Wars should end when the fighting stops. But anti-personnel mines continue to kill and maim even though the war is over. And it is mainly civilians who suffer the horrific consequences.
Anti-personnel mines leave a long-term legacy of death, injury and suffering. Stepping on a mine will often kill or injure one or more people, frequently children, and have lifelong consequences for the victims and their families. Mine contamination puts vast areas of valuable land out of use, compromising food production and destroying livelihoods. The consequences of anti-personnel mine use on communities and countries often last for decades.
That is why the international community adopted the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention prohibiting the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of these weapons and requiring action be taken to prevent and address their long-lasting effects.
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 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention – but that was just the beginning. The Convention then had to be implemented.
Today, more than 20 years after the Convention's adoption, substantial progress has been made but great challenges remain, especially in removing the mines that remain in the ground and in relieving the suffering of the injured and their families.
More than three-quarters of the world's countries have now joined the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. New use of mines by States, even those not party to the Convention, is rare. Until recently, there had been a steady decline in the annual rate of new casualties of mines and explosive remnants of war. However, this has begun to change, primarily due to the use of improvised mines in some countries currently experiencing armed conflict. The result is that in 56 countries and territories affected by mines and explosive remnants of war, the legacy of past conflicts, as well as ongoing conflicts, produces thousands of casualties each year.
People injured by landmines and other explosive remnants of war usually require lifelong care. The Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention committed States to help the hundreds of thousands of mine victims – most in countries with very limited health and rehabilitation facilities. While the inclusion of victim assistance in the Convention was a major achievement, progress in this area has been slow. Although there has been a general improvement in the capacity of the States Parties to collect data and gain a clearer understanding of the needs of victims, many do not have a national victim assistance plan in place and access to services for those in remote areas remains a challenge. As a result, many 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.
The Convention also sets clear targets for mine clearance, giving each country ten years to demine its territory. Since the Convention's adoption, thousands of square kilometres have been cleared and 30 States Parties that had areas known or suspected to contain such mines are now reported to be free of these weapons. Clearance is ongoing in another 30 States but most of these have had to have their original ten-year deadlines extended.
The States Parties are also required to destroy their stockpiles of anti-personnel mines. Before the Convention was adopted, more than 130 States were reported to have possessed these weapons. Since then, the States Parties have destroyed more than 53 million mines and today it is estimated that only about 30 States – all but three outside the Convention – still stockpile anti-personnel mines.
To address the ongoing challenges, the Third Review Conference of the Convention – held in Maputo, Mozambique, in 2014 – demonstrated the dynamic and results-oriented attitude of the States that have joined this treaty. The Conference adopted the Maputo Action Plan, which sets out strong commitments to improve work in the fields of victim assistance, stockpile destruction and mine clearance, and a clear commitment to meet the key goals of the Convention by 2025. With determined implementation and sustained resources, the Action Plan's aspirations can be realized.