9 June 2000

Press Release



Following is the text of remarks to be made by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 11 June in Palo Alto to the Roots of Peace Event for “Mines to Vines”:

Thank you for that kind introduction. I am happy to be with you. Let me salute the founder of Roots of Peace, Heidi Kuhn, and others who have laboured in this vineyard, or should I say, this minefield: Bobby Muller, Jerry White, former prime minister Kim Campbell of Canada and James Lawrence. This partnership of Californian vintners, new-technology wizards and others who have helped is a fine example of business with a conscience.

I am especially moved that you have chosen to dedicate the statue of Ottomino the Vintner to the memory of my dear friend and colleague, Mitch Werner. I cannot think of a more fitting tribute. Mitch planted so many seeds of goodness in so many different vineyards.

Roots of Peace is a wonderful example of one of Mitch's ideas bearing fruit. It bears witness to his insight into the kind of difference a public- private partnership can make. And it shows that you have understood that, when it comes to the struggle against landmines, we cannot afford to slow down.

Two and a half years have now passed since the world celebrated the opening for signature of the Convention banning anti-personnel mines. Thanks to the momentum maintained by the champions of that process -- some of whom are here today -- the Convention entered into force faster than any other major international treaty in history.

But much remains to be done.

We must persuade all governments who have yet to sign and ratify the treaty to do so. Even more important, we must ensure that it is implemented. And we must continue our work of clearing the huge numbers of existing mines that are still in place across the world, and of alerting people -- especially children -- to their danger.

New mines are still being laid every week, in several continents. They take only minutes to put in place, but the work of removing them can go on for decades after a conflict has ended. I myself have watched this work: it is an

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excruciatingly labour-intensive and time-consuming process. Every square metre of soil has to be meticulously cleared, often by prodding it between 600 and 800 times.

But the task must and will continue. No matter how hard we work to restore order once a conflict has ended, there are always further casualties. Refugees return and try to rebuild their lives on land riddled with mines. The threat posed by mines remains for decades as innocent men, women and children go about their daily business.

It is a tragedy for them, and a serious obstacle to their country's development. A single landmine -- or even the fear that there might be one -- can prevent the cultivation of an entire field or rob a whole village of its livelihood.

That is why initiatives like yours are so important. You have helped turn what used to be a killing field into a fruitful enterprise. You have helped give back a livelihood to a community that had seen it taken away. You have turned mines into vines by replacing the seeds of death with the seeds of life. And you have shown the world that even with modest beginnings, a partnership backed up by persistence can make a real difference.

In this, you have truly inspired others: only this past week, for instance, the United Nations entered a new partnership with the Landmine Survivors Network, The Canadian Landmine Foundation and Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines. This initiative will involve young people going overseas to help young landmine survivors return to a normal and useful life by learning to use computers.

I am sure that many more such groups will follow your wonderful example. On behalf of the United Nations, I thank you all.

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