Anniversaries are like buses; you wait a year for one and then two come along at once. 

At the heart of MAG's work saving lives and building futures across the world are two international treaties — both opened for signature on December 3. 

Twenty-three years ago today, the first was the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) — commonly known as the Ottawa Treaty — which declared a ban on the use of landmines. Eleven years later, to the day, the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) — an international ban on cluster bombs — followed suit.

What the APMBC and CCM have in common is that they outlawed some of the most heinous and indiscriminate weapons of war imaginable. Landmines and cluster munitions continue to claim lives long after conflicts have ended. 

States party to the treaties meet regularly to monitor progress on their obligations, which include ridding their territories of landmines and cluster munitions and supporting other signatories to do the same.

In the run-up to their anniversaries this year, both treaties held conferences in November in which MAG participated. The APMBC held its 18th Meeting of States Parties (MSP) while the CCM hosted the first half of its second Review Conference (RevCon) - a major gathering which comes around once every five years. The global coronavirus pandemic saw the Review Conference and MSP held virtually.

MAG's Sebastian Kasack delivers a statement (virtually) to the MSP on behalf of the EORE Advisory Group

First up was the MSP, where Chile and the UK announced they are now landmine-free. As a major supporter of landmine clearance around the world, MAG welcomed the UK's achievement in clearing the Falklands of landmines as a demonstration of leadership; fulfilling their own international obligations and setting an example while also supporting other nations to be able to follow it.

As members of the Gender Working Group, the Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE) Advisory Group and the Landmine Free 2025 campaign, MAG spoke at the MSP about the progress being made by states parties on mainstreaming gender, recognising the value of and best practices in risk education, and the goal to rid the world of landmines by 2025.

Delia Maphosa from MAG in Zimbabwe also joined one of the MSP's 'side sessions' to talk about the impact coronavirus has had on MAG’s work freeing communities from the fear of landmines. 

"MAG teams lost about two months of work due to the nationwide lockdown and the other restrictions implemented to curb the spread of the virus in Zimbabwe," Delia said. "But that has not and will not deter us. We're even more fired up to deliver a landmine free future."

Delia Maphosa, a Community Team Leader with MAG in Zimbabwe, speaking at the MSP

The overall outlook of the MSP was mixed. Many states announced that they were not on track to complete clearance by 2025 and requested more time. But more time is a luxury the 5,554 women, men, girls and boys injured and killed by landmines in 2019 weren't afforded.

For the CCM RevCon, the virtual format enforced by the global pandemic proved trickier. The conference was ultimately split in two, to allow for votes on major decisions to be made in person. 

At the slightly truncated conference, Croatia and Montenegro announced they had completed clearing their territories of cluster munitions — success MAG was delighted to be able to welcome. 

But the news came against a background of a 92 per cent increase in the number of cluster munition casualties in 2019 and concerning reports of recent use in Libya, Syria, Yemen and Nagorno-Karabakh. MAG's Jon Brown looked at the human tragedies behind the statistic in an article marking the start of the RevCon.

Hope and despair in the fight to rid the world of cluster bombs

Read Jon's article Read Jon's article Read Jon's article

During the RevCon, MAG reiterated the call for more states to join the CCM. Speaking on behalf of a coalition of UN agencies and non-governmental organisations working in mine action, MAG's Jo Dresner said in a statement: "Cluster munitions continue to kill and injure and the CCM will only fulfil its potential after these indiscriminate weapons are permanently consigned to the dustbin of history." 

From Iraq, MAG's Azheen Hamdi also reiterated the call because only then: "no one, in my country, my region, or in the wider world, will have to be afraid of these weapons again." 

Azheen was speaking as a 'Mine Action Fellow', a project run by Mines Action Canada to develop young humanitarians and disarmament campaigners from diverse backgrounds to be the leaders of tomorrow.

Azheen Hamdi is a Community Liaison Officer with MAG in Iraq

There is still so much work to do to free the 60 million people around the world who are still living in fear of landmines and unexploded bombs. 

But it is important to remember on this joint anniversary that the very existence of international bans on landmines and cluster munitions is a testament to the dedication and sheer force of will of humanitarians and disarmament campaigners. It is a legacy that we firmly believe is in the safe hands of inspiring future leaders like Azheen and her peers in the Mine Action Fellows programme.