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.