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Progress towards a
mine-free world

Vicitim of antipersonnel mine in Kandal province, Cambodia. © Marcus HALEVI / ICRC December 2004, over 1,400 delegates, including heads of state, government ministers, Nobel Prize laureates and mine survivors, as well as representatives of the United Nations, non-governmental organizations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, gathered in Nairobi, Kenya to assess the achievements to date and the challenges that remain on the road to a world free of anti-personnel mines. Called the Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World — the name given to the First Review Conference of the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines — the event took place seven years to the day after the Convention was first signed in Ottawa, Canada, on 3 December 1997. The Ottawa Convention, as it is called, marked the first time that states agreed to ban completely a weapon that was already in widespread use, on the basis of international humanitarian law. What has been achieved since then, and will the Convention’s promises be fulfilled?

Since the Ottawa Convention was adopted, the worldwide production, sale and use of anti-personnel mines have decreased dramatically, even by countries that have not joined the treaty. Close to three-quarters of the world’s states, or 144 countries, have joined the Ottawa Convention, thereby agreeing never to use anti-personnel mines, and committing to destroy all anti-personnel mines in stockpiles and in the ground, assist mine victims and raise awareness in the civilian population about the dangers of anti-personnel mines. States party to the Convention have so far destroyed a total of over 37 million anti-personnel mines. Clearance of mined areas is occurring in most of the 50 states party to the treaty affected by mines and three of them — Costa Rica, Djibouti and Honduras — have already declared themselves free of anti-personnel mines, well before their Convention deadlines. But most importantly, the ICRC has found that where the norms and requirements of the Convention are being respected and implemented, the annual number of new mine victims has fallen significantly, in some cases by two-thirds or more.

While noting these impressive achievements, the Nairobi Summit concluded that much more still needs to be done to meet the humanitarian objectives of the Convention, particularly in view of the Convention’s mine clearance deadlines, which will begin to fall in 2009. In this connection, states adopted a comprehensive action plan containing 70 concrete commitments to be carried out over the next five years on speeding up destruction of mine stockpiles, clearing mined lands within the Convention’s deadlines and ensuring long-term aid for mine survivors. The action plan also notes the crucial role played by the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in mine action, in particular in reducing the risks to civilians posed by landmines and in providing assistance to mine victims.

In his statement to the Summit, ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger hailed the Ottawa Convention as one of the “great success stories of the international community in recent years in the humanitarian field”, while stressing that far more action and resources are needed to fulfil the Convention’s promises, in particular those made to mine survivors that they will receive the long-term care that they need.


Director of an orthopaedic centre, Kabul, Afghanistan

“I was 18 years old. I borrowed a lorry to bring sand from the riverbed to my house. I left the road to drive down the river’s embankment and the next thing I knew I woke up in hospital. I knew something was wrong with me, but I didn’t know until an earthquake shook the hospital and everyone was escaping and I couldn’t — it was impossible for me to move, I had lost both my legs. “

People in Afghanistan don’t reject disabled amputees, but they sometimes think they should be in a corner doing nothing. Many times I feel that people are talking about me, I am an object of curiosity. Unlike disabled men, disabled women can’t get married. These are some of our biggest problems. There has been a lot of talk [the Summit], but how much happens on the practical level is very difficult to say. In Afghanistan our disability is compounded by a lack of income, but this is also the case for those who aren’t disabled.”


Dr Ahmed Hassan
President of the Somali Red Crescent Society. Member of the Governing Board of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

“The International Federation wants to participate in fulfilling the Convention’s humanitarian objectives. At grass-roots level National Societies can do a lot, we have an incredible network right down to the community level. Through the millions of volunteers we can make a difference in health care, mine education awareness and physiotherapy.”


Jakob Kellenberger
President of ICRC

“I think we will look at the Nairobi action plan to continue what we have been doing in recent years, continue the intensity on the ratification of the Treaty, and to bring in the main players who have not
yet ratified.

“Until clearance of mined areas is complete it will be essential to continue mine-risk education, not just us but to train National Societies, it is a very important action because I am worried that, at current rates of clearance, many mine-affected states will have difficulties in meeting their deadlines. We need to draw attention — the whole work is not finished. Certain projects have had to be closed because of underfunding. We must keep the momentum, maintain the reminders and the promises made by political leaders in Ottawa to get and keep the funding.”





Pum Chantinie
First Deputy Secretary General of the Cambodian Red Cross

In Cambodia, many people continue to die, lose limbs and their eyesight to anti-personnel mines. Despite this, it is harder to get funding for mine-risk education and assistance to mine victims. The Cambodian Red Cross is struggling to maintain its mine-risk education project. If we fail to find support, there is no doubt there will be more accidents, deaths and injuries and people will forget the problem.

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