GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Efforts to get rid of landmines are making good progress in many countries and funding is being maintained despite government budget constraints, a key meeting in Cambodia that closed 2 December shows. But work remains, with 4,000 new victims of landmines each year: six people died in Pursat Province, Cambodia, which hosted the meeting, Thursday 1 December when their truck triggered a mine.
The 11th meeting of the States Parties, the 158 nations that are part of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention finished in Phnom Penh with several strong commitments.
The Netherlands stated that “despite cuts in other areas, the government remains convinced of this matter” and it will maintain its €15 million annual contribution to demining and victim assistance.
Austria is increasing its 2012 funding slightly, to €1.9 million.
Cambodia funding stepped up
Austria announced its first contributions to demining and victim assistance in Cambodia, totaling €400,000. New Zealand, too, will contribute to a demining project in northeastern Cambodia: more than US$ 1 million in 2012.
Burundi bright spot
Cheering news came from Burundi, which says it has completed demining, a full three years ahead of the deadline to which it was committed. It is the 19th country to be declared mine-free.
The meeting, with 1,000 delegates taking part, marked progress in a number of areas and made media headlines over the first-ever participation by Myanmar, as an observer.
The isolated nation has been making commitments to reform, and at the land-mine ban meeting it said that “thorough study of the treaty will be continued”.
Its actions will be watched closely; it is one of three countries, along with Qaddafi’s Libya and Israel, who have been accused of laying mines in 2011.
“Convincing evidence” Syria is using mines
There is also “convincing evidence”, the group says, that Syria has used mines this year.
Tuvalu and South Sudan took their seats as the Convention’s newest adherents. Finland announced that it is on the verge of becoming the 159th to join the Convention.
Fifteen States that have not yet joined the Convention attended as observers, “signaling their openness to engage in a discussion on the devastating impact of anti-personnel mines”, a meeting press release states. The US is one of these and it reported that it is continuing to review its landmine policy.
Other signs of progress reported by the meeting: “Turkey reported the destruction of all stockpiled anti-personnel mines: 3 million mines. Burundi and Nigeria declared completion of their mine clearance obligations. Guinea Bissau, Jordan and Uganda announced that they will complete their demining programmes in coming months.”
A major and often under-funded part of the States’ commitments is helping survivors. Meeting host Cambodia, one of the most affected countries, says it is “assessing its national action plan on disability with a view to preparing a revised plan in 2012.”
Britain, Germany fail to meet commitments to demine
Germany is one of four countries with new reports of mine contamination that are falling far behind on their commitments to demine.
The town of Koblenz, Germany is the site this weekend of a massive project to defuse a bomb with 3,000 tons of explosives left over from the second world war; 45,000 people are being evacuated from their homes to allow the army and experts to get rid of it. The bomb became apparent this year due to lower water levels in the Rhine, reports NPR.
Britain has failed to clear any mines in the Falklands for the second year in a row.
“The UK has consistently failed to meet their clearance obligations under the treaty, and now have to clear more than 110 mined areas across over 7km2 in less than seven years,” the group notes.