Government unveils anti-landmine strategy

More than 20,000 people are killed or wounded by landmines each year Keystone Archive

The Swiss government has pledged to step up the global fight against landmines, which are estimated to kill or maim more than 20,000 people each year.

This content was published on June 18, 2004 - 16:10

The announcement comes five years after the Ottawa Convention banning the use and production of anti-personnel mines came into force.

Senior Swiss diplomat Peter Maurer said the aim was to coordinate activities currently conducted by different government agencies and departments.

“For the first time we are launching a comprehensive strategy which includes all our activities in the fight against landmines,” Maurer told swissinfo.

“This means we are bringing together humanitarian, development and security policies in the field of mine action as a single Swiss strategy,” he added.

Coordinating projects

The government has been involved in international efforts to destroy stockpiles of landmines since 1993. It is now seeking to link this work with long-term projects to help countries which are still heavily mined.

“Mines inhibit the development of societies after periods of conflict because when roads are mined people cannot move,” said Maurer.

Countries which are likely to be the focus of Swiss anti-landmine efforts over the next three years include Sudan, Mozambique, Colombia and Sri Lanka.

Switzerland currently invests around SFr14 million ($11.3 million) each year in anti-landmine activities and aims to boost this amount by a further SFr2 million by the middle of next year.

The Swiss foreign ministry also said it would renew efforts to encourage countries which have not yet signed up to the Ottawa Convention to do so as soon as possible.

Switzerland ratified the convention in 1998, but 43 countries - including China, Russia and the United States - remain outside it.

“We will do all we can to expand the number of countries signing up to this important international treaty,” said Maurer.

Global summit

The announcement of the new strategy to combat landmines comes ahead of an international summit in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

The meeting – scheduled for the end of November - is designed to focus global attention on the problem of landmines and assess what has been achieved since the launch of the Ottawa Convention in 1997.

Summit organisers hope to establish a five-year action plan aimed at ensuring that all remaining mined lands are cleared, stockpiled mines are destroyed and that mine survivors continue to receive the necessary humanitarian aid.

“Nairobi will be an important landmark,” said Maurer, “in the sense that it will be an opportunity to evaluate where we stand and what we still have to do to rid the world of landmines.”

swissinfo, Ramsey Zarifeh

Key facts

A total of 43 countries have not yet signed the Ottawa Convention.
These include China, Iraq, Russia, Singapore and the United States.
Switzerland ratified the treaty on March 24, 1998.
The United Nations has set a target of 2009 for the clearance of the majority of the world's estimated 110 million landmines.

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