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The Ottawa Convention and Afghanistan: 10 Years Later

In December 1997, 122 countries signed the Ottawa Convention, the landmark agreement banning the production, sale, and use of antipersonnel landmines. Ten years later, the treaty is being called “a success in progress,” with more than three-quarters of the world’s countries adhering to the treaty by educating at-risk populations about the dangers of landmines, providing assistance to landmine victims and protecting their rights, and destroying stockpiles of millions of antipersonnel mines. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says, “In ratifying the Ottawa treaty, a country accepts that mines are no longer legitimate weapons to be used either in peacetime or in war. There are no exceptions to this rule.”

As a result of three decades of war, Afghanistan is one of the most heavily-mined countries in the world. However, nearly 60% of the country has been cleared of mines since 2001 and all known stockpiles have been destroyed. Since becoming party to the treaty in 2002, Afghanistan has experienced a dramatic reduction in landmine accidents by more than half, from 2000 cases in 2001 to 796 in 2006.

Successful de-mining efforts are active and ongoing, but work will not be complete as long as a single antipersonnel mine remains hidden beneath Afghanistan’s soil. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says of the broader dangers of landmines: “From my experience in peacekeeping, I have seen first-hand the literally crippling effects of landmines on people and communities alike. Not only do these abominable weapons lie buried in silence and in their millions waiting to kill or maim innocent women and children; but the presence or even the fear of the presence of a single landmine can prevent the cultivation of an entire field, rob a whole village of its livelihood, place yet another obstacle on a country’s road to reconstruction and development.” Annan praises recent progress in de-mining campaigns, saying “The past few years’ unprecedented progress in the fight to eliminate landmines is a source of great satisfaction and joy to me, as it is to so many others.”

An $80 million increase in de-mining funding from Canada, announced in early December, is expected to bolster efforts to help Afghanistan on its way to shedding the last deadly remnants of its past conflicts.

156 countries are now party to the agreement. The United States is one of the world’s largest contributors to landmine education and humanitarian assistance, paying for de-mining programs and equipment and sponsoring mine-recognition training around the world.

The Ottawa Convention treaty is formally known as the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.

View the full text of the treaty here:


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