On what would have been Diana, Princess of Wales' 60th birthday, MAG reflects on her life-changing support for the global campaign to ban landmines.

Lou McGrath, who helped establish the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) with his brother Rae McGrath more than 30 years ago, remembers that: "In the year after Diana came on board, the entire landscape changed."

Army veteran Rae founded MAG and brought his brother on board after witnessing first-hand the horrific impact of landmines on civilians and on attempts to rebuild communities after conflict.

In 1992, MAG first began clearing the deadly legacy of conflict in Iraq. It was also the year the charity joined forces with NGOs Human Rights Watch, Medico International, Handicap International, Physicians for Human Rights and the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation to form the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).

MAG’s work in Iraq demonstrated the life-saving impact and need for humanitarian landmine clearance. The charity soon expanded its operations to Cambodia, Laos and Angola.

And it was in Angola, in 1997, that Diana, Princess of Wales, first made global headlines by publicly backing the campaign to ban landmines during a visit to a minefield in Huambo.

"It was tremendously important. It was a turning point," remembers Lou McGrath, who is now the CEO of Sir Bobby Charlton Foundation, which supports victims of conflict.

Behind the scenes, MAG had been working with Diana for months. The princess was passionate about the issue and looking for a platform to bring attention to the campaign.

At the time in the UK, John Major's government did not support calls for a ban on the use, production and export of landmines.

Lou remembers: "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 worked with her on her speech. I remember her humour but also how, once she became interested in a campaign, she wanted to know absolutely everything."

The invitation to the event co-hosted by MAG at the Royal Geographical Society in London, 12 June 1997

During her speech in London, the Princess of Wales talked passionately of a world “too little aware of 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... Their lonely fate is never reported.”

Diana's outspoken support for the campaign was controversial and denounced by some UK politicians. But Diana was undeterred from her mission.

After her visit to Angola had brought the world's attention to the true horror inflicted on communities by the indiscriminate and deadly landmines left behind after conflict, the UK — helped by a change in government — pivoted to supporting a global ban.

"It was when Diana decided to come on board that Britain declared a moratorium," says Lou.

And her influence was international. Lou believes Diana was also largely responsible for influencing the launch of the Ottawa Process by supportive states, such as Norway, Canada, and Belgium.

"This was the fastest arms treaty ever signed, and it was down to her."

This political process ultimately resulted in the Ottawa Treaty, or Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention — 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.

Like many of those who worked closely with Diana, her death hit Lou hard.

"We agreed that we would work on trips to see MAG’s work in Cambodia and Vietnam after our holidays, and she was expected to come to see us in Cockermouth, where we were based at the time."

"When we heard of her death, we were horrified, and everyone involved in the landmine campaign was very depressed. She had given so much."

Princess Diana and Lou Mcgrath

Later in 1997, ICBL members, including MAG, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

But Lou is convinced that the prize would have also gone to Diana for her part in supporting the campaign and bringing global attention to the issue.

However, the Nobel Foundation does not award the prize posthumously. And it is safe to assume the Princess of Wales’ campaigning was not motivated by accolades. 

Almost 25 years ago, the world lost a passionate advocate for the victims and survivors of landmines.

But the world will not forget Diana's work and the role she played in helping to free millions of women, girls, boys and men from the daily fear of landmines.

And her legacy lives on through her youngest son Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, who has followed in her footsteps and is a key supporter of the Landmine Free 2025 campaign.