On April 4th 2021, International Mine Awareness Day, the United Nations Secretary-General – António Guterres – urged States that have not acceded to join the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. The Secretary-General also referred to the United Nations Charter and advocated “to complete the work: to survey, clear and destroy these deadly devices.” This message also emphasized how landmines act as a barrier to providing humanitarian aid and impede peaceful solutions. Further, the Secretary-General stated “Landmines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices disproportionally affect the vulnerable, the forcibly displaced, the dispossessed, and children” accentuating the negative impact of landmines on vulnerable populations.
This call to action by the Secretary-General acts as a wake-up call for many. This urgent message raises awareness on the devastating impact of landmines that still exists today. International Campaign to Ban Landmines – Cluster Munitions Coalition (ICBL- CMC) released the Landmine Monitor 2020 report which highlighted the impact of using landmines during 2019. The Landmine Monitor reported at least 5,554 causalities including 2,170 deaths from the use of landmines in 2019. Also, ICBL-CMC reported that the 2019 total casualties was 60% higher than the lowest recorded annual casualties in 2013. Moreover, in 2019, 43% of casualties were children and 80% of casualties were civilians.
The Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention is an international agreement that prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines. This is popularly referred to as the Ottawa Convention or the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty. This treaty was first signed at Ottawa, Canada in December 1997, and remained open for signatures at the United Nations Headquarters in New York until May 1st, 1999, when it was entered into force. The Landmine Monitor 2020 reports that presently 164 countries are signatories of the Mine Ban treaty.
The Landmine Monitor 2020 also reported that the total 2019 casualties were a decrease from the 6,897 casualties in 2018. The same report also stated that “at least 156 km2 of land was reported cleared of landmines in 2019 and more than 123,000 antipersonnel mines were cleared and destroyed.” Even though the use of land mines has continued to decline over the years, the remnants of these deadly devices cannot be forgotten.
The Secretary-General specifically urged countries that are not signatories of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty to accede to the convention. The situation in the U.S. is particularly of interest, as the U.S. is not a signatory of the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. BBC News reported that in 2014, the Obama Administration banned deployment of Anti-Personnel landmines by American forces in all places except the Korean peninsula. However, the Trump Administration reversed this ban in January 2020. The Landmine Monitor 2020 reported that the reversal of the 2014 landmine ban can be viewed as a step backwards in creating a mine-free world and has met with profound international condemnation.
The deployment of landmines costs thousands of lives every year. Hence, anti-landmine conventions and treaties should be promoted. Ensuring that global action is taken to clear and destroy landmines and prohibiting further use of landmines will help create a mine-free world: a world where humans will not be injured or killed due to landmines; and a world where humanitarian aid can be provided to those in need without the barrier of such deadly devices.