In late 1980’s, a British sergeant went to Afghanistan to conduct emergency relief in a country that lay in ruins after years of Soviet occupation. His plan was to work on agricultural projects, but when he arrived he discovered something terrible. Across the country, the soil was full of hundreds of thousands of antipersonnel mines, which had intended to kill or maim anyone who would plow the soil. The former officer ended up starting the first program in the world to clear landmines.
Other organizations had worked for several years to raise enough artificial limbs to victims of land mines, but they felt that they should do more. Appalled by the results of what mines did to individuals and the community, the organizations began to form a joint organization to achieve a global ban. The formal launch happened in New York, in October 1992 and was named The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).
Their aim was to get an international ban on the use, production, storage and transfer of antipersonnel mines and increase resources for humanitarian response to the removal of landmines and assistance to victims.
Landmines are not only dangerous to enemies, but it’s very destructive towards civilians and the agricultural system, because when peace comes, the mines won’t recognize it. Many people get killed, and the survivors are left back with so much damage that they cannot function normally. In addition the mines make it impossible to cultivate the soil so that the country is deprived of food supply of food that is needed to survive.
What more does it take to get a total ban?
Land mines were designed for two main uses — to create tactical barriers, to act as area-denial weapons. The latter use seeks to deny access to land areas by military and civilian traffic. When used as a tactical barrier, they serve to deter direct attack from or over a defined and marked area. This is the stated reason for their use in the demilitarized zones of warm spots such as Cyprus and Korea.
The most important countries producing and stockpiling landmines that have not signed are China, India, the United States and Russia. The United States refuses to sign the treaty because it does not offer a “Korean exception”, as landmines are said to be a crucial component of the U.S. military strategy in South Korea. According to the US government, the one million mines along the DMZ between North and South help maintain the delicate peace by deterring a North Korean attack. The Ottawa Treaty or the Mine Ban Treaty, formally the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, bans completely all anti-personnel landmines (AP-mines). As of May 2009, there were 156 States Parties to the treaty. Two states have signed but not yet ratified it. Thirty-seven states, including China, India, Russia and the United States, are not party to the Convention.