Takoma Park, Maryland — Handicap International welcomes today’s Obama Administration statement, promising the United States “will not use [anti-personnel landmines] outside of the Korean Peninsula, where our actions are governed by the unique situation there.” The statement adds that the U.S. will “diligently undertake to destroy stockpiles of these landmines that are not required for the defense of the Republic of Korea.”
The Administration’s latest statement echoed a goal set in June 2014, by stating it will work to “be compliant with and ultimately … join the Ottawa Convention.”
“We congratulate the Obama administration on this vital step forward towards the U.S. becoming compliant with the Ottawa Treaty,” says Elizabeth MacNairn, executive director of Handicap International U.S. “However, we urge the U.S. government to find alternatives to landmines on the Korean Peninsula. Given that the U.S. has repeatedly acknowledged the serious humanitarian consequences of using of antipersonnel landmines, it is illogical and immoral for the U.S. to continue using mines in any country. The inevitable loss of innocent lives is an outrage.”
For more than 20 years, the U.S. has refrained from using or trading antipersonnel landmines. The country also hasn’t produced new landmines since 1997. It is by far the world’s largest donor to projects that reduce the threat of landmines and explosive remnants of war, with $2.3 billion spent on mine action in 90 countries since 1993.
The use of landmines by other countries still remains a real threat. According to the statement, the U.S. “will not assist, encourage, or induce others to use, stockpile, produce or transfer anti-personnel landmines outside of the Korean Peninsula.”
However, the Korea statement failed to provide clear deadlines about when President Barack Obama might submit the treaty to the United States Senate for ratification. “The positive announcements made in today’s statement must be cemented into our country’s laws through ratification in the U.S. Senate,” MacNairn adds. “We hope that this crucial step won’t drift beyond President Obama's term in office as president."
Global funding for action against mines reached $681 million in 2012, after a decade that saw clearance or survey work release nearly 2,000 km2 (772 square miles) of land from mines. As of June 2013, nearly 30 States Parties to the treaty have finished clearing mines from their territories, and 87 States Parties have destroyed more than 47 million stockpiled mines.
By working to acceding to the Ottawa Treaty, the U.S. confirms that these standards are essential and sets an example to follow. Handicap International urges powers like China and Russia, which along with 33 other countries have not joined the treaty, to follow the American example.
Handicap International will work to encourage U.S. authorities to achieve its goals in the months ahead. The charity runs or supports projects to minimize. the impact of landmines on the population in dozens of countries, returning land to communities through demining, teaching people to spot, avoid and report explosive remnants of war through risk education, and providing support and care to victims of landmines. The organization works to raise the visibility of these landmine victims and their communities, so that the world is reminded of the scourge of landmines.
About Handicap International
Co-winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, Handicap International is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 30 years. Working alongside persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our actions and testimony focus on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since 1982, Handicap International has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. The network of eight national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States) works constantly to mobilize resources, jointly manage projects and to increase the impact of the organization's principles and actions. Handicap International is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and winner of the 2011 Hilton Humanitarian Prize. Handicap International takes action and campaigns in places where “standing tall” is no easy task.
Maputo, Mozambique — Handicap International is urging governments to significantly increase funding to support victims of landmines, as the Meeting of States Parties to the Ottawa Convention (Mine Ban Treaty) begins today in Maputo, Mozambique.
The location of the conference is particularly symbolic: once the world’s most heavily landmine contaminated country following decades of war, Mozambique is mere months away from being declared mine free—an 18-year effort of historic proportions. The people of Mozambique will be free to farm their fields and walk across land without the fear of being killed or injured by a landmine
While demining operations are coming to a close, Mozambique’s work is far from over. A comprehensive Handicap International study in 2013, found acute needs among Mozambique’s thousands of landmine survivors. The results are unequivocal: 86% of survivors interviewed had limited or no access to work. More than 96% stated that there are no adapted care services close to their community. Yet, worldwide funding earmarked for victim assistance has been dramatically reduced in the last few years, constituting less than 5% of the funds designated for mine action.
Mozambique has a duty to assist the thousands of mine victims among its population, as stipulated under the Ottawa Convention. “We hope that governments will take into consideration the still very real needs of the people of Mozambique and continue helping us after the demining operations have been completed,” says Adérito Ismaël, Head of Handicap International’s demining operations in Mozambique.
During the week-long, Third Review Conference of the Convention, the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty will review recent advances and lessons, and form a new, five-year plan with which States Parities will be expected to comply. A Handicap International delegation will work to see that the commitments made by the States address the current needs of affected populations, including a significant increase in the funds allocated to assist victims of landmines.
Handicap International will also continue its pressure on the 34 States that have yet to join the treaty, such as the U.S., to make a firm commitment to banning anti-personnel landmines by joining the treaty without delay.
President Barack Obama launched a landmine policy review in 2009, to determine if the country should join the Mine Ban Treaty. Five years on, no announcement has been made as to its findings.
The U.S. position contrasts with its otherwise exemplary behavior. The U.S. is the leading funder of anti-mine action. The U.S. has not used anti-personnel mines since 1991, has not produced any since 1997, and ended exports of these weapons in 1992.
Present in Mozambique since 1986, Handicap International has been one of the country’s leading mine action operators since 1998. Today, the demining team consists of 136 people. Its goal is to clear mined areas in the provinces of Sofala and Inhambane, home to almost 82% of the country’s contaminated sites. In 2012, Handicap International decontaminated more than 3.7 million square meters of land and restored it to the local population as part of a large-scale manual and mechanical demining operation, assisted by dogs trained to detect the presence of these weapons. The organization combines these operations with mine risk education activities to help prevent accidents. Handicap International also provides support to survivors of accidents caused by mines and explosive remnants of war, including the promotion of inclusive education and employment practices.
 Handicap International, RAVIM - Shattered Dreams Living conditions, needs and capacities of mines and Explosive Remnants of War survivors in Mozambique, Maputo 2013
On International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, Handicap International calls on governments, particularly the Colombian government, to take all necessary measures to assist mine victims and advance their rights.
The 13th Conference of the States Parties to the Treaty to Ban Landmines finished today with the unanimous adoption of the Declaration of Geneva. While 95 States parties reaffirmed their commitment to the fight against mines and explosive remnants of war, the United States delegation did not release its promised findings of a landmine policy review launched in 2009.
For more than 20 years, the U.S. has not used, produced, nor exported these weapons and remains the single largest contributor to mine clearance and victim assistance operations. Yet, the country still refuses to join the Ottawa Treaty, a decision that Handicap International finds incomprehensible.
A sad silence
In 2009, President Barack Obama launched a thorough review of U.S. policy on landmines to determine whether the country was ready to join the Ottawa Treaty. In December 2012, the U.S. announced that they would reveal the results of this review by the end of 2013.
However, on Dec. 5, at the 13th Conference of the States Parties to the Ottawa Treaty in Geneva, the U.S. delegation did not wish to comment on the possibility of banning landmines.
The U.S. remains the only NATO country not to have signed the Ottawa Treaty. Handicap International is concerned about the lack of political commitment from the U.S. government, which is in stark contrast with its actions.
“It is ridiculous that the United States has once again deferred conclusion of this review,” said Zach Hudson, coordinator of the U.S.Campaign to Ban Landmines. “The administration is just not taking this seriously. Yet during the same four years that they have avoided making the decisions necessary to join this lifesaving convention, more than 16,000 men, women, and children have been killed or maimed by a landmine—many by U.S. munitions, and ten more casualties will continue to occur every day moving forward.”
The U.S. has not used antipersonnel mines since the Gulf War in 1991, nor has the country produced any since 1997. The country has not exported landmines since 1992. Since 1993, the U.S. has provided more than $2 billion to clear landmines, support victims, and ensure that people living in dangerous proximity to unexploded ordnance know how to spot, avoid, and report dangerous weapons. This funding level is far more than any other country provides. In 2012 alone, the U.S. spent nearly $135 million on mine action projects—20% of global funding for such life-saving work.
"It is unacceptable that the U.S. refuses to commit to the eradication of these deadly weapons,” says Elizabeth MacNairn, executive director of Handicap International U.S. “Our country reportedly counts some 10 million stockpiled antipersonnel mines in its arsenal. In essence, U.S. refusal to join the Ottawa Treaty means the country retains the right to plant new landmines.
“With 31 years of working directly with victims of landmines, we know that every two hours, landmines and explosive remnants of war claim a new victim. Civilians account for more than three-quarters of these victims—and nearly 50% of civilian victims are children. This is deplorable, and the U.S. must adhere, immediately to the life-saving tenets of the Ottawa Treaty.”
2014 Action Plan
The Geneva Conference ended on a positive announcement, as Bhutan, Hungary and Venezuela announced the full clearance of their territory.
Ninety-five States Parties present at the Conference recalled the objectives to be achieved by the third Review Conference of the Treaty banning antipersonnel mines to be held in Maputo, Mozambique in June 2014. States will be to take stock of past five years about the proper application of Treaty provisions and adopt a new action plan for the next five years. Handicap International is particularly active in this conference preparation to ensure the strongest possible action plan.
Death Sentence to Civilians: The Long-Term Impact of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas in Yemen (June 2020)
In five years of war, Yemen has experienced every manner of explosive weapons—aerial bombs and missiles, artillery, mortars, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and much more. The explosions destroy bridges, ports, roads, hospitals, water systems, and generate long lasting civilian harm. The Humanity & Inclusion report highlights six case studies, showing the extent and impact of such bombings. Download the report, "Death Sentence to Civilians: The Long-Term Impact of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas in Yemen."
Whenever a weapon is fired, dropped, launched, or projected, there is always a chance it will not explode and become an unexploded ordnance (UXO). This chance (known as the "failure rate") is highest when a munition's fuse fails due to age, design flaws, or human error during the fusing procedure. This report pulls data and experience from humanitarian demining groups including Humanity & Inclusion, MAG, and Norwegian People's Aid, and supports the drafting of a political declaration on explosive weapons in populated areas. The two-page brief may be downloaded here.
The Waiting List: Addressing the immediate and long-term needs of victims of explosive weapons in Syria (September 2019)
This report looks at the challenges linked to the use of explosive weapons in the Syrian context for the provision of adequate immediate assistance and to plan for mid- to long-term assistance to the victims of explosive violence, to ensure their full recovery and inclusion into society. Read more here.
The executive summary may be downloaded by clicking here.
This brochure gives an overview of HI's history which is closely intertwined with the fight against armed violence, including the use of anti-personnel landmines, cluster munitions, and other explosive remnants of war. It provides an outline of our unique expertise in demining and land clearance, risk education, and victim assistance. Read more here.
This report features in-depth interviews of more than 200 Syrian refugees in Lebanon who confirm and detail the devastating and lasting social and economic effects of the use of explosive weapons. Over half of the refugees interviewed were displaced within Syria before fleeing to Lebanon, experiencing consequences ranging from personal injury to the death of one of more family members, the destruction of homes, infrastructure and/or livelihoods. The report finds women are most vulnerable. Read more here.
This report identifies indiscriminate bombing of civilians as the overriding factor forcing millions of Syrians to flee their homes. Based on interviews with Syrian refugees in July 2016, a document review, and expert interviews, the report identifies the large scale use of explosive weapons in populated areas as the most significant cause of the mass displacement of Syrians. More than 10.9 million Syrians have been affected, equivalent to more than half of the country’s population. Syrians interviewed for the report said they were subject to multiple displacements within Syria—up to 25 times after successive attacks—before seeking refuge abroad. Repeated displacement causes extreme poverty and serious psychological distress. Read more here.
As a political declaration on the prevention of civilian harm from the use of explosive weapons is successfully moving forward, civil society, national and international organizations continue working alongside governments to ensure that the declaration will be comprehensive, and will effectively respond to the expectations of those who have suffered from the consequences of the use of explosive weapons.
With the aim of contributing to the Political Declaration process, Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Humanity & Inclusion launched an initiative with civil society and international organizations along with survivors to develop a common understanding on the needs and the rights of victims of explosive weapons. They developed recommendations regarding victim assistance provisions in the future political declaration, which will be presented during a side event, on the 5th. Read more here.
Kenya: An impact assessment of the armed violence reduction project in North Western Keny (Jan 2015)
The North Rift Valley communities suffer from high levels of insecurity. Armed violence is fed by the proliferation and use of illegal arms related to inter-ethnic rivalries, scare resources competition, and uncontrolled arms circulation. In Aug. 2014, Humanity & Inclusion launched an armed violence reduction project in the Pokot West and Trans-Nzoia Counties, focused on the reduction of the risk factors and armed violence motivations. Alongside its Kenyan partners, Justice and Peace Center and Free Pentecostal Fellowship of Kenya, we worked to enhance the perception of security among the communities, and to establish a way for the communities and security agents to both discuss matters, and gain confidence in one another. This report evaluates the impact of the project's first five months. View the report here.
The Gaza Strip population was exposed to a long-term, and acute military operation for 51 days during the summer of 2014.
The whole population was affected in one way or another. This report sheds light on the emergency response services delivered to the different beneficiaries.
This report details the conclusions of a one year study into the relationship between armed violence and disability. The study was based on data collected from police forces and hospitals, and a survey conducted between May 2011 and April 2012 in four towns or provinces of countries particularly affected by this scourge: Medellin, Colombia; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Karamoja, Uganda; and Peshawar, Pakistan. View the report here.
Antipersonnel landmines are explosive devices designed to injure or kill
They are placed under, on or near the ground, where they lie hidden for years or even decades until a person or an animal sets them off. They cannot discriminate between the step of a child or a soldier.
Landmines wound and kill wound indiscriminately, posing a severe risk to civilian populations, peacekeepers and aid workers—sometimes decades after a conflict has ended.
164 countries—including every other member of NATO—have signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which prohibits the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines. In 1997, the U.S. participated in the Ottawa process to ban landmines, but never adopted or signed it.
Through a 2014 policy, the Obama administration banned the U.S. military from using landmines outside of the Korean Peninsula. The Trump administration undid that policy in 2020.
Help us tell President Biden to right that wrong, and go one step further. Sign our petition NOW.
71% of landmine victims are civilians
Year after year, Landmine Monitor reports that civilians account for 70 to 85 percent of casualties. Landmines are still killing and maiming ordinary people every day. This is not just during a conflict–most of the countries where casualties are reported are no longer at war.
Thanks to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, landmine use has dropped dramatically in recent years. However, more than 75 countries and territories remain polluted by landmines and/or explosive remnants of war. The weapon poses a significant and lasting threat to communities living in contaminated areas.
Antipersonnel landmines were used systematically in international and internal conflicts from the Second World War onwards. Originally intended to protect anti-tank minefields from removal by enemy soldiers, the weapons were designed to maim rather than kill an enemy soldier, with the idea that more resources are taken up on the battlefield in caring for an injured soldier than dealing with a dead soldier.
Due to their low cost and perceived high effectiveness, landmines became increasingly popular weapons. From the 1970s, they were used as offensive weapons to terrorize civilian populations, denying communities access to their farmland and restricting population movement.
Decades of campaigning to protect civilians
Humanity & Inclusion was created in 1982 in response to the horrific landmine injuries suffered by Cambodian refugees. Soon, we realized that action needed to be taken at an international level to ban these indiscriminate weapons.
Humanity & Inclusion played a key role in founding the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, for which we were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, following the signing of the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997.
We are a founding member of the Cluster Munition Coalition, and we actively support the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which came into effect on August 1, 2010.
Humanity & Inclusion is also a founder and coordinating member of Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, which monitors these two international treaties and produces annual reports on their implementation. And we are a founding member of the International Network on Explosive Weapons.
We act and campaign in places where "standing tall" is no easy task
Over the years, Humanity & Inclusion has evolved into the world's most comprehensive mine action organization, working to prevent accidents through education and clearance, and to support the victims.
When you support Humanity & Inclusion, you help:
- Ensure landmine victims can recover from their injuries both physically and mentally;
- Clear landmines and other explosive remnants of war so that families can live without fear, in safety;
- Educate the local population, especially children, how to spot, avoid, and report the weapons they find.