Since 2005, International Mine Awareness Day annually celebrated on 4 April, provides the opportunity to create awareness on the work that remains to be completed to rid the world of landmines and Explosive Remnants of War that indiscriminately injure and kill people in post-conflict regions around the world.
Every year, 4 April marks the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. It is a day set aside to highlight the work being done to rid the world of Landmines, Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) and the use of Improved Explosive Devices (IEDs).
In 2022, the annual observance is marked under the theme: “Safe Ground, Safe Steps, Safe Home.” The theme focuses on the achievements of the global mine action community, from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) founded in 1992, and the work of UN Member states since the Mine Ban Convention came into force in 1999, as well as creating awareness on the work that still needs to be done.
Safe ground, Safe Steps, Safe Home
Explaining the theme, the UN in a statement for the International Day, said that “Safe Ground” is the name of the global campaign “Turning minefields into playing fields” launched in 2019 by the UN Secretary-General, to promote the concept of ridding the earth of landmines and other explosive hazards in order to make it safe for development. The five-year campaign (2019 – 2023) accompanies the UN Mine Action Strategy which is coordinated by the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS). The Safe Ground campaign also seeks to raise awareness and resources for victims and survivors of armed conflict.
“Safe Steps” the statement continues, brings “attention to the trepidation that too many people experience when they move about, not knowing if they will detonate an explosive that could maim or kill them at any moment.” It also describes procedures that deminers can use when approaching contaminated areas, including the application of new technologies to safely remove explosive material.
Meanwhile “Safe Home” underlines the importance of restoring the personal security of individuals and communities in post-conflict settings, because “there is no place like home” and people to need to feel at safe and secure at home.
Terrible toll of landmines and ERWs
Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERWs) continue to inflict a terrible toll as these indiscriminate weapons cause serious bodily injuries or death, impede reconstruction in post-conflict zones, pose an obstacle to socio-economic development activities and damage the environment.
Though parties in conflict may sign peace agreements and hostilities may cease, landmines and ERWs are an enduring legacy of conflict. Mines placed during a conflict can still kill or injure civilians decades later.
A report by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), “Landmine Monitor 2021,” highlights that in 2020, at least 7073 casualties of landmine/ERWs were recorded. Of that number, 2,492 people were killed and 4,561 people were injured, while the status of the remaining 20 casualties remains unknown. The vast majority of the casualties were civilians (80%) and children accounted for half of all civilian casualties (1,872). Men and boys also made up about 85% of all the casualties.
This data, the report adds, was gathered in 54 states and other areas, of which 38 are States parties to the Mine Ban Treaty. Among the non-signatories Syria recorded the highest number of annual casualties, while States parties with over 100 recorded casualties in 2020 included Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, Ukraine and Yemen.
Towards a world free of landmines/ERWs
On 8 December 2005, The UN General Assembly declared 4 April as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.
Since then, the UN has called for continued efforts by States, to foster the establishment and development of national mine-action capacities in countries where landmines and ERWs are a threat to the safety and lives of civilian populations.
The UN also advocates for the universalization of existing legal frameworks, and for Member States to expand existing ones, as well as develop new international instruments to protect civilians from the scourge of landmines and ERWs.
Since the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction opened for signatures in 1997, 164 countries have ratified or acceded to it.
With thanks to Vatican News, where this article originally appeared.