President Obama, the US Should Join the Mine Ban Treaty

A young victim awaits treatment at the International Red Cross Orthopedic (ICRC) rehabilitation center on December 10, 2009 in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)

PHR joined partner organizations in an April 4, 2012, letter [pdf] calling on President Obama to officially announce future US policy on landmines, and to join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. To date, the US has not taken the official step of acceding to (joining) the monumental treaty which forbids countries from using, producing, stockpiling, or transferring anti-personnel mines and requires countries to destroy existing mines.

The Administration announced in November 2009 that it was conducting a thorough review of U.S. policy on the matter, and PHR at that time urged the President to announce a strong stance against landmines.

If the US accedes to the Mine Ban Treaty, it would join 159 other countries–including every member of NATO and the European Union–that are already party to the treaty. By joining the treaty, the US could encourage other countries to move one step closer to a world free of landmines. Dozens of major medical, nursing, and public health associations in the United States and globally have called on all nations to join the Mine Ban Treaty.

PHR was a leader of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), for which it shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the ICBL, and offers an important opportunity to reflect on the extraordinary progress since the Campaign’s inception as well as to press for a greater international commitment to ban landmines.

Since the Mine Ban Treaty came into force, there has been a steep decline in the number of producers of the weapon as well as the number of governments that use mines. Vast areas previously infested with landmines have since been cleared, and there has been a decrease in the number of stockpiled mines.

While the use of landmines has significantly reduced since the 1990s, more progress is needed to end the scourge. Landmines continue to maim or kill an estimated 6000 people every year, including in areas of conflict such as Burma and Syria.

The 20thanniversary of the ICBL should provide the international community with renewed energy to press for universal commitment to the Mine Ban Treaty, greater support for mine clearance programs, and greater access to medical care for victims of mines.

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