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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cambodia, still scarred by landmines, now faced with decreased mine-action funding

The Conference of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty began this week with 100 States Parties to the treaty present in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Although Cambodia remains one of the most landmine-polluted countries in the world, the amount mine action funding it received from the international community declined significantly in 2010 .

The conference will provide an opportunity to remind the States present about the continued plight of Cambodia and the many other mine-affected countries, to challenge the obligations of States Parties to the treaty and to push universalization of the Mine Ban Treaty.

At least three States not party to the treaty used anti-personnel landmines in 2011, tripling the number of user countries for the first time in seven years. Handicap International condemns the use of these weapons, which continue to injure and kill civilians in countries around the world.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen officially announced the start of the 11th Conference of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, which will be held from November 28 to December 2 in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia remains one of the most mine-polluted countries in the world: According to the Landmine Monitor 2011, more than 700 square miles of land – approximately twice the area of New York City -- were still contaminated.

In 2010, mine action funding provided by the international community decreased by 27 percent compared with 2009, falling from $33.3 to $24.3 million. In addition, less than 0.5 percent of these funds were dedicated to raising awareness about mines and explosive remnants of war.

"This is a grossly inadequate amount when we know that more victims of these weapons are recorded every day in Cambodia," said Marion Libertucci, head of weapons advocacy for Handicap International. "This conference reminds States of the dramatic situation of the country so they do not forget the devastation caused by these weapons, even 40 years after their use," Libertucci added.

A Handicap International delegation will be present at the conference to remind States Parties of their responsibilities, notably to ensure the promotion of this treaty to non-parties. The number of States not party to the treaty to have used landmines increased from one in 2010 (Burma) to three confirmed in 2011: Israel, Libya and Burma. There are also strong suspicions that Syria may have used these weapons in 2011.

"This new use of mines is unacceptable and of particular concern," Libertucci said, adding "We call upon States Parties to the treaty to strongly condemn any new use of landmines and to undertake all possible steps to stop the use of these weapons."

The conference opened on a positive note from Finland, which announced on Friday that the Finnish parliament approved a government proposal to join the Mine Ban Treaty in 2012. "Finland has set an example by passing the accession to the treaty on November 25, which marks a new openness encouraged by the Conference," Libertucci said, making Poland the last country in the European Union not to have ratified the Ottawa Treaty. "The commitment of Finland should be imitated by all States not party, so that the tragedy caused by landmines is finally stopped," asserted Libertucci.

The United States, not yet a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty, will attend the conference as an observer. The U.S. has not used landmines since 1991 and has not produced any new landmines since 1997. The Obama administration launched a review of U.S. landmine policy in December 2009; this review – which the international community hopes will culminate in U.S. accession to the Mine Ban Treaty, has not yet concluded.

Press contact: Tom Shelton, Handicap International UK
Tel: +44 (0)870 774 3737 |

About Handicap InternationalCo-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Handicap International is an international aid organisation working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. Working alongside people with disabilities and vulnerable populations, we take action and raise awareness in order to respond to their essential needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights. Handicap International is a co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Cluster Munition Coalition.

Find out more•What we do > Landmines and cluster munitions
More information about Handicap International's fight against these indiscriminate weapons

•Landmine Monitor 2011 - Full report available online

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