Ottawa Landmines Treaty Enters Into Force
By Rachel Stohl, Research Analyst, Center for Defense Information, firstname.lastname@example.org, 9 March 1999
On March 1, 1999 the Ottawa Treaty banning the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of antipersonnel landmines entered into force. The Treaty was signed in December, 1997 in Ottawa, Canada by representatives from 122 of the 159 countries that were meeting. As of March, 1999 a total of 133 nations have signed the Treaty and 64 have ratified it. However, major world powers such as Russia, China, and the United States, along with "rogue" states such as Libya, Iraq, and North Korea, still refuse to sign the Treaty.
Once started, the momentum to fight the scourge of landmines proved overwhelming. The Ottawa Treaty became binding international law more quickly than any treaty in history. Unfortunately, although the international community has come together as never before on the landmines issue, the devastating effects of these weapons have not been eliminated.
Over 400 million landmines have been laid since the beginning of World War II.
The actual number of landmines still in the ground is unknown, but experts estimate that between 80120 million mines lie in wait in some 70 countries world wide. Equally troubling, over 100 million landmines remain in stockpiles.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, landmines claim 26,000 new victims each year. In some of the countries most affected by this scourge, landmines are still being laid to wait for a victim, render farm land useless, and devastate local communities and economies. In fact, every twentyfive minutes someone around the world steps on a landmine.
In Cambodia, landmines are the cause of 300 amputations each month. In Angola, 5,000 new artificial limbs are needed each year. By the mid1990s in Afghanistan, 60,000 Afghan children needed prosthetic limbs.
The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the group which created and facilitated the landmines treaty, realizes that the work on landmines is far from over. The ICBL is now focusing on long term goals such as treaty compliance, victim assistance, and continued public awareness.
To assist with monitoring treaty compliance, the ICBL has started "The Landmine Monitor" project. Information will be collected through a systematic, coordinated monitoring and reporting effort that focuses on the actions of governments to effectively implement the mine ban treaty and comply with its provisions. The Monitor's main components are a global reporting network, a database, and an annual report that will be released in advance of each annual meeting of the state parties to the treaty.
Beyond compliance and victims' assistance, the ICBL and United States Campaign to Ban Landmines (USCBL) still hope the U.S. will sign the Ottawa Treaty.
Unfortunately, the U.S. position has not changed significantly since the it refused to sign the treaty in 1997. However, in 1998 President Clinton said that the U.S. will sign the Ottawa Treaty by 2006 if alternatives to antipersonnel landmines are found. He also announced that the U.S. would commit additional funds to demining programs. Nonetheless, many don't believe suitable alternatives will be found as long as the Pentagon continues to insist that it be allowed to keep landmines as a part of its weapons arsenal.
Instead of signing the Ottawa Treaty, the Clinton Administration prefers to direct attention to its global humanitarian demining efforts, removing landmines from the ground and disabling them.
According to Donald Steinberg, the Special Representative of the President and Secretary of State for Global Humanitarian Demining, "The principle of the demining two thousand and ten initiative is that we need a goal, a concrete fixed goal, to focus our attention. And that goal, as defined by President Clinton about sixteen months ago, is that, by the year two thousand and ten, we will eliminate the threat to civilians around the world of antipersonnel landmines." The U.S. contribution to demining efforts has been impressive. So far, the U.S.
has spent $250 million on direct demining efforts, training local deminers, and providing mine awareness materials to children. The U.S. 1999 demining budget is over $100 million.
Beyond demining, the United States has destroyed over 3 million landmines. It is also aggressively pursuing alternatives to landmines and has committed to not use landmines outside of Korea after 2003.
Some members of Congress are deeply involved in the landmines issue. Representative Jack Quinn (RNY) and Senator Patrick Leahy (DVT) have been instrumental in introducing landmines related resolutions in Congress and standing up to the Administration's refusal to sign the Treaty. Both have declared their commitment to introducing new legislation this year challenging the Clinton Administration to announce a fixed date by which the U.S. will sign the Treaty.
Although the work of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) has been admirable and the U.S. government has pledged a large amount of money for victim's assistance and demining programs, the fight against landmines is far from over.
Public awareness is the key to renewing pressure on the United States to sign the Ottawa Treaty. Landmines should be banned not simply because they are not a military necessity, they should be banned because it is right to do so. The U.S. should step up to the plate and become the leader on the landmines issue.
The Ottawa Treaty should be signed now.
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