According to the Humanitarian Challenges 2019 report, presented by the Colombian delegation of the International Committee of The Red Cross, the humanitarian situation in the country has deteriorated in the last year. The ICRC has stated that there are still five non-international armed conflicts within the borders of Colombia and that the number of civil victims affected by landmines and other explosive devices has risen in relation with 2017 and 2018. According to the ICRC, the number of victims of antipersonnel landmines in Colombia increased from 57 people in 2017 to 221 in 2018 and only during the first months of 2019 there have been 76 incidents where the victims have been primarily non-combatants.
Although, the peace agreement signed by the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) did mean a significant advance in the recovery of mined territory, as almost 8 million square metres have been declared as free from the threat of mines and explosive remnants of war, the demining process which started as result of the peace process, has failed in preventing new mine planting. It is not enough to clean a particular area, it is also necessary to do regular re-examinations on the territories, particularly because of the emerging armed actors. Since 1990 to 2018, 11,718 people were victims of landmines in the Colombian conflict, 2,292 died and 1,119 were children. Therefore any consolidation of the peace agreement necessarily requires a successful demining process.
Along with Colombia, there are other countries where landmines still pose a threat to the population. Egypt, for instance, has within its territory remnants of explosive artefacts, Myanmar was accused in 2017 by Amnesty International of planting landmines against the Rohingya Muslim minority, and North Korea and Syria have publicly planted antipersonnel mines in recent years. Also, in opposition to the trend that seeks the reduction of this type of munition, the U.S. Army is developing a new line of landmines that supposedly will reduce the civil victims and will only harm vehicles.
The international legal system has systematically banned the use of landmines through international treaties such as the Amended Protocol II of Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) among other international agencies and non-governmental organizations are developing at least 30 demining programs around the world. Also, the UN Mine Action Strategy 2019 – 2023, establishes a concrete plan which develops the legal framework around antipersonnel mines, covers the ongoing conflicts, addresses the necessity of partnership for the funding of demining activities and propose a monitoring and evaluation system.
With the above background information in mind, this April 4th, the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, let’s remember the victims of landmines, and, as the UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated, “On this International Day for Mine Awareness, let us reaffirm our commitment to eradicating the horrendous damage caused by landmines and assisting those who have been harmed by their use.”