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Towards a mine free world - The Americas

01-09-2006 Feature

Several countries in Latin America are mine-affected due to past or on-going armed conflicts. Today anti-personnel mines affect some 9 countries in the region; nearly all of them States party to Ottawa treaty. Colombia and Nicaragua are among the most heavily mine-affected countries in the region. Costa Rica was the first mine-affected State party to the Convention to declare that it had fulfilled its clearance obligations

 

Substantial progress, but armed conflict remains a major obstacle 
 

 

 
  Mine-affected countries and areas in the Americas 


 
  • Chile

  • Colombia

  • Cuba

  • Ecuador

  • Nicaragua

  • Peru

  • Venezuela

  • Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas

 

 Source: Landmine Monitor 2006. 
 
 
  •  Central America remains affected by landmines and unexploded ordnan ce even though well over a decade has passed since the end of the armed conflicts in that region. Clearance has been difficult because the location of many mines had not been marked or recorded. In addition, natural forces such as Hurricane Mitch, which hit Central America in 1998, moved many mines from their original location. Poor communities in rural areas are particularly affected, where mine-infested land hinders socio-economic development and health and rehabilitation services for mine survivors are limited.

  • Anti-personnel mines are also having a severe effect on the civilian population in Colombia , where the use of anti-personnel mines is reported to be on the increase and only limited mine clearance is possible due to the ongoing internal armed conflict. Anti-personnel mines kill hundreds of civilians and military in Colombia every year. It is notable that Colombia became party to the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-personnel Mines despite the ongoing armed conflict.

  • Almost all countries in the Americas are now party to the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-personnel Mines, the only exceptions being Cuba , Haiti and the United States . Haiti has signed, but not yet ratified the Convention. The Organization of American States (OAS) Mine Action Programme assists Member States in addressing the problems caused by anti-personnel mines. It has supported a wide range of mine action activities in recent years. Much progress has been made in the removal of anti-personnel mines from the Central American countries in particular, and if countries implement their existing plans, the sub-region could be free of mines in 2006.

 
Remaining challenges 
 
  • Great progress has been made towards the elimination of anti-personnel mines in Central America, the sub-region in the Americas most affected by mines and unexploded ordnance. Costa Rica declared that it had fulfilled its clearance obligations in 2003. Still, financial support must be secured in order to complete the task of clearing all mined areas in Central America by 2006. This would be later than initially estimated due to a possible delay in completing mine clearance in Nicaragua, although it is still well before the country’s clearance deadline under the Convention, which is in 2009. Fulfilment of this objective would be an important achievement for all States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-personnel Mines and a real testimony to the Convention’s effectiveness.

  • The lack of adequate assistance for the physical rehabilitation and socio-economic reintegration of mine victims is a general problem in most mine-affected countries in the region. Enhanced commitment on the part of national governments as well as external support will be needed to improve survivor assistance. Even after the last mines have been removed from the ground, the legacy of these weapons will persist until survivors are able to lead rewarding and productive lives in their societies.

  • The most difficult challenge is the increasing anti-personnel mine problem in Colombia . An end to anti-personnel mine use, secure access for mine action organizations to mine-affected communities and significantly increased mine risk education and mine clearance activities are urgently needed to protect civilian populations from the grave threat posed by these weapons.

  • Other mine-affected countries in the region also face specific challenges. Peru and Ecuador have a shared anti-personnel mine problem along their border, as a result of the brief war between Peru and Ecuador in 1995. In Peru, anti-personnel mines were also laid during the internal conflict in the 1980s and 1990s, mainly around public electrical installations. According to the OAS, mine clearance in both Peru and Ecuador gained momentum during 2002. The same year, the OAS estimated that mine clearance in Peru will take eight to nine years to complete due to exceptionally difficult conditions in most of the country’s remote mine-affected areas. [Landmine Monitor ]

  • The lack of adequate assistance for the physical rehabilitation and socio-economic reintegration of mine victims is a general problem in most mine-affected countries in the region. Enhanced commitment on the part of national governments as well as external support will be needed to improve survivor assistance. Even after the last mines have been removed from the ground, the legacy of these weapons will persist until survivors are able to lead rewarding and productive lives in their societies.

  • To ensure a permanent end to the scourge of anti-personnel mines in the Americas, the countries in the region that are not yet party to the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-personnel Mines should be encouraged to adhere to it.