More than half of the world's countries are contaminated by explosive remnants of war, including landmines and cluster munitions.
These weapons can lie dormant for many years, claiming victims long after a conflict has ended. They are a significant cause of disability, instilling fear in whole communities, deepening poverty and acting as a lethal barrier to development.
Faced with the devastation caused by antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions, Humanity & Inclusion realized that medical care alone would not be enough. We therefore made a commitment to work on all levels to help mine victims and their communities lead independent lives.
Crises in Yemen and beyond
In seven 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. A June 2020 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."
Humanity & Inclusion released a similar report in October 2021, detailing the impact of explosive weapons contamination in Iraq. Download the report, "No safe recovery: The impact of explosive ordnance contamination on affected populations in Iraq."
Experiencing conflict since 2011, 11.5 million people in Syria live in areas contaminated by explosive hazards. Nearly 6 million Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring countries. In Jordan and Lebanon, Humanity & Inclusion provides support to Syrian refugees, many of whom are recovering from conflict-related injuries.
Humanity & Inclusion is also responding to the Ukraine crisis, where civilians are being killed, injured and displaced by explosive weapons.
Stop Bombing Civilians
During recent armed conflicts, explosive weapons have been used on a massive scale, killing and injuring thousands of civilians. When explosive weapons are used in populated areas, a shocking 92% of casualties are civilians.
Humanity & Inclusion is working to build a movement to stop the bombing of civilians.
Weapons clearance, risk education, and victim assistance
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.
Our donors make it possible to train and deploy teams of deminers to identify and clear conventional and improvised weapons from the paths of civilians. We work to educate the local population, especially children, how to spot, avoid, and report the weapons they find. Such lessons are especially vital to impart to people returning home after conflict-induced displacement.
People who survive the blasts and burns of war are in desperate need of rehabilitation. Through physical therapy and psychosocial support, Humanity & Inclusion teams work to restore the physical and mental strength of survivors. When physical recovery has advanced, it's often possible to fit artificial limbs and braces to ensure that the survivor can regain their mobility, and with that independence. To smooth their reintegration into the community, our inclusion specialists work with survivors to ensure their access to education, income-generating activities and decent work, and sport.
Decades of campaigning to protect civilians
Humanity & Inclusion was created in 1982 (under the name Handicap International) 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.
Maputo, Mozambique — Handicap International welcomes today’s Obama Administration statement, promising the United States “will not produce or otherwise acquire antipersonnel mines not in compliance with the (Mine Ban) treaty.” The U.S. Ambassador to Mozambique, Douglas Griffiths, read the U.S. statement today at the Third Review Conference to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction. The statement lists a number of steps the U.S. will take to "ultimately allow us to accede," he read, to the landmark treaty banning anti-personnel landmines.
"It gives us great relief that the U.S. is banning the production of these deadly weapons,” said Elizabeth MacNairn, executive director of Handicap International U.S. “To hear them speak about accession to the treaty as a foreseeable goal is a cause for celebration. We feel one step closer to joining the world community – 161 other nations – in banning this deadly weapon. Landmine victims and their families around the world are ready for the U.S. to accede to the treaty."
However, the statement failed to provide clear deadlines about when President Barack Obama might submit the treaty to the United States Senate for ratification. “By not setting a firm date to complete this task, the U.S. runs the risk of allowing its landmine policy review to drift beyond President Obama's term in office as president," MacNairn added.
The statement also fell short by not committing to a full ban of the use of anti-personnel landmines.
According to the statement, "The United States will not produce or otherwise acquire any anti-personnel munitions that are not compliant with the Ottawa Convention in the future, including to replace such munitions as they expire in the coming years. Meanwhile, we are diligently pursuing other solutions that would be compliant with the Convention and that would ultimately allow us to accede to the Convention. We are also conducting a high fidelity modeling and simulation effort to ascertain how to mitigate the risks associated with the loss of anti-personnel landmines. Other aspects of our landmine policy remain under consideration, and we will share outcomes from that process as we are in a position to do so."
The statement is not the outcome of a five-year-old, policy review that President Obama began in 2009, but rather an 'initial announcement', a U.S. delegate told campaigners from the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines in Maputo.
Importantly, this language reverses the 2004 Bush policy statement, which suggested that the U.S. would never join the treaty.
Today’s announcement brings supporters of the Mine Ban Treaty one step closer to a good result, but without clear or immediate action deadlines, there is room for concern.
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 billion spent on mine action since 1993.
Yet the U.S. has continued to stock millions antipersonnel landmines, and failed to join the 161 countries that have banned the use, production, trade and stockpiling of antipersonnel mines, while aspiring to the treaty’s other obligations. This vague position could serve as carte blanche for other major powers, such as China and Russia, to remain on the sidelines of this life-saving treaty.
U.S. reluctance goes against the actions of countries working hard to progress in the fight against landmines and their devastating consequences. 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 signed 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 anti-mine projects in 33 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.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), made a statement on the Senate Floor on Thursday, Mar. 27, urging President Obama to enter the U.S. into the international treaty to ban anti-personnel landmines.Read more
Takoma Park, Maryland — On March 1 1999, the Ottawa Treaty banning the production, use, storage and trade of antipersonnel landmines entered into force. For the first time in history, a conventional weapon was banned by 122 States. Central to this victory was a coalition of six NGOs, including Handicap International.
Fifteen years later, we count 161 States Parties to the Treaty, representing a major step forward: there has been a fivefold reduction in the annual number of reported victims, more than 4,000 sq.km. of land has been demined, and 70 million mines stored by States have been destroyed.
This anniversary provides a reminder of the need to continue campaigning, particularly to put pressure on States that have not yet signed the treaty, including the United States, or those, like Syria, which still use these weapons.
Outraged by the use of anti-personnel mines, Handicap International joined forces with five other NGOs to form the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) in 1992. On December 3, 1997, the campaign led to the signing of the international treaty banning the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of these weapons. It was the first time in the history of disarmament that a civil society campaign had led to a ban on a conventional weapon. On December 10, of the same year, the member organizations of the ICBL were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
“The treaty is considered to be one of the most effective instruments of international humanitarian law,” explains Dr. Jean-Baptiste Richardier, executive director and co-founder of Handicap International. “Our determination has been largely successful. It has enabled us to earn the legitimacy we need to combat all uses of these weapons, even by States who refuse to sign the treaty.”
The Mine Ban Convention has 161 States Parties, with 33 countries still refusing to sign it. These countries include three of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: the U.S., China and Russia.
The ban on anti-personnel mines has almost eliminated the use of these weapons in the field, and led to a fivefold reduction in the number of victims reported between 1999 and 2013. More than 4,000 sq.km. of land has been demined and 70 million mines stored by States have been destroyed. Following the implementation of this treaty, 27 States have completed the decontamination of their territory.
Handicap International is one of most active and comprehensive international humanitarian organizations in implementing the treaty in mined countries. Currently, Handicap International teams are conducting or providing support to anti-mine actions—demining, risk education, victim assistance, etc.—in 37 countries.
Unfortunately, these advances have been undermined by the renewed use of anti-personnel mines, such as in Syria within the last two years. Minefields in 71 countries and territories continue to kill and maim. Every two hours, a new victim of these weapons is reported somewhere in the world, 78% of these victims are civilians, and almost half are children.
Handicap International is keen to ensure that pressure continues to be brought on States that have yet to sign the treaty, such as the U.S.
The U.S. position contrasts with its otherwise exemplary behavior. The U.S. is the leading funder of anti-mine action, having donated $2 billion since 1993 to reduce the threat posed by these weapons and other explosive remnants of war. 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.
“The fact that the United States is not yet a State Party to the Ottawa Treaty doesn’t make any sense,” says Marion Libertucci, Handicap International’s advocacy manager. “They must send out a strong signal that this norm is essential and lead by example. We’re concerned that major powers, like China and Russia, are hiding behind this failure to act on the part of the United States in order not to sign the treaty.”
President Barack Obama launched a landmine policy review in 2009, to determine if the country should join the Mine Ban Treaty. Since then, NGOs involved in this campaign, such as Handicap International, have been waiting impatiently for the results. The upcoming Third Review Conference of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, which will be held in Maputo, Mozambique, in June 2014, should encourage the U.S. to make a firm commitment to joining the treaty without delay.