I apologise for presenting another serious topic, but tomorrow is the third annual International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.
It’s said that landmines kill or injure three every hour. About three quarters of casualties are civilians, many of them children. I’m sure that everyone reading this can imagine how tragic it would be if their children were not able to play outside without the risk of accidentally detonating a mine and being blown limb from limb. There would, of course, be outrage and something would be done about it.
Similarly thought-provoking is this compelling video, showcasing one man’s acrobatic attempts to get around London without touching the ground. In some regions, it’s safer to keep off the ground, such is the proliferation of explosives.
A weapon of mass destruction in violation of international humanitarian law, it’s now ten years since the Mine Ban Treaty came into force.
156 countries have committed to its terms, the following 39 have not: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Finland, Georgia, India, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, North Korea, South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tonga, Tuvalu, the United Arab Emirates, the United States of America, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
Spot the odd ones out. (Need a clue? Appallingly, three are permanent members of the UN Security Council and didn’t have much time for last year’s Convention on Cluster Munitions, either.)
You can guess what most of these countries have in common and easily imagine what the presence of landmines means to those in the Third World, in whose soil most of the damned things remain buried, rendering acres of farmland unusable.
Although the US hasn’t used anti-personnel mines since 1991, hasn’t exported any since 1992, and hasn’t produced any since 1997, it still stockpiles more than ten million for potential future use (as well as seven-and-a-half million anti-vehicle mines), which is the world’s third largest stash after China’s and Russia’s.
Russia, itself heavily contaminated with explosive remnants of war, allegedly used anti-personnel mines in Georgia just last year. China is one of the world’s largest producers of anti-personnel mines, with an estimated stockpile of – brace yourselves – 110 million. And no, that’s not a typo. If only.
If your country is on the above list and has yet to sign the treaty, please let your leaders know that you’d like them to. If your country has signed, please let your leaders know that you’d like them to lobby those that haven’t.
There’s also a hard-hitting documentary, available on DVD, called Disarm. Have a look at the trailer and, if you haven’t already, you’ll realise its relevance.