Mine Ban Treaty turns 20 today

September 18, 2017

When he was just 13 years old, Firoz was walking to school in the Afghan province Parwan with his friends. The year was 1996, and by then the country had been in a state of conflict since the 1970’s, and explosive remnants of war including landmines contaminated much of the country. Firoz and his friends  used to play with these things they found; for example throwing bullets in the fire to watch them explode. All innocent fun, until that day on the way to school. That day Firoz stepped on a landmine he had not seen, and it exploded. It took 6 hours to get him to a local doctor who provided some first aid and 12 hours to get him to a hospital. There, his legs were amputated, but Firoz was lucky to have survived.

After some ten months of surgery followed by rehabilitation therapy, Firoz got his first artificial legs, the start of a new life. The Taliban had taken over Kabul in 1996, and it was no longer an option for Firoz to live in the inaccessible Afghan village. The family migrated to Pakistan, and Firoz slowly started to adopt to his new life, meeting with other survivors to discuss their rights and ways to improve their situation.

Landmine in Cambodia © John Rodsted 2011

18 September: mines are now banned by 162 states
Around the same time, on 18 September 1997, states meeting in Oslo, Norway, adopted the Mine Ban Treaty, banning landmines. States also pledged to assist survivors and their communities. It was a watershed moment, a giant step forward in preventing more people like Firoz from falling victim to landmines.

Today, on the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the treaty, 80% of all countries have now joined it. The Netherlands joined the Treaty in 1997.Only 35 countries have not joined, and even most of these do not actually use anti-personnel mines anymore. The number of casualties recorded annually has dropped dramatically since the treaty was adopted. Also each year, vast areas of land are cleared of mines and made safe for farmers to farm their land and for children to play. For example, in 2015 nearly 158,000 antipersonnel mines were destroyed. These mines now can no longer take the lives and or limbs of ordinary people.

However, there is still work to be done. 64 countries and territories still have mined areas. In addition, decreases in funding, capacity and ongoing conflict meant that the total area of land being cleared of mines decreased between 2014 and 2015. New mines have been placed by government forces and non-state groups in a number of countries such as Myanmar, Ukraine and even in Afghanistan, Firoz’s home country. So although the treaty has had a tremendous impact and has helped  thousands of survivors and their communities get assistance and has resulted in the clearance of large areas of land, the problem is by no means solved. It is important to keep emphasizing the international norm that antipersonnel mines are unacceptable and should be eradicated.

Working for a mine-free world
Motivated by his own experiences, Firoz has dedicated his new life to achieving a mine free world and assisting survivors. He currently works for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines & the Cluster Munition Coalition in Geneva. Just like Firoz, PAX strives for a world free of landmines. We are a member of the international coalition and work together with Firoz, the rest of the ICBL-CMC team and its member organisations. The shared goal is to “finish the job” by 2025: destroy the mines still stockpiled, clear all land from mines, and provide assistance to survivors and their communities.

finish the job 2025

Foto on top of the page: Firoz at the 15th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, 2016, © ICBL

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