18 July 2014
At the recent Mine Ban Treaty Conference in Maputo, Mozambique, the United States announced that it intends to join the Mine Ban Treaty in the future and will no longer produce antipersonnel mines.
The 1997 treaty bans the use, production and trade in antipersonnel land mines and requires the destruction of all stockpiles, the clearance of land where the weapons have been laid and the provision of aid to victims. In 1994, not a single government would endorse such a ban on land mines, which were killing or maiming 26,000 people a year, most of them children and other civilians. By 2014, that figure had fallen to 4,000 a year.
Decades after wars have ended, land mines have continued to wreak havoc in countries like Afghanistan, Cambodia and Iraq. Designed to detonate when people step on or near them, they are relatively cheap and easy to deploy, making them a poor country’s weapon of choice.
Currently 161 countries have joined the pact, however the treaty will not reach its full effect until the United States, joins. Whilst last month’s announcement is a welcome step forward, no date has been set for the signing of the treaty and destroying the stockpile. That action may make it more likely that other non-signers like China, Russia and Iran can be pressed into doing the same.