[Landmine Aboliltion] The Campaign to Ban Anti-personnel Landmines [Peaceweb Home Page]

The Campaign to Ban Anti-personnel Landmines

by Peter Harkness

Peter Harkness, a member of the Ottawa Quaker Meeting, has been the representative at Mines Action Canada for the Canadian Friends Service Committee since April, 1995.

"The winner of this year's Nobel prize for peace is ... Jody Williams and the International Campaign to Ban anti-personnel Landmines from the arsenals of the world", the voice on the radio said the morning of October 10, 1997.

Thank God! What an exciting recognition of a truly magnificent achievement! In just a few short years the world's non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have got together in their hundreds and hundreds all around the world and pushed and pleaded and cajoled and begged for a treaty banning these vicious weapons. In about two weeks a treaty will be signed by about 100 nations, which is not all nations, but it is a major start towards a total ban. And the NGOs are being recognized for having led the way in making it happen.

The Canadian Foreign Minister, Lloyd Axworthy, has taken a lead role in pushing for the ban and much credit goes to him as well for making it a priority in government circles over the last 18 months or so. Axworthy was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work and it would have been gratifying for Canadians if he could have received it but his role, while a key one also, came a little later in the process.

Many have been attracted to the campaign to ban land mines who are not pacifists and much thought has and will go into considering why this particular campaign has been so successful. There are two reasons why the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has pushed hard and steadily for the last 5 or 6 years for the elimination of these weapons. One is that the weapons are far more destructive than they need to be to cause a casualty and remove a soldier from combat. The injuries are worse than those caused by some other weapons, they require more care and medical resources for a longer period, and they leave more debilitating lifetime effects on the person. And the second reason for the ICRC commitment to this cause is that the weapons affect not only soldiers but in fact mainly civilians including children, women and men long after the wars are over. These long term indiscriminate effects actually make the weapons illegal in the ICRC opinion and they have worked hard to have this recognized.

Will the signing of the Treaty in Ottawa in December end the need for work on this cause? Unfortunately, no. Quite a few countries will not sign the treaty and a few will go on producing and using anti-personnel mines. There are many millions of mines still in the ground and these will have to be removed and/or destroyed so that the people can use the land to live their lives and grow their food without fear of blowing parts of their bodies away with each step. And many thousands of people have lost limbs and livelihoods already who will need some support for the rest of their lives.

Congratulations to Jody Williams and Lloyd Axworthy and all of those who worked with you both to achieve the wonderful result of a treaty banning anti-personnel landmines. You have not only achieved a significant step forward in human relations but you have given us renewed hope and faith that good things can be achieved by caring, determined individuals and their supporters.

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Revised November 23, 1997, by C.S.