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Landmine ban campaign revs up

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Rolling up your pants leg has never meant as much as it does now.

On March 1st a global campaign was launched to put an end within our lifetime to the relentless destruction caused by landmines.

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Around the world, people are joining together in solidarity to take a stand, to step forward and to ‘Lend a Leg for a mine free world’, all through the simple gesture of rolling up their pants leg.  

Launched on the 13th anniversary of the adoption of the International Mine Ban Treaty and running until International Mines Awareness Day on April 4th, ‘Lend Your Leg’ is a month long call to action – for civil society, governments and partners – to work diligently together to a make a mine free world a reality.

Juan Pablo, Director of the Colombian Campaign to Ban Landmines and creator of the ‘Lend your Leg’ campaign explains: “Through Lend Your Leg we want to wake the world up and see that by taking part in this simple action and by saying ‘no more’ to this injustice we truly can put an end to these weapons for good.”

Since the Mine Ban Treaty became law 13 years ago, 80 per cent of the world’s countries have banned landmines, millions of mines have been removed from the ground and billions of dollars have been invested into land release, survivor assistance and mine risk education.

Despite this progress, there still remains a lot more work to be done before landmines become a thing of the past.

The Treaty is not yet universal. Currently, 159 States have obligations to the Mine Ban Treaty.

Sounds impressive however, of those countries that have not yet joined and ratified the treaty are the world leaders, among them the United States, China, India and Russia. Furthermore, last year took a worrying turn.

For the first time in seven years, the use of landmines by states rose.

The human cost remains high. Last year’s Landmine Monitor recorded 4,191 new casualties: that equates to nearly 12 people every day. Of these casualties, civilians made up 75 per cent and 43 per cent were children.

“It shocks me that landmines still claim lives every day and yet the majority of people aren’t aware of the damage they cause. They kill, they maim people for life and they act as deadly barriers to people struggling to survive the aftermath of war,” Juan Pablo says.

As far as the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Jesuit Refugee Services is concerned, just one casualty is one too many.

The psychological burden carries on incessantly. It must be remembered that landmines are just as much an attack on the mind as they are the body. Countless people live and work in suspected hazardous areas and often these people are acutely aware of the risk that they face on a day-to-day basis but are left with no choice.

When asked if there were more explosive remnants of war close by her village Yay Mao, whose grandson died last year due to a cluster munitions explosion, shrugged her shoulders, “probably, but what can we do? We must live.”

Of course, at a national level, the needs of each country vary dramatically.

In the case of Cambodia, the fourth most mine affected country in the world, we want everyone to step forward and Lend their Leg for more rapid mine and cluster bomb clearance, improvement of the lives of survivors and for the Cambodian government to sign the Treaty to ban cluster munitions.

We kick started the campaign early on February 16th when Japan donated US$16 worth of de-mining materials to the Cambodian government.

Sister Denise Coghlan, JRS Cambodia Country Director and Cambodia Campaign to Ban Landmines Director, “rolled up” alongside Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and the Japanese Ambassador. The very next day, German parliamentarians and rights group Licadho also joined the campaign and “rolled up” as they visited the Mindol Metta Karuna Centre.

The action continued at the National Mines Awareness Day held on February 24th in mine-affected area Samlout, Battambang.
International Campaign to Ban Landmines youth ambassador and landmine survivor Song Kosal spoke and, with the help of the Arrupe dancers, asked everyone to “Lend a Leg”. From high-ranking government officials to young school children, de-miners to NGO workers, everyone rolled up their pants leg and said,“enough is enough”.

The campaigning doesn’t stop there. Throughout this month there will by a series of other events, including a UNDP photo exhibition in Siem Reap, raising awareness and hopefully putting landmines back on the political agenda and out of the ground.

You can be involved too.

It’s easy – get in touch with your national campaign or plan an event yourself! “We want to hear what Thailand is doing, what Indonesia is doing, what Papua New Guinea is doing… We want everyone to get involved!” says Sister Denise Coghlan.

The success of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines is a strong reminder of the power of civil society, and the partnership between NGOs and governments that this campaign represents.

The adoption of the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997 was the first time a civil society grassroots campaign had ever succeeded in lobbying for a global ban on a weapon that had been in widespread use. For this achievement, the ICBL was awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.

We want Lend your Leg to continue this spirit of collective action and celebrate the power of civil society. Lend your Leg, sponsored by the ICBL’s global civil society network and the United Nations, including Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon himself, is an example of this influential worldwide partnership and how it still has the capacity to affect change.

Sister Denise smiles as she urges “Civil society, in partnership with governments won the mine ban treaty. Now come on! Lend your Leg and let’s do it again so that we can make a world cleared of mines where survivors live in dignity!”

Tess O’Brien is a project officer at Jesuit Refugee Service. JSR is hosting an International Women’s Day candlelight procession in Siem Reap on Thursday.
It will begin at 6pm at the Mindol Metta Karuna (opposite the Royal International Hospital).

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