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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 66, September 2002

News Review

Kabul Embraces Ottawa Convention

On July 29, the Afghanistan Cabinet approved the country's accession to the 1997 Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel landmines. Prior to the establishment of a full parliamentary system, Cabinet approval is sufficient to initiate the formal signing and ratification process.

The move, by the world's most mined nation, was announced in Kabul on July 28. Addressing the opening session of a three-day international conference on 'Building a Peaceful Future for Afghanistan: A Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines', Dr. Abdullah stated: "Every Afghan woman, man and child will rest assured that no one in this country will ever again be targeted by anti-personnel landmines. ... Today...we give hope to millions in Afghanistan and around the world by moving this country one step forward as a credible and viable member of the international community".

The scale of the task facing demining agencies in Afghanistan was summarised in a July 26 press release from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), co-sponsors of the Kabul conference with the Afghan authorities and the UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (MACA):

"All but two of Afghanistan's provinces are contaminated with anti-personnel mines following more than two decades of war. For years, millions of mines have hindered development and relief efforts, posing a threat to civilians, aid workers, peacekeepers and military personnel alike. Some 150 to 300 people are killed or injured by landmines and unexploded ordnances (UXOs) each month, according to MACA. These deaths and casualties rose sharply as civilians fled into unfamiliar and often mined areas during the recent conflict. Now mines threaten the lives and limbs of refugees and displaced people returning in large numbers to Afghanistan from neighbouring Iran and Pakistan. Mine action activities were severely affected by the recent conflict: work came to a halt after September 11 and clearance and survey equipment and facilities were damaged and lost as a result of air strikes and looting. Today the country's long-established mine clearance, survey and mine-risk education programmes are operating at full capacity once more and many have expanded their work into previously inaccessible areas. With sustained donor support, the country's 360 square kilometres of high priority mined areas could be cleared within ten years, and possibly sooner. When this important farming and residential land is cleaned up, along with roads and irrigation canals, Afghans will be able to get back to a normal life."

Reports: Afghan landmines focus of conference, Associated Press, July 26; Karzai urged to bring hope to most mined country, ICBL Press Release, July 26; Kabul accepts treaty banning mines, Associated Press, July 28; Afghanistan's cabinet ratifies treaty banning land mines, Associated Press, July 29; Afghanistan commits to joining mine ban treaty, ICBL Press Release, July 29.

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