It has taken just 10 years, but the effects of the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT) have brought about a sea change in the use of antipersonnel mines, ensuring that the use of these bombs is becoming increasingly rare, and even offering the hope that these indiscriminate weapons will one day be consigned to the dustbin of history.
The 2009 Landmine Monitor - an oversight initiative by civil society that scrutinizes implementation of the treaty and compliance with its terms - was released at the MBT's second five-year review conference in Cartagena, Colombia, and presented evidence of striking progress in the 10 years since the MBT came into force.
Jackie Hansen, project manager of the Landmine Monitor, told IRIN: "The treaty is making a huge difference - there are only 3,000 sq km [of known mine-contaminated areas] left after ten years. There is no reason why we can't get rid of these things in a decade or two, providing financial support is sustained."
Steve Goose, Head of Delegation for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), told a media briefing launching the report that the MBT had been "a shining light of the last decade", with a "profound humanitarian impact".
About 80 percent of all countries in the world - 156 states - are signatories to the convention, which aims to create a universal acceptance of a ban on antipersonnel mines, destroy all stockpiles of the weapons, clear all mined areas, and provide assistance to all landmine victims.
In 1999 the Landmine Monitor reported that 15 governments had used antipersonnel mines; in 2008-09 only two countries, Myanmar and Russia, had used them, although Russia's use of them in the restive province of Chechnya was "difficult to determine", Goose said.
Russia and Myanmar are among 39 countries - including China, India, Pakistan and the United States - that have shied away from joining the treaty, but Goose said the presence of more than half the "holdout" countries at Cartagena was "significant", and an indication that a number of these states were on the verge of joining the convention.
However, the stigma generated by the MBT over the use of antipersonnel mines had pushed the "vast majority of holdouts" into compliance, Goose said, and demonstrated "the power of the norm the treaty has established."
In the MBT's 10 years of existence there had been "at least 73,576 casualties of landmines, ERW [explosive remnants of war], and victim-activated improvised explosive devices in 119 states", the Landmine Monitor said. However, injuries and deaths had decreased from "earlier estimates of more than 20,000 casualties per year, with recorded casualties down to under 5,200 in 2008".
International financial support for mine action between 1992 and 2008 was estimated at US$4.27 billion; since 1999 "at least 1,100 sq km of mined areas, and a further 2,100 sq km of battle areas - an area twice the size of London - have been cleared in more than 90 states."
Mine action since 1999 had removed 2.2 million "emplaced" antipersonnel mines; destroyed 250,000 anti-vehicle mines and 17 million ERW, and eradicated 44 million stockpiled antipersonnel mines.
However, these successes have been tempered by the MBT's weakest link. The Landmine Monitor noted that "Over the past decade victim assistance has made the least progress of all the major sectors of mine action, with funding and action falling far short of what was needed."
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions