12/03 – The Ottawa Treaty

Afghan Commandos clear a road of mines and other explosive threats. (Wikipedia)

On this day in 1997, The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction – or, the Ottawa Treaty – was signed by delegates from 121 countries in Ottawa, Canada. There are two main types of landmines – anti-tank (AT) and anti-personnel (AP). AT mines target large vehicles and generally require a huge amount of pressure before they explode, making them less dangerous towards humans. AP mines, however – the subject of the Ottawa Treaty – are very sensitive and are generally designed to horrifically main whoever sets them off. Some – such as the Russian PFM-1 – are designed to look like toys so that children will injure themselves while playing with them. AP mines are easy to place (and even easier to forget) so, long after a conflict is over, thousands or even millions of them may be hidden around any given country like Angola, Afghanistan or Bosnia. According to UNICEF, between 15,000 and 20,000 civilians are killed or injured by landmines (primarily of the AP type) every year.

At the time of its creation, the Treaty was supported by the likes of Princess Diana of Wales and other public figures. While the Treaty has been somewhat of a success – 164 nations have signed on as of 2019 – there have been some notable exceptions. The United States, Russia and China – some of the world’s top weapons producers – have failed to sign.

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