Landmines

Landmines come in two varieties: anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines. Both have caused great suffering in the past decades. Anti-personnel landmines are prohibited under the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (or Mine Ban Convention), adopted in 1997. More than 150 countries have joined this treaty. Its positive impact includes a marked reduction of casualties, an increased number of mine-free States, destroyed stockpiles and improved assistance to victims.

The Secretary-General calls on all countries to also regulate the use of anti-vehicle landmines. Such weapons continue to cause many casualties, often civilian. They restrict the movement of people and humanitarian aid, make land unsuitable for cultivation, and deny citizens access to water, food, care and trade.

Every day, people die or lose limbs from stepping on a landmine. Mostly in countries at peace - and the majority of victims are civilians. The Anti-personnel Landmine Convention, or the Mine Ban Convention, addresses this scourge. It bans the stockpiling, transfer and use of anti-personnel landmines, requires countries to clear them on their territory, while prescribing States in a position to do so to assist affected countries.

In the 1980s, the use of anti-personnel landmines was regulated under the CCW treaty. But many countries wanted a complete ban. The ensuing Mine Ban Convention has been joined by three-quarters of the world's countries. Since its inception more than a decade ago, it has led to a virtual halt in global production of anti-personnel mines, and a drastic reduction in their deployment. More than 40 million stockpiled mines have been destroyed, and assistance has been provided to survivors and populations living in the affected areas. Vast numbers of mined and suspected hazardous areas have been declared free of landmines and released for productive use. As a result of these efforts, the number of casualties has sharply declined. Other welcome trends include: increases in national capacity to manage complex mine action programmes; the great progress in framing victim assistance in the wider context of disability; and the development of improved risk-reduction tools. The Mine Ban Convention has been a central framework for States in conducting mine action activities that led to all these remarkable achievements.

However, well over 10 million stockpiled mines await destruction. Massive tracts of land are still infested and thus too dangerous for productive use. Tens of thousands of victims and their families have not yet received adequate support. The presence of mines continues to impede social and economic development.