U.S. Delegation Attends Mine Ban Treaty Conference

Handicap International welcomes the participation of the U.S. delegation at the 12th Meeting of States Parties to the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty in Geneva, from December 3 to 7.

In response to calls from civil society, the Obama administration began a review of U.S. landmine policy in December 2009, but has yet to announce its conclusions. Now that President Obama has been elected for a second term, Handicap International urges his administration to move swiftly towards accession to the treaty. News of the administration's progress is expected during the upcoming conference.

The 2012 Landmine Monitor —an annual report that provides a global overview of developments in mine ban policy; mine contamination, clearance, and casualties; and support for victim assistance and mine action—was released on Nov. 29, and presents several disturbing findings. Handicap International is particularly concerned about a reported 30% drop in international funding for victim assistance last year. Despite the overall reduction in aid to victims, however, the U.S. has increased its mine action aid. 

“I applaud the generosity of the U.S., which has supplied $534.5 million in aid since 2007, making it the biggest funder of mine action,” says Elizabeth MacNairn, Executive Director of Handicap International U.S. “However, assistance must be coupled with an absolute ban on further use of the weapon. It is time for the U.S. to match its policy to its financial commitment by ratifying the Mine Ban Treaty and destroying the 10.4 million landmines currently held within the U.S. stockpile." The Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines. 

The 2012 Landmine Monitor counted 4,286 new victims of landmines and explosive remnants of war in 2011. It estimates that around the world, there are more than 500,000 survivors of mine accidents who require lifelong assistance. However, the resources deployed by the State Parties to the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty are not equal to the very serious challenges faced. “Funding for victim assistance is at its lowest ever level since the Landmine Monitor began keeping records,” says MacNairn. “Last year the State donors gave only $30 million to support 500,000 survivors and their families and communities which is clearly not enough.” 

Eighty-eight countries and territories are still affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war. One new victim of these weapons is recorded every two hours. Almost three-quarters of these victims are civilians, and more than 40% are children. In some countries, the proportion of child victims is much higher: in Kenya, Uganda, and Yemen, 90% of victims are children and the figure stands at about 60% in Libya, Afghanistan, and Laos (58%). Yet, because of the reduction in international aid, countries such as Afghanistan and Uganda have had to scale down or halt victim assistance projects. 

"The needs [of child victims] are greater than those of adults,” says Rahmatullah Merzaveean, an Afghan Ban Advocate who lost both legs in a landmine explosion at the age of nine. “Their prosthetic limbs need regular adjustment as they grow, treatment is lengthy and costly, and they run a particularly high risk of exclusion from the education system." 

Handicap International and Ban Advocates, an association of survivors of landmine and cluster munition explosions, will attend the 12th Meeting of States Parties, to remind the governments present of their responsibilities and to call on them to fully respect the obligations set out in the Treaty. Ban Advocates will also confront the States Parties with the appalling consequences of landmines and explosive remnants of war.

Handicap International currently works in 63 countries, 40 of which are polluted by landmines and explosive remnants of war. The organization implements mine clearance, risk educationrehabilitation, and victim assistance projects. Its expertise in the field gives legitimacy to its international advocacy work to ban and eradicate these weapons.