Wars should end when the fighting stops. Yet anti-personnel mines kill and maim long after conflicts are over. Anti-personnel mines cannot distinguish between civilians and soldiers. They continue to kill and maim civilians long after the fighting has ceased. Vast areas of valuable land are put out of use, destroying livelihoods. Communities can be affected for decades after the end of an armed conflict.
This is why the international community adopted the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty completely banning these weapons.
The campaign to ban anti-personnel mines was one of the major humanitarian initiatives of the last three decades. The ICRC along with governments, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the United Nations argued for a comprehensive prohibition on their use, stockpiling, production and transfer. States responded by adopting the Mine Ban Treaty - but that was just the beginning. The Convention had to be implemented.
Fifteen years after the Convention's adoption, substantial progress has been made but great challenges remain, especially in removing remaining mines and relieving the suffering of the injured and their families.
More than three-quarters of the world's countries have so far joined the Mine Ban Convention Annual casualty rates have dropped dramatically as a result. Nevertheless, in over 60 mine-affected states and areas, the legacy of the past, as well as ongoing internal conflicts, still result in thousands of casualties each year, especially in the more seriously affected States such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colombia and Myanmar.
People injured by landmines and other explosive remnants of war usually require life-long care. The Mine Ban Convention committed States to help the hundreds of thousands of mine victims – most in countries with very limited heath and rehabilitation facilities. While the inclusion of victim assistance obligations in the Convention was a major achievement, progress in this area has been difficult to achieve and measure. Most survivors have yet to see a substantial improvement in their lives and in access to medical care, physical rehabilitation, psychological support, social services, education and employment.
Mine clearance has also presented a particular problem because the task was so vast. The Convention set clear targets, giving each country 10 years to de-mine its territory. While a growing number of States Parties have officially reported completion of their clearance obligations, a very large proportion of States have had to seek an extension of their clearance deadline and many still do not know the extent of contamination. Compliance with this obligation is therefore a key challenge to implementation of the Convention.
States Parties are also required to destroy their stockpiles of Anti-Personnel Mines. Before the Mine Ban Convention was adopted, more than 130 states possessed anti-personnel mines. Since then, States Parties have now reported the destruction of more than 46 million anti-personnel mines and today, it is estimated that only about 40 States still stockpile anti-personnel mines. Three States that still have stockpiles that must be destroyed, have all missed their non-extendable deadlines (Belarus and Greece since 2008 and the Ukraine since 2010). Together, these three States hold more than 10 million anti-personnel mines.
Despite the remaining challenges, the Second Review Conference, held in Cartagena, Colombia in December 2009 demonstrated the dynamic and results-oriented culture of the Mine Ban Convention. The Conference addressed the key challenges now being faced by the Convention and adopted the Cartagena Action Plan, which contains strong commitments to improve work in the fields of victim assistance, stockpile destruction and mine clearance. As States Parties head towards the Third Review Conference in 2014, it is important to take stock of progress in fulfilling these commitments and to continue working towards implementation of the Convention.
The Mine Ban Convention has had a remarkable impact on the destruction of stockpiles, mine clearance and in reducing casualties. The success of the Convention has also focused attention on the post-conflict consequences of other weapons, in particular on explosive remnants of war, including cluster munitions. Ongoing work and commitment, however, remain necessary to fulfil the Convention's promises in the coming years.