Progress Made, but Much to do to Reach Mine-Free World, Summit Hears
Published on Tuesday, November 30, 2004 by Agence France-Presse
Progress Made, but Much to do to Reach Mine-Free World, Summit Hears

Much has been done to rid the world of landmines since a ban was born in 1997, but major challenges, many of them financial, must be overcome to wipe the devices off the planet, a conference in Nairobi heard.

A significant step in that direction took place as the meeting to review the international ban treaty, or Ottawa Convention, opened in the Kenyan capital, when Ethiopia became the 144th state to come on board.

Around 40 people are killed or maimed by landmines around the world every day.

The Ottawa convention bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of landmines and calls for a mine-free world in the next 10 years.

"I am delighted that on the first day of this historic event, one of the world's most mine-affected states has joined the effort to end the suffering caused by anti-personnel mines," said Wolfgang Petritsch, Austrian diplomat to the United Nations in Geneva, who is presiding over the week-long summit.

"Ethiopians can now look forward to a brighter future without the terror of landmines," Petritsch said, noting that "Ethiopia must now destroy its existing stockpiles of anti-personnel mines within four years, clear mined areas within 10 years, and cease any use, production or transfer of the weapon immediately."

"Other states must now also rise to the challenge of assisting Ethiopia in fulfilling its obligations," he added.

thiopian foreign ministry official Abdulkadir Risku told the conference that in his country, "over 1.9 million people, close to three percent of the population, live in mine-affected land, especially in the rural areas."

"The problem is becoming a major challenge," he added.

"We are ready to implement the convention fully and in good faith. It is our hope that now we have ratified the convention, technical and financial support in mine action will be increased and cooporation in various fields be enhanced," he said.

here are two broad themes to the Nairobi conference: achievements and challenges ahead.

"By every measure -- use, production, stockpiling and trade of landmines -- we have seen tremendous progress, change in the world," Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jody Williams of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) an umbrella group that was one of the driving forces behind the Convention, told AFP.

Between 1999, when the treaty entered into force, and 2003, more than four million anti-personnel mines were destroyed, according to Landmine Monitor, an exhaustive overview published by ICBL.

The convention's current president, Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai also spoke -- in a statement read in his absence -- of the "considerable progress" made in implementing the ban and in particular in bringing new states on board.

He noted that Burundi, Estonia, Greece, Papua New Guinea, Serbia and Montenegro, Sudan and Turkey had all ratified or acceded to the treaty since September 2003.

Representing Surakiart Sathirathai at the conference, Thai Deputy Foreign Minister Sorajak Kasemsuvan lamented, however, that "progress has not been fast enough."

"There is still a long road ahead of us, as countries with stockpiles of landmines are still outside the convention," he said.

Describing landmines as "one of the most perverse weapons ever created by humans," Peter Herby of the International Committee of the Red Cross told a news conference it was "now crucial to pay more attention to landmine victims."

"The impact is worse on the poorest people in the world, who have little or no access to medical care," he added.

According to Williams, funding for helping landmine victims has fallen in recent years and this is an area, together with mine clearance, of great concern to delegates in Nairobi.

"Perhaps the time may have come to seriously consider the setting up of a Global Fund for Humanitarian Mine Acting," in the mould of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Thai foreign minister suggested in his speech.

Copyright © 2004 AFP