By Contributor on June 26, 2014

By Jody Williams

This week, at a global conference on the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, we celebrated our progress toward a landmine-free world.

Delegations from some 100 countries of the 161 that are part of the treaty attended the Third Review Conference in Maputo, Mozambique. Joining them were representatives of U.N. agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

         Once called a “utopian dream,” the treaty has been a success by all measures. Only Burma has consistently used landmines — once a grim feature of war — since the treaty was negotiated. 

Each year there are fewer new landmine victims.

         Fifty-four countries used to produce landmines. While 12 nations outside the treaty retain the right to do so, it appears that only four actually do so: Burma, India, Pakistan and South Korea. 

Global trade in the weapons ceased in the mid-1990s.

Parties to the treaty have destroyed 47 million stockpiled mines, and 27 countries have been declared mine-free, with Mozambique set to finish mine clearance by 2015.

But the United States and other big powers, including Russia, China, India, and Pakistan, are not part of the Mine Ban Treaty. 

Two decades ago, the U.S. State Department issued a landmine report entitled “Hidden Killers,” warning that the global landmine problem “is getting worse” because “more landmines are deployed in armed conflict every year than are removed by mine clearance personnel.” It detailed how landmines were claiming an estimated 26,000 victims globally each year — mostly civilians. It noted that landmines placed “strains upon the social fabric of [a] society as a whole,” and posed “an enduring threat to post-war reconstruction around the world.”

One year later, President Clinton called for the “eventual elimination” of landmines in his 1994 speech to the U.N. General Assembly.

The Mine Ban Treaty was negotiated with lightening speed, in diplomatic terms, only four years later. But when it came time to sign it in December 1997, President Clinton balked, saying the U.S. would need until 2006. 

Of course, Mr. Clinton was not in office by then, and George Bush had no intention of joining the ban.

President Obama has articulated no landmine policy and is essentially following the policy of his predecessor.

Through it all, the Defense Department has claimed it needs landmines to defend South Korea.

That argument is a fig leaf. After all, the mines used in South Korea belong to South Korea, not the United States. And even former U.S. commanders in Korea have rejected the notion that landmines are essential to its defense and have said the weapons should be banned. 

Many believe the issue for the US military is much more fundamental: It does not want civil society and small- and mid-sized countries to dictate what weapons can and cannot be used.

Washington has sent two delegates to Maputo as observers at the Review Conference.  In discussions with members of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, delegation head Steven Costner said he had no new policy-related statements to make, indicating that Obama’s now five-year-long landmine policy review is still under way and that its results will be announced in due course.

We have heard that for a couple of years now.

Despite the intransigence of the United States and other big powers in not signing the treaty, the stigma we attached to these weapons had an effect.

The United States has followed the major obligations of the Mine Ban Treaty since the 1990s. It has not used landmines since the 1991 Gulf War, has not exported them since 1992, has not produced them since the mid-1990s, and has destroyed millions of its stockpiles.

While Russia and China have not gone that far, both stopped the production and export of landmines. 

Russia, once estimated to have 50 million mines in its stockpiles, has reported the destruction millions of those mines, and is now believed to have less than half the original number.

Like Russia, China has annually destroying tons of mines, along with other explosive weapons. This week, for the first time, in discussions with members of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, China revealed that its stockpile contained 5 million antipersonnel landmines. Original estimates of its stocks were 110 million.

If that is an accurate number, China may have fewer landmines than the United States. The United States has not revealed how much of its admitted stocks of more than 11 million antipersonnel landmines it has destroyed.

Six months before this week’s meeting, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which is recognized as the force behind the Mine Ban Treaty, issued a new challenge to governments to “commit to complete” all treaty obligations by 2025 and create a truly mine-free world. 

The United States should join the 161 other countries that are signatories to the treaty and fulfill its obligations.

Then it could hold the next treaty review conference, in 2019, right there in Washington, D.C.

Jody Williams served as founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, with which she shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. Currently, she is the chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

           

 

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Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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