Deadly remnants of past wars, landmines are responsible for the death and maiming of tens of thousands of innocent civilian men, women, and children in countries already ravaged by the economic, environmental, and psychological scars of violent conflict.
In 1991, PHR researched and exposed the overwhelming public health threat of landmines in Cambodia. With Human Rights Watch, we released our report “Coward’s War: Landmines in Cambodia” that, for the first time, called for a comprehensive ban on this indiscriminate and deadly weapon. The report helped galvanize international attention to the devastating effects of antipersonnel landmines on civilians, particularly children.
Following the report, PHR joined with five like-minded organizations to found the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which has had a singular goal since its creation in 1992: a worldwide ban on antipersonnel landmines.
We mobilized the health community’s engagement, and participated in international disarmament meetings that led to the International Mine Ban Treaty. This treaty, which came into force faster than any arms control treaty in modern history, bans the use, trade, production, and stockpiling of antipersonnel mines and requires signatories to participate in demining and victim assistance efforts.
The treaty was originally signed by 122 governments in December 1997. Since then, 80 percent of the world’s governments have joined. It is considered the defining instrument for ridding the world of the scourge of landmines.
In 1997, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the campaign and its coordinator, Jody Williams. As one of the founding members of the campaign, PHR shared in the prize.
In its announcement, the Norwegian Nobel Committee applauded the campaign for changing the idea of a mine ban from “a vision to a feasible reality.” The Committee also recognized that the campaign offered “a model for similar processes in the future” in areas of disarmament and peace.