International Day of Mine Awareness
Today, we take a moment around the world to commemorate those who have been killed by landmines. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines estimates that landmine explosions caused injury or death to 4,000 to 5,000 people just in 2011 and that millions more suffer from the agricultural, economic, and psychological impacts of the weapon. UNICEF notes that 30 to 40% of landmine victims are younger than 15. Landmines are used during times of war, and can lie dormant for decades near the surface of the earth until they are triggered by a person or animal. There are between 70 and 80 million landmines in the ground in one-third of the world's nations and, while landmines cost only $3 each to create, they can cost up to $1000 to remove. Because of this, people can still become casualties of war long after a truce has been secured. Additionally, landmines restrict population movement and land cultivation and keep infrastructure from being repaired. These problems are amplified in post-conflict and impoverished areas, where landmines are most often found.
The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, commonly referred to as the Mine Ban Treaty or the Ottawa Convention, was adopted on September 18, 1997, and entered into force on March 1, 1999. Parties to this treaty are required to destroy their stockpile of land mines; make every possible effort to clear the land in their jurisdiction of land mines; help mine victims and provide mine-risk education; and submit annual reports to the UN on its progress toward achieving these goals. Currently 159 countries have signed and ratified the treaty, yet both the U.S. and Israel are among the 37 states that have failed to do so. If we are to truly promote global peace and security as a nation, we must ratify the Mine Ban Treaty immediately. In December 2011, the Union for Reform Judaism passed a resolution on landminesat its Biennial Convention. In this resolution, the URJ resolved to:
- Acknowledge the security concerns involved but understanding the significant toll landmines take on civilian populations, during and after periods of armed conflict, encourage the United States, Israel, and all nations that have not ratified the Ottawa Treaty to join as parties;
- Call on all nations that have not signed the treaty
- To declare a moratorium on the sale and export of anti-personnel landmines;
- To support the elimination of anti-personnel landmines and other such weapons throughout the world as expeditiously as possible; and
- To support organizations assisting those individuals affected by anti-personnel landmines.
As the resolution notes: “Jewish ‘just war theory’ urges that wars be fought and weapons deployed in ways that minimize as far as feasible harm to civilians and damage to the environment.” Land mines clearly do not fall in this category of acceptable weapons. We hope that, on this day next year, we will be both commemorating the victims of landmines and celebrating two new signatories to the Mine Ban Treaty.To learn more about the International Day for Mine Awareness, visit http://www.lendyourleg.org/. Picture courtesy of AFP.