Diana fought to have land mines removed from countries where they were placed during war. These landmines maimed many innocent children. Diana gave her support to many charities related to homeless and deprived children, drug abuse victims, and victims of acquired immune deficiency syndrome. She was the vice president of the British Red Cross and served as a member of the International Red Cross advisory board since 1994. She died tragically in 1997 in a fatal car crash.
* April 4, is the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.
Landmines and explosive remnants of war continue to kill or injure as many as 15,000 people a year. The overwhelming majority are civilians who trigger these devices years or even decades after a conflict ends.
In some countries, such as Afghanistan, the majority of victims are under the age of 18.
UN Mine Action Service Director Maxwell Gaylard says. "We must keep the cause high on the global political agenda if we are to maintain the momentum achieved toward a world free from landmines and explosive remnants of war," he adds."
Mine action programmes and the anti-personnel mine-ban treaty or "Ottawa Convention," contributed to a reduction in the annual number of casualties from an estimated 26,000 10 years ago to between 15,000 and 20,000 today.
"The current casualty rates are dramatically lower, but they''re still unacceptably high," Gaylard says. "We need to redouble our efforts to bring the rate down. And we need to do more for the survivors."
Fourteen United Nations agencies, programmes, departments and funds provide mine action services in dozens of countries. Mine action includes finding and destroying landmines and explosive remnants of war, assisting victims, teaching people how to remain safe in a mine-affected environment, advocating for universal participation in international treaties like the Ottawa Convention, and destroying stockpiled landmines.
August 25, 2002
Whatever happened to Diana"s landmines legacy, by Paul Donovan. (Observer Worldview).
After Princess Diana"s death, governments pledged to end the scourge of landmines. Five years on, her legacy has been squandered
One of Diana, Princess of Wales, most notable achievements in life and death was the role she played in securing a ban on anti-personnel landmines. Her involvement effectively secured millions of pounds of free publicity for the campaign seeking a ban on the weapon. Ironically, Diana"s death put the icing on the cake, acting as a catalyst to propel the British Government and others forward toward signing the Ottowa Treaty banning the weapon in December 1997. Sadly, five years on it would seem that this legacy has been wasted.
After the Ottowa Treaty, governments failed to live up to funding promises on landmine clearance and a number of arms companies were caught trying to sell the banned weapon in the UK. Other arms companies meantime sought ways of getting round the treaty.
The first of a number of media exposes of wrongdoing involved a Romanian arms company being caught trying to sell the banned weapon at a British Government sponsored arms exhibition in Surrey. There was a media outcry and the government set up an inquiry overnight.
As the journalist who helped expose the Romtehnica firm"s activities at the Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition in Surrey I had hoped that there would be a positive outcome from the government inquiry. In the event, after taking statements from all concerned the police passed a case file to the Crown Prosecution Service and nothing further happened. In fact a year later the company"s promotional materials were on the Romanian stand at the Farnborough airshow.
At the same DSEI show a reporter from Channel 4"s Dispatches caught a salesman from Pakistan Ordnance Factories also offering banned anti-personnel landmines for sale. A Customs and Excise investigation followed but nothing further happened.
Most recently, a BBC investigation has claimed that another company, PW Defense, was allegedly involved in selling the banned weapon. This has led to a police file again being sent to the CPS, which has yet to announce its next move.
While the British Government signed the Ottowa Treaty, there remain serious questions over its willingness to police it properly.
Further evidence of how seriously arms companies took the treaty banning anti-personnel landmines came in the form of the development of anti-vehicle mines. Anti-vehicle mines are not banned under the Ottowa Treaty and provide a convenient way of getting round the law.
The loophole in the Ottowa Treaty that allows this to happen centres on its definition of anti-personnel landmines in terms of design rather than effect. "The definition means that a manufacturer could escape liablility by arguing that the weapon was designed to be a washing machine but just happened to have the effect of a landmine," said Rae McGrath, a landmine consultant and former director of the Mines Advisory Group. "Definition has got to be by effect. If any weapon has the effect of an anti-personnel mine it should be banned."
This weakness has meant that the unbanned anti vehicle mines can be fitted with sensitive fuses and anti-handling devices to effectively become large and more lethal anti-personnel landmines.
One example is the German AT-2, a scatterable anti-vehicle mine equipped with an anti-handling device and magnetic fusing. The AT-2 is sensitive enough to be detonated by a person stumbling over it or even, at times, by the proximity of a person. As a result, the Italian government destroyed all its AT-2 mines in 1997. The Ministry of Defence, which made such a public show of destroying its anti-personnel landmines, continues to hold an estimated 100,000 AT-2 mines in its stocks.
The charitable campaigning group Landmine Action points out that between 50 and 75 per cent of existing anti-vehicle mines are equipped with anti-handling devices. In terms of usage, one in every five landmines lying dormant in two of the worst effected countries, Angola and Ethiopia, is of the anti-vehicle variety.
While the Blair government did much to spin its early ethical credentials on the back of signing and ratifying the Ottowa Treaty in 1997, its actions since suggest something less than commitment to this cause. In addition to the failure to police the treaty effectively, it has taken a miserly approach to funding clearance.
Many would argue that given the particularly prominent role that British companies like Royal Ordnance and Hunting Engineering played in the past in producing and selling anti-personnel landmines that there is a moral imperative on the government to contribute substantially to the clear up. Not so, it would seem.
The British government commits £10 million of its overseas aid budget for humanitarian mine action. Landmine Action have pointed out that if the British Government devoted a similar percentage of Gross Domestic Product to landmine clearance as say Canada or Denmark then Britain would be giving £32 million a year.
True to form, only £3 m of the £10m budget allocated for landmine action is being spent on actual clearance.
So overall the British government"s commitment to first uphold the ban it signed up to under the Ottowa Treaty and second promote landmine clearance is highly suspect. The law enshrining the ban in UK domestic law has so far proved ineffectual while the amount given for clearance is derisory and misdirected. Not a great legacy for a Princess.
Click on the link above to visit Landmine Action.
by Daniel Tewfik