For everyone this has been a difficult year, and it’s been no different in the mine action sector. Every government and organisation working to protect people from landmines has faced challenges adapting to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
In line with this, a year after the Oslo Review Conference of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC), the meeting of states parties (MSP) to the convention will be held virtually this week.
This is the forum where we start measuring how far states have to go before reaching their Oslo Action Plan commitments and, by extension, their commitment to a Landmine Free 2025.
Our contributions to the MSP this year include encouraging more countries to disarm, spotlighting and supporting good practice, and holding governments accountable for the pledges they have made. In some areas they are making good progress, in others, less so.
The meeting follows the launch of the 2020 editions of the Landmine Monitor and Clearing the Mines, which provide a comprehensive – and independent – accounting of landmine use, contamination, clearance, and casualties. This year’s reports (using 2019 data) reveal some positive headlines, with the number of people killed or injured by landmines and unexploded bombs having decreased by almost a fifth.
Perhaps linked to this is that the number of mines destroyed increased considerably compared to the previous year. This is all the more impressive when you consider funding for mine action decreased for the second year in a row.
But this is not an indication that the problem is going to go away any time soon. Sixty million people around the world live in fear of landmines and 15 people each day are killed or injured by explosive ordnance, many of them children. As the recent Clearing the Mines report showed, sixty states and territories have mined areas under their jurisdiction, 35 of which are party to the APMBC.
Some of these countries still have what is described as “massive” contamination (more than 100km2 of land) – such as Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Iraq – while other states with heavy contamination (more than 20km2) include Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Thailand, Turkey, and Yemen.
Even in those countries where landmine clearance is underway, people need to know how to stay safe until that painstaking process is complete. So here at MAG we’ve been looking at more innovative ways to continue to have maximum impact, especially in light of Covid-19.
One new project – which we’ll be announcing later this week – is using social media to reach people with messages about how to avoid and report deadly explosive devices.
We’ve also taken the initiative offline, and in places such as Sinjar, Iraq, where displaced people are feeling forced to return to their still-dangerous homeland due to Covid-19 restrictions, our teams there are phoning up the families to talk through ways they can stay safe.
There have been challenges along the way but our staff, and our donors, have shown extraordinary patience and dedication during this period. We are also especially grateful to those mine-affected countries who have facilitated our work – who recognize that landmines remain an urgent threat despite the pandemic.
Because no matter the obstacle, we cannot rest until a landmine free future is achieved.