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Mine clearance gathering momentum

A HALO Trust instructor teaches new recruits about landmines
A HALO Trust instructor teaches new recruits about landmines (Guy Oliver/IRIN)

Demining operations in 2009 cleared the largest area of land in a single year since the landmark 1999 Mine Ban Treaty (MBT) was implemented, and the lowest annual casualty rate was also recorded, said the 2010 Landmine Monitor report released on 24 November.

"In 2009, 3,956 new landmine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) casualties were recorded, the lowest number for any year since the Monitor began reporting in 1999... [however,] because of incomplete data collection the actual number of casualties is certainly significantly higher," the Monitor said in a statement.

The Landmine Monitor, an oversight initiative by civil society, keeps a watchful eye on implementation of the MBT and compliance with its terms, which seek to end the use of antipersonnel mines by states and non-state armed groups, and destroy all stockpiles of the weapons. Its editorial board is drawn from five organizations: Mines Action Canada, Action On Armed Violence, Handicap International, Human Rights Watch, and Norwegian People's Aid.

"Mine action programmes cleared at least 198 sq km of mined areas in 2009, by far the highest annual total ever recorded ... resulting in the destruction of more than 255,000 antipersonnel mines and 37,000 antivehicle mines. At least 359 sq km of former battle areas were cleared in 2009, disposing of 2.2 million ERW. Eighty percent of recorded clearance occurred in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Croatia, Iraq, and Sri Lanka," the statement said.

The record clearance could be attributed to "momentum, political will and the stability of the funding mechanism [for mine action]”, Mark Hiznay, the final editor of Landmine Monitor 2010, told IRIN.

The Landmine Monitor noted that "International funding for mine action remained stable despite the global economic downturn. International support for mine action totalled US$449 million, the fourth consecutive year that funding has surpassed $400 million."

''Ukraine joined Belarus, Greece and Turkey in failing to meet their treaty-mandated stockpile destruction deadlines, placing all four in serious violation of the Mine Ban Treat''

The United States, although not a signatory to the treaty signed by 80 percent of the world's countries, provided $119 million of the total. Afghanistan was the single largest beneficiary of mine action funds, receiving $107 million.

Hiznay said most of the mine clearance in Afghanistan was humanitarian, with some demining occurring in areas where coalition forces were battling the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, but "NATO forces are more concerned by IEDs [improvised explosive devices]."

The use of landmines is diminishing and the only government forces thought still to use them is Myanmar, although "there were disturbing allegations of use of mines by the armed forces of Turkey, a State Party [to the MBT], which the [Turkish] government is investigating," the Landmine Monitor said. For the first time, Russia dropped from the list of states using landmines.

Non-state armed groups in Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Myanmar, Pakistan and Yemen continued to employ the weapon.

The destruction of stockpiles in 86 states, numbering about 45 million antipersonnel mines, was completed, but "Ukraine joined Belarus, Greece and Turkey in failing to meet their treaty-mandated stockpile destruction deadlines, placing all four in serious violation of the Mine Ban Treaty," the Landmine Monitor noted.

Survivor assistance

Hiznay said victim assistance needed to improve, but acknowledged this was the hardest aspect of the MBT, as "it involves a lifetime of support and it is not just a question of handing someone a prosthetic." Nine percent of mine action funding in 2009 was dedicated to victim assistance.

"While survivors know their needs and rights best, it is disappointing that survivors or their representative organizations were involved in victim assistance implementation in less than half of affected countries," the Monitor's Casualties and Victim Assistance Editor, Katleen Maes of Handicap International, said in the statement.

The Tenth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, from 29 November to 3 December 2010.


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:

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