Today, MAG is reflecting on the proud legacy of Diana, Princess of Wales, as the world marks the 25th anniversary of her iconic minefield walk in Angola.
Diana made global headlines as she called for an international ban on landmines in 1997 following a visit to a minefield in Huambo, Angola.
After seeing the indiscriminate horror of landmines up close, the Princess of Wales lent her support to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), run by a coalition of organisations, including the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), Human Rights Watch, Medico International, Handicap International, Physicians for Human Rights and the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation.
At the time, Diana's outspoken support for the ICBL was denounced by some politicians close to a UK government reluctant to back a global ban.
But the Princess was undeterred by her critics. She continued to speak out passionately on the issue.
“Diana's bravery in speaking out on the landmine issue 25 years ago was a decisive catalyst for so much positive change,” says MAG CEO Darren Cormack.
At an event co-hosted by MAG in the summer of 1997, Diana lamented "the waste of life, limb, and lands which anti-personnel landmines are causing amongst some of the poorest people on earth.”
“The mine is a stealthy killer, long after conflict has ended its innocent victims die or are wounded," she added.
In the last decade, MAG in Angola has cleared more than 12 million square metres of land and supported more than 600,000 women, girls, boys and men to live, work and play free from fear.
But there are 1,100 deadly minefields still awaiting clearance. And much work to be done to realise Diana’s vision of a truly landmine-free Angola.
Lou McGrath, who founded MAG with his brother Rae in 1989, worked closely with Diana in 1997, and remembers her well: "She was not allowed to speak in Parliament so, in June 1997, we set up a conference in the National Geographical Society building in London."
"I remember her humour but also how, once she became interested in a campaign, she wanted to know absolutely everything."
Diana's campaigning was effective at home and abroad.
With the world's attention trained on landmines, the UK pivoted towards supporting a global ban — helped by a change in government.
At the same time, Lou, now the CEO of the Sir Bobby Charlton Foundation, believes Diana was also largely responsible for influencing the launch of the Ottawa Process by other states that supported an international ban, such as Norway, Canada, and Belgium.
This political process ultimately resulted in the Ottawa Treaty, or Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) — the international ban on landmines.
But tragedy denied Diana the opportunity to see the success. Before the treaty was formally adopted, the Princess of Wales was killed in a car crash that left the world reeling.
Despite the tragedy, however, her proud legacy lives on. Today, landmine-contaminated countries like Angola still feel the positive influence of Diana’s work.
Thanks to the global ban she helped usher in, MAG alone has been able to support more than 20 million women, girls, boys and men in over 70 countries to live their lives free from fear and transform communities.
In 2019, Prince Harry saw this transformation first-hand when retracing his mother's footsteps in Huambo, Angola.
He found the once deadly minefield Princess Diana so carefully traversed in 1997 to be a buzzing and bustling city high street more than two decades later.
Speaking in Huambo, a visibly moved Prince Harry said:
"It has been quite emotional retracing my mother’s steps on this street, 22 years on and to see the transformation that has taken place from an unsafe and desolate area into a vibrant community of local businesses and colleges."
“I am incredibly proud as I know my mother would have been at the role that the UK has played in this transformation through funding and the expertise brought by UK specialist organisations like The Halo Trust and the Mines Advisory Group.”
During his trip, The Duke of Sussex met scores of the dedicated deminers working to clear Angola of the deadly legacy of landmines, including MAG's Cidalia Chiputo.
Cidalia explained to Harry that she was part of a team working to keep Diana's legacy alive.
In 2019, Prince Harry acknowledged the scale of the remaining problem and pondered: "There are still more than 1,000 minefields in this beautiful country that remain to be cleared. I wonder if she was still alive whether that would still be the case."
We cannot know that for sure, of course. But what we do know is that Angola and the world will never forget Diana's work and the role she has played in helping to free millions of women, girls, boys and men from the daily fear of landmines.
To fully honour her legacy, though, Darren Cormack says: "Now is the time for the international community, including the UK, to restore and renew its commitment to Angola and come together to help the country realise the promise of a landmine-free future."