Crucial international meeting on anti-personnel landmines
Geneva (ICRC) - Six years ago, the adoption of the Ottawa Convention banning
anti-personnel landmines brought tremendous hope to mine-affected communities
around the world. The Convention held out the promise of a safer life, free
of the fear of death or mutilation by hidden mines infesting fields, pastures,
footpaths and playgrounds.
From 15 to 19 September 2003, the Fifth Meeting of the States Parties to the
Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer
of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction (the Ottawa Convention) will
convene in Bangkok, Thailand. The ICRC will join States Parties, the International
Campaign to Ban Landmines, international organizations and UN agencies in taking
stock of the progress made towards the goal of eliminating anti-personnel landmines,
and of the challenges ahead.
This meeting takes place at a critical moment. With the Convention's First
Review Conference scheduled to take place at the end of 2004, it should inspire
governments to arrive at next year's Conference prepared to renew their commitment
to the goals of the Ottawa Convention and to its full implementation in the
years to come.
Much has been achieved since the Convention was adopted in December 1997. A
total of 136 States have ratified or acceded to the Convention - the most recent
being Belarus on 3 September. States have destroyed over 30 million stockpiled
anti-personnel mines. Mine clearance activities are ongoing in the majority
of mine-affected countries in the world. Most importantly, wherever the Convention's
rules are being upheld, lives and livelihoods are being saved - the annual number
of mine victims has fallen by as much as two thirds in countries like Bosnia-Herzegovina,
Cambodia, and Croatia.
While the considerable gains made are worth celebrating, they provide little
comfort to the tens of thousands of civilians still living with the threat of
landmines. In the coming years, States have the opportunity to prove that they
are willing and able to rid the world of mines. Increased efforts and resources
will be required to achieve the core humanitarian goals of the Convention, and
to meet the upcoming deadlines of destroying most stockpiled anti-personnel
mines by 2004 and clearing the majority of mine-affected areas by 2009. The
ICRC therefore expects the Bangkok meeting to encourage all States Parties to
state clearly their plans and commitments by the time of the 2004 Review Conference.
The work in Bangkok and at the forthcoming Review Conference may well determine
whether the Convention will fulfil its promise to mine-affected communities.
Further information: Camilla Waszink, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 22 730 26 42