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PUSH FOR PROGRESS

For 12 years the West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines and PSALM: Proud Students Against Landmines and Cluster Munitions have been committed to educating the public about the devastation caused by landmines and cluster munitions through donations of their time, talent and energy.PSALM/WVCBL is “PUSHING FOR PROGRESS” on the Mine Ban Treaty! Awareness events included a balloon launch with messages of hope that a “MINE FREE WORLD” is possible and that is time for the United States to “get on board” and ban landmines and cluster bombs. PSALM/WVCBL  attended the Eleventh Meeting of the States Parties to the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention (11MSP) which took place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia the first week of December 2011. Our connection to Cambodia is a very real one. The first international campaigners to encourage and educate us about these issues were from the Cambodian Campaign to Ban Landmines, the co-recipients to the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.        The Mine Ban Treaty has successfully stigmatized and created an international norm against the weapon. Today, 158 nations are signatories. Casualty rates are a fraction of what they were 20 years ago. Eighty-six parties to the treaty have eradicated their stockpiles, collectively destroying more than 45 million antipersonnel mines. The treaty emerged from the human tragedy caused by mines in Cambodia as well as in so many other locations around the world. Unlike other disarmament treaties, born in Washington or Moscow, or Geneva or New York, this Convention emerged from the reality faced by people in Cambodia, in Mozambique, in Nicaragua, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Afghanistan, and in countless other mine infested towns, villages, farms, communities and countries around the world. Up until the mid 1990s, the anti-personnel mine was used seemingly without question as to its consequences. Thanks to the international movement that grew out of such places as Cambodia, the world became well aware that there are indeed tragic consequences. MORE than anything, the experience of countries like Cambodia and the tireless efforts of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines put a human face on this issue.

Push for Progress…USA, don’t walk away!

PSALM  students displayed large banners with hand drawn figures of themselves working for a “LANDMINE/CLUSTER BOMB FREE WORLD”. Students launched 50 red, blue and white balloons, the colors of the Cambodian and USA flags. The colors are symbolic of our hope that the United States and countries everywhere will ban the use of land mines and cluster munitions. Each balloon carried a message of hope for children around the world to be able to “walk without  fear” and for the U.S. to not “walk away”…ban landmines and cluster bombs NOW!  The students attached pictures of 5 year old cluster bomb victim, Ahmad Mokaled to each balloon. Ahmad has become a symbol for our students of the indiscriminate nature of these weapons and the devastation theycause.

With the 11MSP, the Convention is returned to a place where it all started two decades ago, Cambodia, a country that remains one of the most mine affected countries in the world. It was also the chance to show the world that this is an issue that countless victims live with today. It was an opportunity to remember that the Convention has a human face. It is the face of a sister, brother, mother, father or child who has lost a loved one as a result of a landmine.

An important aspect of our mission of educating others is to document the issue in affected areas. This allows us to share with others the effects of landmines and cluster munitions on innocent civilians, days, months and years after conflicts are over. Last year, I had the opportunity to take photographs Xieng Khouang province in Laos. These photos show the devastation caused by these indiscriminate weapons. Schools and school children in mined areas, farmers working in fields marked with the all too familiar “danger mines” symbols and sadly, the victims/survivors who had only been out looking for food, water or firewood. The United States has not used antipersonnel mines since the 1991 Gulf War — 20 years ago. It banned export of the weapons in 1992, and ceased production in 1997. Despite the obvious moral and humanitarian reasons for joining this treaty, the United States has yet to do so. U.S. compliance would eliminate the excuse used by other key powers, including Russia, China, Vietnam, Pakistan and India, for not joining the treaty. We join with 16 Nobel Peace Prize laureates and 68 U.S. Senators, more than the two-thirds majority needed for Senate ratification of the treaty) who have urged President Obama to join the 158 other countries, including all of our NATO allies, that have signed the treaty.

Walk Without Fear

WVCBL/PSALM say “JOIN THE TEAM” AND “PUSH FOR PROGRESS”! The time is NOW for action! EVERY child should be able to walk without fear!

 

USA…Don’t Walk Away!

 

Landmines Blow! water well

PSALM students sponsored three water wells in mine affected regions of Cambodia. The wells provide clean safe water to families, landmine survivors, internally displaced persons and refugees. Children are especially at risk when going outside of their villages for clean water.

 

 

STARFISH PROJECT “You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person”. PSALM: Proud Students Against Landmines organize  ”Starfish” Days to raise funds for a water well in Cambodia. The wells provide clean safe water to families, landmine survivors, internally displaced persons and refugees. Children are especially at risk when going outside of their villages for clean water.  Our well project is called “The Starfish Project”. This story is emblematic of the idea that each person we serve is a person who can genuinely benefit from our work. Seemingly hopeless problems can only be solved by taking the first step. STARFISH STORY: Walking down a deserted beach after a storm, a man noticed someone in the distance. When he got closer, he saw a young child bend down, pick up an object from the sand and throw it into the ocean. The ritual was repeated over and over, time and again. As the man approached the youngster, he said, “May I ask what you are doing?” “I’m throwing these starfish back into the ocean. If I don’t help them, they won’t get back into the water and they’ll die.” “I understand,” the man replied, “but there must be thousands of starfish on this beach and it’s hundreds of miles long. You can’t possibly make a difference.” The child bent down, picked up another starfish and tossed it into the ocean. “It made a difference to that one!”

PSALM teams up with Landmines Blow! for this project. Landmines Blow! is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of the global landmine crisis. Benefits of Gaining Access to Clean Water…

* Women and children do not need to travel through areas littered with landmines to collect water.

* The time saved in carrying water means that women have more time for being involved in productive activities (such as agriculture, tending animals or income generating activities such as spinning cotton for sale at markets).

* Women are able to send their children (especially female children) to school as a result of not needing children to help with water collection.

* Both health and hygiene improves across the community.  Our wells provide families with on-going access to clean water which can be used for drinking, cooking, bathing, washing clothes, and feeding animals and chickens.

* The wastewater from the wells is used for home gardening. Food grown can support a family with extra being sold at the market.

* Common water related diseases are less likely to occur, these diseases especially deadly to children.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON HOW TO GET INVOLVED:

www.icbl.org, www.stopclustermunitions.org, www.uscbl.org, and www.landminesblow.org.

USA… The Time is NOW to “JOIN THE TEAM”!

Join the Team!PSALM Celebrates the 1st Anniversary of the Convention on Cluster Munitions

The Time is NOW! USA…Ban Cluster Bombs

WVCBL/PSALM met with students from our “sister” city in Mexico, Guanajuato. Students discussed ways to work together to raise awareness about cluster bombs and landmines around the world.On 1 August 2011, WVCBL/PSALM will join Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) members worldwide to take part in coordinated campaign actions to celebrate the first anniversary of entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. WVCBL/PSALM/CMC call on ALL governments, especially the U.S., to “Join the Team” by acceding to and ratifying the ban on cluster munitions (CCM) and starting to implement the treaty as soon as possible. The entry into force of such a major piece of international humanitarian law is a rare and special occasion. Entry into force was triggered when the Convention reached 30 ratifications in February 2010, just 14 months after it opened for signature in Oslo in December 2008. This swift entry into force is a reflection of the growing international revulsion toward cluster munitions and the civilian harm they cause. For a complete list of countries that have signed and ratified the treaty, please visit: www.stopclustermunitions.org/treatystatus. Awareness events planned by WVCBL/PSALM are an opportunity to highlight the rights of people with disabilities and the victim assistance provisions of the CCM. Actions planned include art/photo exhibits and awareness events. We hope to encourage ALL countries, including the U.S., to participate in the upcoming Second Meeting of States Parties (2MSP) in Beirut, Lebanon from 12-16 September, 2011 AND the 11th Meeting of the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Phnom Penh, Cambodia,  Nov. 28 – Dec. 2, 2011.

March 1st: 12th Anniversary of the Mine Ban Treaty EIF

PSALM/WVCBL CELEBRATE THE MINE BAN TREATY

PSALM/WVCBL Celebrate the Mine Ban Treaty

On March 1st PSALM students released 50 balloons marking the anniversary of the Mine Ban Treaty Entry Into Force and their own founding. Each balloon will carried a message of hope that the United States and countries everywhere will “GET ON BOARD” and ban these indiscriminate weapons so that children the world over can “walk without fear” in a world free of landmines and cluster bombs. PSALM/WVCBL will hold awareness events throughout March and April.

PSALM at the West Virginia House of Representatives

Led by State Representative Barbara Fleischauer and escorted by local delegates to the WV House of Representatives PSALM students in their tie-dyed PSALM T-shirts heard the reading of House Resolution 30 honoring their work to ban landmines and cluster bombs.

PSALM students made presentations at the West Virginia State Legislature and were presented with a WV House of Representatives Resolution commending their efforts. Led by State Representative Barbara Fleischauer and escorted by local delegates to the front of the chamber, the students in their tie-dyed PSALM T-shirts heard the reading of House Resolution 30 honoring their work and received a copy of the resolution. The document notes that mines and cluster bombs continue to endanger civilians long after a conflict is finished. After the presentation, students talked about why they participate. “We do this because there are people out there dying and we want to save their lives,” said Melanie, 10. Logan, 11, described how some people must cross a mine field to get water. “There are people that are hurt.

They’re innocent people.” Lexi, 10, was carrying a prosthetic leg. She said some of those who lose legs to mines are too poor to afford a leg like that, and must be fitted with wooden legs. “It’s meaningful to us because we really want to ban these weapons that are harming children”.

ryan mine free

PSALM/WVCBL students display banners

WVCBL/PSALM say…The TIME IS NOW…“U.S. citizens and other campaigners from around the world have been calling on the U.S. to join the Mine Ban Treaty since the conventions opened for signature in 1997,” said Zach Hudson, USCBL Coordinator. “Since the policy review announcement this outcry has only intensified; the administration has received letters of support for the Mine Ban Treaty from 68 Senators, NGO leaders, key NATO allies, 15 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, victims of U.S. landmines, and countless concerned Americans. Enough is enough—it’s time to join.” The USCBL has noted that it would not be difficult for the U.S. to join the Mine Ban Treaty, as it is already in compliance with the majority of the convention’s provisions: the U.S. has not used antipersonnel landmines since 1991, has not exported any since 1992, and has not produced any since 1997. The U.S. is also the world’s largest individual donor to mine action programs. Part of the Mine Ban Treaty anniversary celebrations, ICBL campaigners will be meeting with U.S. government officials at U.S. embassies around the world to urge the U.S. to join the Mine Ban Treaty. The United States Campaign to Ban Landmine, currently coordinated by Handicap International, is a coalition of thousands of people and U.S. non-governmental organizations including PSALM/WVCBL working to: (1) ensure no U.S. use, production, or transfer of antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions; (2) encourage the U.S. to join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions; and (3) secure high levels of U.S. government support for clearance and assistance programs for victims of landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war. The USCBL is the U.S. affiliate of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL)—the co-laureate of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize—and  is a member of the Cluster Munition Coalition, an international coalition working to protect civilians from the effects of cluster munitions by promoting universal adherence to and full implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. JOIN US! www.uscbl.org.

 

 

PSALM Students and WVCBL Celebrate the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT), the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) and the International Day for Persons with Disabilities

HALF DECENT WVCBL LOGO
PSALM students hosted an art/photo exhibit at St. Francis de Sales Parish Meeting Hall in Morgantown, West Virginia on December 4th and 5th.
The photo exhibit and awareness event was to mark December 3rd. On December 3rd,1997 the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT) opened for signature in Ottawa, Canada, on December 3rd, 2008 the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) opened for signature in Oslo, Norway and it is the International Day for Persons with Disabilities). The art show/exhibit consisted of photographs from Laos, of PSALM students in action and a painted “shoe sculptures”. The shoes had facts about landmines, cluster bombs and survivors stories.

9shoe4

The shoes were placed on tables with articles about the Mine Ban Treaty, the Convention on Cluster Munitions and materials collected from the CCM 1st MSP and past MBT MSP meetings.

Students arranged presentations and hosted a reception in connection with the exhibit. The response was amazing! Reponses such as “I had no idea the impact was that serious” to “what can I do” allowed the students to educate the visitors about our work and what we hope to accomplish. PSALM students work countless hours to educate others about the devastation caused by landmines and cluster bombs to children around the world. Attending the 1st MSP was a sobering experience that made me realize the importance of the work of PSALM students. We believe our mission is possible! Campaigners, including PSALM/WVCBL will continue to urge ALL countries to get on board the treaties to ban cluster bombs and landmines.

Field Guides Lao UXO
Field Guides Lao UXO

1st Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Vientiane, Lao PDR

spot marked

As coordinator, I recently returned from Laos where I represented our PSALM students and WVCBL at the 1st Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Vientiane, Lao PDR November 8th-12th, 2010. Lao PDR was a highly appropriate venue as it is the most heavily bombed country in the world. The scale of devastation caused by cluster bombs and landmines is immense and shocking.
UXO Team

Sad reminder of the hidden dangers
Sad reminder of the hidden dangers

While in Laos, the Cluster Munition Coalition arranged for delegates to visit to Xieng Khuang province. I cannot understate the impact of a field trip to Xieng Khouang province which is one of the most heavily bombed areas in the Lao PDR. While there we witnessed cluster munition clearance operations ongoing by UXO Lao and the destruction of cluster munitions. It was powerful and truly life changing to witness the extent of the contamination first hand.

School near clearance area

As a teacher, what was particularly distressing was the close proximity of a school near this area. As I watched the children play, I could only wonder how often they came into contact with these remnants of war. I could easily imagine how the curiosity of a child would lead them to investigate these “bombies”. Many of the victims happen upon them while partaking of their daily activities. We were permitted to view the clearance team as they used metal detectors for surface clearance to detect weapons underground. When bombs are found, they were detonated either with a fuse or by an electrical charge. Seeing first-hand the painstaking work of deminers, looking at the pock-marked earth and feeling the shock of a blast even from a safe distance gave us a better sense of the reality of the cluster bomb problem that people face every day. While in Vientiane, we were reminded of the long-term devastation cluster munitions cause when, during the course of the meeting, a cluster submunition explosion in Lao PDR’s Bolikhamxay province killed a 10-year-old girl and injured her 15-year-old sister.

Cluster bombs

Throughout the week, meetings were held to clarify issues of victim assistance, clearance and risk education. COPE, the National Rehabilitation Center, hosted a wheelchair basketball game. It allowed us, as delegates, to view the centers’ facilities which are designed to work with the victims in their process of rehabilitation.

Cluster munitions detonated in Laos
Cluster munitions detonated in Laos

The Vientiane Action Plan, adopted at the end of the meeting, commits to “implement fully all of the obligations under the Convention”. In addition, it speeds up deadlines and sets budgets and targets to make it happen. At the closing ceremony of the Vientiane meeting, a delegation of survivors and a delegation of youth leaders from around the world each delivered strong declarations affirming their commitment to carry forward the campaign and hold governments to account.

Children in Laos with sign painted by PSALM students

An important aspect of our mission of educating others is to document the issue in affected areas. This allows PSALM students and WVCBL members to see the effects of landmines and cluster munitions on the people that have to deal with them day in and day out. It also shows PSALM students that they have a voice and their actions can have a positive impact on others… an invaluable lesson in hope and perseverance.

Dr. Larry Schwab with UXO LAO Map
Dr. Larry Schwab, WVCBL member, with UXO LAO Map
WVCBL Coordinator, Nora Sheets, Cambodian Campaign to Ban Landmines, Tun Channareth and Dr. Larry Schwab, WVCBL in Laos

Convention on Cluster Munitions EIF: August 2010

 

Students hold "Beat the Drum" banner in front of Morgantown City Hall

WVCBL: West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs/PSALM: Proud Students Against Landmines and Cluster Bombs joined campaigners around the world to “drum up” support through a range of actions aimed celebrating the
Cluster Bomb Ban Entry Into Force and raising awareness about the need to sign the treaty. Events in the City of Morgantown and the state of West Virginia during the month of August include awareness days, art installations, drumming circles and banners displayed throughout our city.

On August 3rd “Cluster Bomb/Landmine Awareness Week ” and the work of PSALM/WVCBL was recognized by City Council and presented with a City Proclamation by Morgantown Mayor, Bill Byrne. The proclamation encourages our national leaders to ban landmines and cluster munitions. On August 14th, PSALM/WVCBL joined campaigners around the globe and hosted drummers and musicians for a “Beat the Drum” event at the Monongalia Art Center to raise awareness about the Convention on Cluster Munitions and to celebrate the ENTRY INTO FORCE of the CCM as of August 1st.

USA...don't walk away...ban cluster bombs!

A slide presentation about the need to ban cluster munitions, landmines and their victims was projected on the side of the Mon Art Center as part of a student art project to raise awareness. The slides included artworks by students in PSALM. The slideshow was shown at night in various locations in our community.

Community Slideshow
Community Slideshow

Countdown to the Cluster Munitions Treaty: AUGUST 1st!

BAN CLUSTER BOMBS!

BAN CLUSTER BOMBS!

On April 23rd, 2010 PSALM began the 100 Day Countdown to the Cluster Munitions Treaty becoming binding, international law! This is truly a milestone in the history of diplomatic disarmament. We are excited to raise awareness, be a part of the process and essentially witness the “birth” of a new, international treaty.

On June 5th, WVCBL and Morgantown Drummers “BEAT THE DRUM” to Ban Cluster Bombs at the Monongalia Arts Center. PSALM/WVCBL wish to thank Tim Terman and drummers for their efforts to “drum” up support for the CMT!

On August 3rd, Morgantown City Council will make a Proclamation recognizing the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the work of PSALM students! We are asking drummers and musicians to join us the month of August to “Drum” up support for the banning of cluster munitions.

Support the CMT!

Support the CMT!

WVCBL/PSALM Celebrate MBT/CMT

The year 2010 marks an amazing passage of time for PSALM/ WVCBL (Proud Students Against Landmines and Cluster Bombs and the West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs) commemorated the 11th Anniversary of the Mine Ban Treaty and the 30th Ratification of the Cluster Munitions Treaty. PSALM students released balloons to raise awareness about landmines and cluster munitions with messages that read, “A LANDMINE AND CLUSTER BOMB FREE WORLD IS POSSIBLE”. We also celebrated the eleventh year anniversary of our founding by an amazing group of art students who wondered, “How can we make a difference in the world today?” The quote by Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” really rings true of the many people in the world that work for peace and justice.

We want to thank ALL OF YOU, our mentors and role models in the efforts to ban landmines and cluster munitions. You have inspired our students to use their talent and energy to make the world safer for children everywhere! YOU make our mission POSSIBLE!

Cluster Bomb Ban Treaty reaches 30th ratification milestone

We are so very excited and honored to have been a part of this process of what is essentially the birth of a new international disarmament treaty. On March 1st, we will organize a balloon release in Morgantown, West Virginia to raise awareness about the anniversary of the Mine Ban treaty and the 30th ratification of the CMC Treaty. Our hope is to bring the US on board to BOTH treaties by year’s end!
PLEASE join us for an Awareness Event in your community!

CMT to become binding international law on 1 August 2010!

Burkina Faso and Moldova ratified the international Convention banning cluster munitions today, bringing the total number of ratifications to 30 and triggering entry into force on 1 August 2010, when the Convention will become binding international law.

A total of 104 countries have signed the Convention since it opened for signature in Oslo in December 2008. The Convention comprehensively bans use, production, and transfer of cluster munitions and sets strict deadlines for stockpile destruction and clearance of contaminated land. In addition, the Convention obliges states to support survivors and affected communities.

After the Convention on Cluster Munitions enters into force on 1 August, the next milestone will be the First Meeting of States Parties, which is scheduled to be held in Lao PDR in late 2010. Lao PDR is the country most heavily contaminated by cluster munitions as a result of US bombing more than 30 years ago. Lao PDR is still the country most heavily contaminated by cluster munitions as a result of US bombing more than 30 years ago.

“The rapid pace of reaching 30 ratifications – only 15 months – reflects the strong global commitment to get rid of these weapons urgently,” said Steve Goose, CMC co-chair and director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch.

The Oslo Process and the treaty negotiations were characterized by a close partnership between pro-ban governments, civil society led by the CMC, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and UN agencies, as well as by the leadership of affected states such as Lao PDR and of individual survivors themselves.
The CMC urged as many states as possible to sign, ratify, and begin implementation of the Convention before the First Meeting of States Parties in Lao PDR in November. In particular, states that have already ratified the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and the 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities should put their full support behind the cluster bomb ban as well, as all three international treaties enshrine the same humanitarian and human rights principles for assistance to affected communities and the promotion of dignified lives for survivors and victims of armed violence.

Cartagena Summit on A Mine Free World

The Road to Cartagena: A Mine Free World

 IS Possible!

Report by Nora Sheets

Coordinator/WVCBL: West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines
and Cluster Bombs/PSALM: Proud Students Against Landmines
and Cluster Bombs
 

 cartagena summit 804

On November 28th, 2009, I was honored to represent the West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs and PSALM/ Proud Students Against Landmines Cluster Bombs and at the Cartagena Summit on A Mine Free World in Colombia. The Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World is the name given to the Second Review Conference of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, which entered into force ten years ago. It was an opportunity to prove that we are on the way towards ridding the world of the scourge of landmines. Over 1,000 participants including heads of States and Governments attended the Summit in Cartagena. During the meeting it was noted how anti-personnel mines continue to be used in conflicts around the world causing human suffering and impeding post-conflict development.

A 5K race through the streets of Cartagena was held on Sunday. It was an opportunity to see the city, test our endurance in the heat of Colombia. Vice-President Francisco Santos Calderon welcomed and started off the race in Plaza de la Aduana. The participation included those of antipersonnel mine survivors, people with disabilities, delegates from the international community, national authorities, members of civil society organizations and Cartagena’s community.

WVCBL/PSALM Coordinator, Nora Sheets, USCBL/Handicap International's Zach Hudson and Cluster Munitions Coalition's Thomas Nash

WVCBL/PSALM Coordinator, Nora Sheets, USCBL/Handicap International's Zach Hudson and Cluster Munitions Coalition's Thomas Nash

This was the second review summit the first one being in Nairobi, Kenya 5 years ago (which I was most honored to attend). Delegations reviewed the work that the 156 nations have done to eradicate the use of landmines and to help the survivors. A new Cartagena Action Plan was developed to address the challenges that remain in clearing minefields across the world and in assisting the survivors.

 ICBL Catagena

 The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) delegation, a network of more than 1,200 non-governmental organizations in over 70 countries and a 1997 Nobel Peace Prize co-laureate for its work on behalf of a mine-free world has made significant progress in eradicating antipersonnel mines since the Mine Ban Treaty took effect:

  • Global use, production, and trade of antipersonnel mines have been dramatically curtailed;
  • A total of 156 nations are party to the Mine Ban Treaty, and another two countries have signed but have not yet ratified. Nearly all of the 37 countries that have not yet joined are in de facto compliance with most of the treaty’s provisions.
  • Some 3,200 square kilometers of land has been cleared of mines and explosive remnants of war;
  • The number of new mine and explosive remnants of war casualties has significantly reduced each year, down to 5,197 recorded casualties in 2008, compared to an estimated 26,000 recorded and unrecorded casualties per year in the 1990s; and
  • More than 44 million stockpiled antipersonnel mines have been destroyed by states party to the Mine Ban Treaty.

Although much progress has been made through the AP Mine Ban Convention, many challenges remain. Some countries that have not yet joined the Convention, such as China, India, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States, have large stockpiles of landmines.

USCBL

USCBL

The Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention seeks to eradicate the use of landmines and to end the suffering caused to victims. States that join are required to never use landmines again and to provide assistance to the survivors. 156 States are party to the Convention.

Plenary Hall

Plenary Hall

  The Conference began with a session on victim assistance, the agenda specifically chosen to emphasize the recognition of States Parties of the need for a renewed commitment to urgently implementing victim assistance provisions under the Convention. Inclusion of provisions for victim assistance is one of the most significant achievements of the Mine Ban Treaty.

Juanes and Jody Williams discuss with survivors victims issues

Juanes and Jody Williams discuss with survivors victims issues

JUANES, the Colombian music superstar lent his voice to the world summit. In 2006 Juanes became the first artist ever to perform in the debating chamber of the European Parliament as part of the European Union campaign to eradicate landmines. Juanes, a 17-time Grammy Award Winner, founder of the Mi Sangre Foundation, and mine eradication activist said he is proud to support The Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World.

We were pleased that the United States attended the Ottawa Convention’s Review Conference for the first time. The Administration’s decision to attend this Review Conference is the result of an on-going comprehensive review of U.S. landmine policy initiated at the direction of President Obama.

This is the first comprehensive review since 2003. Along with other members of the United States Campaign, we met with State Department representatives to discuss the importance of transparency and inclusion of representatives for the USCBL in these reviews. The US reiterated its commitment to “continued U.S. global leadership in eliminating the humanitarian risks posed by landmines” and mine action funding, stating that “the Administration applauds the significant accomplishments to date by the Convention.

On behalf of the Holy See, the Archbishop of Cartagena delivered a powerful statement saying that human beings must be the center of our concerns, that victim assistance to victims and their families must be the focus of our work, but asked how was it possible to draw distinctions between victims of landmines, cluster munitions, and small arms and light weapons or in clearance of the weapons? The defense of national interest must never be at the detriment of the civilian population, he said. Sandra Castro Zapata, Colombian mine survivor, delivered a moving message from Pope Benedict XVI. In a statement sent to the Cartagena Summit on anti-personnel mines, Pope Benedict XVI said there are no ethical arguments to defend the production and use of the weapons, especially given that most victims are innocent civilians. The Holy See reiterated its appeal to all non-signatory nations to ratify the convention, highlighting China, India, the US and Russia as the most important states who have yet to sign. The Holy See also appeals “to all states to recognize the deplorable humanitarian consequences of anti-personnel mines. Experience shows that these weapons have caused more victims and damages among the civilian population, which should be defended, than they have served to defend states. The thousands of victims that they continue to bring remind us, in case it should still be necessary to repeat it, of the chimera of wanting to build peace and stability with an exclusively military vision.” It was quite an honor to meet with the Vatican representatives and give a “shout out” on behalf of the work of PSALM students for the past ten years.

 

On November 3rd, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and anniversary of the signing of the MBT and the CCM, began a two-day high level segment with statements from over 30 senior government, international organization, NGO, and survivors’ representatives. Statements focused on successes achieved in the implementation of the MBT, but at the same time remained forward-focused and emphasized the need for commitment to further progress. Survivors Ken Rutherford, Margaret Arach Orech, and Prasanna Rajiv Kuruppu read the ICBL Survivors’ Call to Action, delivering also a powerful visual message, surrounded on stage by fellow survivors and campaigners. The statement covered concrete points of action calling on all to ratify the Mine ban treaty as well as the Ban on Cluster Munitions and support of the Convention for People with Disabilities. They also noted the need for an increase of Victim Assistance effectiveness by integration in national development plans, emphasizing in particular the importance of reaching survivors in remote areas.

Cartagena Action Plan Signing Ceremony

Cartagena Action Plan Signing Ceremony

Reflecting back on the progress over the last five years, as country after country listed the steps they had taken along the way, the sense of the accomplishments of the MBT began to settle in, as statistic after statistic was provided on the number of mines cleared, the number of mines destroyed (over 44 million from stockpiles), the number of victim assistance initiatives undertaken, and the number of dollars contributed. More important were the number of statements with pledges of commitment to push forward in continuing work, in a broader scope under a new phase of implementation, ensuring synergies between the MBT, CPRD, and CCM – two instruments which have come into existence in large part due to the foundations set by the MBT and now stand in a position to build further on its impressive work.

Notable amongst the many high level attendees were Princess Astrid of Belgium, Prince Mired of Jordan, and Vice President Fransisco Santos Calderon of Colombia, and from the ICBL, Nobel Laureate Jody Williams. Jody Williams spoke about the enduring vitality of the partnerships between governments and civil society in the continued success of the MBT, and reminded all that the MBT was not just about the pretty words and speeches heard today and to honor their commitments with actions, adding that the MBT movement has been pretty good at following pretty words with actions.

Youth Campaigns Side Conference/Workshop

Youth Campaigns Side Conference/Workshop

On Friday December 4th, I had the wonderful opportunity to present a side-conference workshop hosted by the Italian Campaign to Ban Landmines, Moviment per la Pau, the Colombian Youth Campaign and the West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines/PSALM: Proud Students Against Landmines and Cluster Bombs titled, “ Involving young people in human rights campaigns: opportunities and challenges” It was an opportunity to share strategies and methodologies to improve the involvement of young people in peace/disarmament/human rights campaigns.

Youth Campaign Workshop

Youth Campaign Workshop

The success of the week was clearly seen in the recommitment and rededication from governments and NGOs alike. States have agreed to an ambitious five year action plan at the outcome of the week, although we won’t know the true measure of success from Cartagena for a few years to come, until we see the number of commitments made turn into accomplishments – and a lot of that depends on us! It was a great opportunity for me to meet with the various youth campaigns, Pax Christi, Jesuit Relief Service, Religions for Peace, Cluster Munitions Coalition and others to coordinate efforts for the coming year. We are very excited about the Cluster Munitions Treaty becoming fully ratified, making it binding, international humanitarian law!

ICBL members with PSALM artwork

ICBL members with PSALM artwork

The Cartagena Summit laid a strong foundation for progress over the next five years with an ambitious but flexible road map and progress will be reviewed every year. It’s now up to us to ensure that the goals are met and exceeded. We are up to the task and look forward to a “mission possible…a mine-free, cluster bomb free world for all children!

On behalf of our PSALM students, I want to thank all of our supporters and benefactors! YOU make our work POSSIBLE!