Geneva anti-mine centre comes of age

The centre’s new legal status will help foster the destruction of anti-personnel mines Keystone Archive

The Swiss government has awarded special legal status to the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), in the same week that a global anti-personnel-mine treaty marked its fourth anniversary.

GICHD now has greater independence to ensure international co-operation in clearing mines.

The Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, signed the historic agreement with Cornelio Sommaruga, the organisation's president, on Tuesday.

GICHD can now forge ahead with promoting global collaboration, as defined by a special mandate it was given two years ago.

In 2001, it was given the task of supporting the implementation of the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines. That treaty has been signed by 120 countries.

Official recognition by the Swiss means the Geneva-based organisation can set up a permanent think-tank of mine-clearing experts, who will share ideas and propose new solutions.

The centre is also designing an information-processing system, suited to the needs of the United Nations and other organisations active in the field.

The foundation already provides operational assistance to on-going demining programmes and is involved in research.

Success story

Thanks to the 1997 convention, some 30 million mines have been destroyed in the four years since it came into effect.

"This is a truly remarkable achievement. These weapons will never, ever threaten to take life or limb of an innocent civilian," said Suzanne Walker, a representative from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

Switzerland itself had a stockpile of 3.9 million mines and all of these have since been destroyed.

The 1997 Convention requires its signatories to destroy all stockpiles within four years of signing up. The countries have ten years to clear minefields, which is a more complex process.

Mines continue to be a danger to people in more than 60 countries; campaigners estimate about 100 million of these weapons are still deployed worldwide.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Some 30 million mines have been destroyed since the 1997 anti-personnel Convention came into force.

The Convention requires its signatories to destroy all stockpiles within four years of signing up.

Countries have ten years to clear mine-fields, which is a more complex process.

Switzerland itself had a stockpile of 3.9 million mines and all of these have since been destroyed.

Mines continue to be a danger to people in more than 60 countries; campaigners estimate about 100 million of these weapons are still deployed worldwide.

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