures against the Covid-19 pandemic and trained more than 100 staff members and volunteers as "community focal points" to raise the mine risk awareness of fellow villagers.
Releasing safe land
Humanity & Inclusion released more than 15 acres of cleared land to allow farming in hazardous mined areas, enhancing the safety of more than 30,000 people.
In the town of Inzá in the Cauca department, teams implemented surveyed villagers on the whereabouts of local mines in order to identify mined and unmined areas. Humanity & Inclusion also worked to ensure that locals understood the risks of mines, and released another four acres of land.
Supporting government officials
In November 2020, Colombia’s deadline to meet its commitment under the Ottawa Convention to clear areas of the country contaminated by explosive devices was extended to 2025. Humanity & Inclusion has provided the Colombian government with technical support to revise and update national standards, including the development and revision of the 2020-2025 demining plan.
In 2021, Humanity & Inclusion expects to completely clear the municipalities of Cajibio and Puracé in Cauca of mines and to release more safe land in Vistahermosa in Meta, Inzá, Páez and Santander de Quilichao. The organization also hopes to expand its footprint soon, working in close coordination with the Colombian mine action authority which coordinates clearance across the country.
Providing victim assistance
Humanity & Inclusion continues to assist mine victims with disabilities and their caregivers, providing physical rehabilitation sessions, psychosocial care, legal assistance and employment support to find gainful jobs in inclusive work environments.
Mines terrorize civilians worldwide
In 2019, more than 5,500 people – 80% of them civilians – were killed or injured by anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war worldwide. Of the civilian victims, 43% were children.
Image: A woman wearing protective gear kneels on the ground as she works to clear mines in Colombia in 2017. Copyright: J.M. Vargas/HI
A message from Jeff Meer, U.S. Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion:
President-elect Joe Biden has an opportunity to send a clear message to civilians caught in conflict that America cares about their fate.
The United States has long been out of step with its allies and the broader global consensus to ban landmines and cluster munitions. The Biden Administration can reset U.S. policy and finally join the Mine Ban Treaty and Convention on Cluster Munitions. Further, the Administration should fully support the diplomatic process towards an international agreement against bombing in populated areas.
Cluster munitions have recently been used in the Azerbaijan-Armenia war. Landmines still cause around 6,000 casualties annually. These two indiscriminate weapons remain a clear danger to civilians. 123 States have joined the Oslo Convention that bans cluster munitions, and 164 States are parties to the Ottawa treaty banning anti-personnel landmines. Meanwhile, the use of heavy explosive weapons in urban areas has become common in modern conflict, with civilians making up 90% of the victims.
The Biden Administration should quickly recommit to its campaign pledge to limit using antipersonnel landmines except in Korea, announce an intention to eventually stop using or transferring landmines, forswear use of cluster munitions, and commit to the diplomatic process that will lead to an international agreement against heavy bombing in populated areas. We hope the administration will eventually ratify the Ottawa Treaty, completely banning the use of anti-personnel landmines.
Image: A man conducts mine clearance in Lebanon in 2018 as part of a project funded by the United States Arms Removal and Reduction Office and the U.S. Department of State.
Ravaged by 50 years of armed conflict, Colombia is the world’s second-most densely mined country, just behind Afghanistan. Mines and explosive remnants of war contaminate land in 31 of Colombia's 32 regions.
In May 2016, the Colombian government granted Humanity & Inclusion full authorization—one of two organizations with this status—to conduct mine clearance operations in three of the country’s regions, as part of the new peace agreements between the government and Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC). Since then, Humanity & Inclusion launched a mine clearance operation, with a specific focus on indigenous land, in the regions of Cauca, Meta, and Caquetá.
Check out these photos of the demining and first aid training exercises in Colombia:
Published on Thursday November 12, the Landmine Monitor 2020 reports an exceptionally high number of casualties caused by landmines, particularly explosive remnants of war (ERW) and improvised mines, for the fifth year running.
The Monitor recorded 5,554 mine casualties during 2019; 80% of whom were civilians, with children representing 43% of the civilian casualties. This high figure is mainly due to intense armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria and other conflict areas. Humanity & Inclusion (HI) is calling on states – that will gather online from November 16th-20th for the annual Mine Ban Treaty conference - to enforce international humanitarian law and to put pressure on belligerent parties to end the use of these barbaric weapons. As the COVID-19 pandemic challenges humanitarian mine action in many countries, HI is also calling on states to maintain efforts to adapt mine action activities to public health restrictions in order to free the world of mines.
High casualties rates for five consecutive years
The Landmine Monitor reveals that the number of new casualties of landmines and explosive remnants of war reached 5,554 in 2019 and remains high for the fifth year in a row (6,897 in 2018, 7,253 in 2017, 9,439 in 2016 and 6,971 in 2015). The 2019 total is still 60% higher than the lowest determined annual number of 3,457 casualties in 2013. There was an average of 10 casualties per day in 2013; in 2019, the rate rocketed to 15 casualties per day. The Monitor underlines that casualties go unrecorded in many states and areas, meaning the true casualty figure is likely significantly higher.
For the fourth successive year, in 2019, the highest number of annual casualties was caused by improvised mines. Out of a total of 5,554 mine casualties recorded in 2019, 2,994 people were killed or injured by improvised mines.
Though mainly used by non-state armed groups, improvised landmines fall within the scope of the Ottawa Treaty and its prohibition of the use of any indiscriminate weapons. Dialogue with some non-state armed groups to convince them to abandon such practices and to commit to the Treaty is possible. Mine clearance – which is an obligation of the Ottawa Treaty - is a way to deny these groups access to weapons and munitions as many improvised mines are made using disposed of explosives or remnants of them.
The vast majority of people killed by anti-personnel mines are civilians: 80% of casualties were civilians in 2019 (4,466), of whom 43% were children (1,562). Explosive remnants of war caused the most child casualties (756, or 49%). In 2019, the majority of new casualties of landmines and explosive remnants of war were recorded in Afghanistan (1,538), Syria (1,125), Myanmar (358), Mali (345), Ukraine (324), Yemen (248), Nigeria (238) and Iraq (161). Mine casualties were recorded in 50 states and five territories around the world.
New reported mine use
The Landmine Monitor confirmed new uses of anti-personnel mines by government forces in Myanmar between October 2019 and October 2020. Non-State armed groups also used landmines, including improvised mines, in at least six countries: Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Libya, Myanmar, and Pakistan. The Monitor also says there were as yet unconfirmed allegations of new mine use by non-state armed groups in 12 countries (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Egypt, etc.) These uses have caused high-level contamination that will endanger the lives of thousands of people over the long-term. A total of 60 states and territories have been contaminated by mines and explosive remnants of war around the world.
COVID-19 impacts mine action
Measures against COVID-19 had a serious impact on mine action in 2020. Restrictions prevented survivors and other persons with disability from accessing services they needed (rehabilitation, social services, etc.) in several mine-affected countries. Clearance was temporally suspended as well as risk education sessions that were adapted to constraints and restrictions against the pandemic.
- You can access a copy of the Landmine Monitor 2020 at this link. Or, you can directly download a copy here.
- Humanity & Inclusion’s advocacy & mine action experts available for interview
- The Ottawa Treaty bans the acquisition, production, stockpiling, trade and use of anti-personnel mines. The treaty was opened for signing on December 3, 1997 and entered into force on March 1, 1999. A total of 164 states are party to the treaty and one state (the Marshall Islands) has signed but not ratified the treaty.
- The United States of America is not a party to the Mine Ban Treaty.
- In January 2020, President Trump issued a new landmine policy, allowing for the use of landmines, as well as development of future mines.
- The U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines, of which Humanity & Inclusion is a member and current coordinator, has set out guidelines for the next U.S. President to reverse this policy, and to join the Mine Ban Treaty. The USCLB policy paper can be found here.
- The Landmine Monitor 2020 report measures the impact of the Ottawa Treaty, which bans the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of anti-personnel mines for the calendar year 2019, with information included up to October 2020 when possible.
About Humanity & Inclusion
Co-winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, Humanity & Inclusion is a charity working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work tirelessly alongside people with disabilities and vulnerable people to help meet their basic needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.
For the past 39 years, Humanity & Inclusion has been campaigning against anti-personnel mines and cluster bombs, with projects ranging from bomb clearance, risk education to teach civilians about the dangers of these weapons and victim assistance. The group's joint advocacy work led to the signing of the Ottawa Mine Ban Convention (1997) and the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions (2008). Humanity & Inclusion is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and co-founder of the Cluster Munition Coalition.
Humanity & Inclusion is the new name of Handicap International.