Handicap International Welcomes U.S. Policy Shift on Landmines—With One Exception

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U.S. commits to not using anti-personnel mines, but says it will make an exception for use in the Korean Peninsula

September 20, 2014, Handicap International's annual Pyramid of Shoes event in Lyon France. © Pascal Grappin / Handicap International

...we urge the U.S. government to find alternatives to landmines in Korea.

Handicap International welcomes today’s Obama Administration statement, promising the United States “will not use [anti-personnel landmines] outside of the Korean Peninsula, where our actions are governed by the unique situation there.” The statement adds that the U.S. will “diligently undertake to destroy stockpiles of these landmines that are not required for the defense of the Republic of Korea.”

The Administration’s latest statement echoed a goal set in June 2014, by stating it will work to “be compliant with and ultimately … join the Ottawa Convention.”

“We congratulate the Obama administration on this vital step forward towards the U.S. becoming compliant with the Ottawa Treaty,” says Elizabeth MacNairn, executive director of Handicap International U.S. “However, we urge the U.S. government to find alternatives to landmines in the Korean Peninsula. Given that the U.S. has repeatedly acknowledged the serious humanitarian consequences of using anti-personnel landmines, it is illogical and immoral for the U.S. to continue using mines in any country. The inevitable loss of innocent lives and limbs is an outrage.”

For more than 20 years, the U.S. has refrained from using or trading anti-personnel landmines. The country also hasn’t produced new landmines since 1997. It is by far the world’s largest donor to projects that reduce the threat of landmines and explosive remnants of war, with $2.3 billion spent on mine action in 90 countries since 1993.

The use of landmines by other countries still remains a real threat. According to the statement, the U.S. “will not assist, encourage, or induce others to use, stockpile, produce or transfer anti-personnel landmines outside of the Korean Peninsula.”

However, the Korea statement failed to provide clear deadlines about when President Barack Obama might submit the treaty to the United States Senate for ratification. “The positive announcements made in today’s statement must be cemented into our country’s laws through ratification in the U.S. Senate,” MacNairn adds. “We hope that this crucial step won’t drift beyond President Obama's term in office as president."

Global funding for action against mines reached $681 million in 2012, after a decade that saw clearance or survey work release nearly 2,000 km2 [772 square miles] of land from mines. As of June 2013, nearly 30 States Parties to the treaty have finished clearing mines from their territories, and 87 States Parties have destroyed more than 47 million stockpiled mines.

By working to accede to the Ottawa Treaty, the U.S. confirms that these standards are essential and sets an example to follow. Handicap International urges powers like China and Russia, which along with 33 other countries have not joined the treaty, to follow the American example.

Handicap International will work to encourage U.S. authorities to achieve its goals in the months ahead. The charity runs or supports projects to minimize the impact of landmines on the population in dozens of countries, returning land to communities through demining, teaching people to spot, avoid and report explosive remnants of war through risk education, and providing support and care to victims of landmines. The organization works to raise the visibility of these landmine victims and their communities, so that the world is reminded of the scourge of landmines.

About Handicap International
Co-winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, Handicap International is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 32 years. Working alongside persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our actions and testimony focus on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since 1982, Handicap International has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. The network of eight national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States) works constantly to mobilize resources, jointly manage projects and to increase the impact of the organization's principles and actions. Handicap International is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and winner of the 2011 Hilton Humanitarian Prize. Handicap International takes action and campaigns in places where “standing tall” is no easy task.

Generous donors make this life-saving and life-affirming work possible. Tax-deductible donations are accepted 24-hours a day at http://www.handicap-international.us/donate

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