The ban on anti-personnel mines was negotiated in September 1997. For decades, mines had been used by most armed forces around the world. The result was a humanitarian crisis. Countless local communities could not cultivate their land and thousands of civilians – children and adults – were killed and maimed every year.
Today the numbers of new victims of mines has been reduced to less than one thousand a year. The humanitarian crisis has in most cases been reduced to a developmental problem. More than 30 countries and other areas have completely finished with mine-clearance.
This has been possible due to the efforts of thousands of deminers, most of them local employees, and thanks to the Mine Ban Treaty which was negotiated in Oslo.
Today, more than 80% of the countries in the world are signatories to the Mine Ban Treaty. It also has a strong normative effect on the 35 countries who are yet to become signatories to the treaty.
It has led to an almost complete stop in the production, sale and new use of mines, as well as the destruction of several millions of mines worldwide.
Even the United States is now close to embracing the Mine Ban Treaty. In September 2014, the Obama administration announced a new policy committing to not use antipersonnel landmines anywhere except on the Korean Peninsula. Furthermore, the US pledges not to assist, encourage, or induce other nations to use, stockpile, and produce or transfer antipersonnel mines outside of Korea. In September 2014 Barack Obama announced that the USA also plans to destroy most of its 3 million mines in stock.
Even though a lot has been accomplished on the ground thanks to the Mine Ban Treaty, there still is a lot to be done. Mines are still a threat in more than 60 countries and areas worldwide.
NPA has been the leading international actor for the development on this new methodology that we call land release which enables us and other mine-clearance organizations to work faster and more efficiently for the money available, to complete clearance of affected countries.
On the other hand, there are unfortunately a number of commercial actors within mine-clearance who only care about how much they profit per square meter and not about clearing the right square meters.
Some countries also the lack political will to prioritize clearance and to make sure it is done in an effective and efficient manner. In NPA we are insistant that it is the authorities of the affected countries who have the main responsibility. We challenge all countries to take ownership of its own problems and set ambitious goals for completion.
The goal is a world free of landmines.This goal can be reached faster than you might think. We are no longer estimating hundreds of years to finish, rather, we know now that it can be achieved in a couple of decades and for most countries in the course of just a few years. This can happen only if the authorities of the affected countries together with donor countries, such as Norway, and mine clearance organizations, such as NPA, work together with targeted and smart methods, and if today’s level of resources are maintained.
Now that we are close to reaching the goal, it is unfortunately the case that the financing of mine clearance has started to drop. If funding continues to decrease to the sector, it will take longer to complete the mine clearance, leaving thousands of new civilians at risk of losing their lives and limbs, and several thousand acres of land will stay uncultivated.
We can therefore be proud of Norway, the third largest donor on mine-clearance in the world, after the USA and Japan. Since the Mine Ban Treaty was negotiated in Oslo, the Norwegian government has taken on a particular responsibility for implementation.