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Red Cross and Red Crescent workers have seen the horrors for themselves – the shameful legacy of anti-personnel (AP) landmines. They built on that experience to show real leadership in raising the world’s awareness of the gruesome effects of these weapons on individuals, families, communities and countries emerging from years of conflict.

Three years ago, not a single country was willing to support the idea of a ban on AP mines. Today, thanks in large part to the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and a worldwide network of dedicated NGOs known as the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), we are on the brink of making it a reality.

At the Ottawa Conference of October 1996, I issued an invitation to other nations to sign a treaty banning AP mines by December 1997, an idea immediately endorsed by ICRC President Cornelio Sommaruga. Two months later, 156 countries voted in favour (and none against) the United Nations resolution calling on the international community to “pursue vigorously an effective, legally binding international agreement to ban the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines”. Our challenge is to translate this political support for a ban into a treaty by December 1997. So far, over 100 countries have committed themselves to this important objective.

The world has entered a new era of foreign policy. We have emerged from the Cold War into an exciting time of public interest, information and accountability for foreign policy decisions. The effort to ban AP mines is an example of the democratization of foreign policy decisions, a true partnership between governments, non-governmental organizations, international agencies and millions of citizens around the world.

The process has been ground-breaking in another sense. Never has a global process to ban a widely used weapon begun and been brought to a successful conclusion in such a short period of time — 14 months. It is also significant for its comprehensive approach — seeing the interconnection between humani-tarian demining, victim assistance and the need for a ban.

The treaty banning AP mines will be the first important step to permanently halting the indiscriminate killing and maiming of thousands of innocent people. Only when we have banned the use of these weapons can we achieve lasting results in mine clearance, victim assistance and socio-economic development within regions ravaged by conflict.

The Honourable Lloyd Axworthy
Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs



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