Vienna, 4 April 2018 Press release

International Mine Awareness Day: Karin Kneissl pushes for a mine-free world

Thousands of people were killed or wounded in mine explosions last year alone, illustrating the urgent need for a mine-free world. Today’s International Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action Day remembers the victims and aims to call on the International Community to continue the efforts for an eradication of anti-personnel mines.

Each year, anti-personnel mines kill hundreds of people around the world, leaving thousands injured. 20 years ago, Austria was among the initiators of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty. As Austria held the Presidency of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty in 2017, I call on our international partners to put more focus on this important humanitarian issue. We remain fully committed to the implementation and will continue to strive for universality of the convention

Foreign Minister Kneissl said in a statement today. “Austria has, for a long time, considered the fight against anti-personnel mines as one of our foreign policy priorities. Since 2000, we have given more than 25 million euro for mine action, supporting projects in Bosnia, Iraq, Libya, Mozambique, Ukraine and many other states. We are particularly engaged in ensuring long-time facilitation of victim assistance. Today, we stand in solidarity with the victims and their families, taking this day as a reminder to never stop pushing for our goal of a mine free world.” The “Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction”, informally known as “Ottawa Treaty”, opened for signature on 3 December 1997 and entered into force on 1 March 1999.

For the first time, a legally binding disarmament instrument went beyond the mere restriction of means and methods of warfare by putting additional explicit focus on the protection and support of civilians and victims. Austria was part of the core group of States, working in close coordination with civil society, ICRC and UN to elaborate the Convention. Today, the Treaty counts 164 state parties, 157 States Parties have disposed of their stockpiles, 51 million landmines have been destroyed so far, 2.2 million in 2016 alone, vast areas of land have been cleared of mines and reclaimed for use. Austria held the Presidency of the Convention for the 20th year of its existence and hosted a Meeting of the States Parties to the Convention in Vienna from 18 to 22 December. The number of casualties from mines, victim-activated improvised explosive devices and explosive remnants of war has been successfully reduced from 9,220 in 1999 to 3,965 in 2014.

However, many challenges still lie ahead: after 2015 with 6,461 2016 with 8.605 was the second year in a row with exceptionally high numbers of people recorded as killed or injured by landmines, including improvised types. This rise is mainly due to warfare in Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Yemen or Libya. While the use of mines by States has become a relatively rare phenomenon (2017 Myanmar and Syria- both states not party to the Convention), non-state armed groups still lay these heinous weapons. On 8 December 2000, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 4 April to be officially observed as International Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action Day. The efforts of the work against landmines have also been recognised by the Nobel Prize Committee, who awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Jody Williams and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) in 1997.

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