Representatives of 156 countries party to the Ottawa Convention Thursday signed the Cartagena Declaration, a pledge to end the use of landmines and devote more effort to supporting victims of the weapons.
The declaration comes in the final days of the convention, which began on Sunday in Cartagena de Indias. The delegates also agreed to continue working to make universal the Mine Ban Treaty, which came into effect in 1999, according to Colombian newswire Agencia EFE.
In signing the 2009 Cartagena Declaration, the delegates also agreed to work toward convincing the 39 countries that have not yet joined the Ottawa Convention to do so in coming years, including the United States, China, Russia and Cuba.
Though Colombia joined the Ottawa Convention in 1999 (banning the use, production and stock-piling of land mines), thousands of rural Colombians still suffer mutilation by land mines, which continue to be planted by the various forces in the country’s armed conflict.
Delegates Thursday also acknowledged that the Convention has not been able to meet with victims and people living with the daily threat of mines.
“We reaffirm our commitment to ending the suffering caused by landmines and achieve a world free of mines. We are convinced we will reach this goal in our lifetimes,” said the document. “Our goal is universal adherence to the Convention.”
To date 156 countries have joined the treaty that emerged from the Ottawa Convention in 1999, but the goal is for all countries join and comprehensively stop using landmines.
In the last 10 years, 42 million mines have been destroyed, and the extensive clean-up of danger areas has prevented countless deaths and mutilations, delegates at the convention said.
The Cartagena Declaration notes that a small number of states and armed groups outside the law are still using landmines, which poses new humanitarian challenges and perpetuates suffering.
In 2008 the only national armies still using landmines were Russia and Burma, and insurgent groups like Colombia’s FARC and the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka became the principal users of these weapons. The FARC recently even went so far as to seek money from civilians injured by landmines they said were intended for Colombian soldiers.
The Cartagena Summit, held under the slogan “For a world without landmines”, stressed the need to provide more support for victims and to work for their full and effective inclusion in society.
“We reaffirm our goal of preventing, by clearing all mined areas and the destruction of all stockpiled anti-personnel mines as soon as possible, a single new victim,” the declaration said.
The year 2009 was marked as a goal for a “world free of landmines” but so far not all countries of the world have signed up to make that a reality.