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The Campaign to Ban Landmines

Landmine victim

Deadly artifacts of past wars, landmines are responsible for the death and maiming of thousands of innocent civilian men, women, and children in countries already ravaged by the economic, environmental, and psychological scars of violent conflict. Most countries have banned the weapon, but not the United States - yet.

In 1991, PHR researched and exposed the overwhelming public health threat of landmines in Cambodia. With Human Rights Watch, we released our report, Coward's War: Landmines in Cambodia, that, for the first time, called for a comprehensive ban on this indiscriminate and deadly weapon. The report helped galvanize international attention to the devastating effects of antipersonnel landmines on civilians, particularly children.

PHR is a founding and active member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which has had a singular goal since its creation in 1992: a worldwide ban on antipersonnel landmines. Deadly artifacts of past and some current wars, landmines are responsible for the death and maiming of many thousands of men, women, and children in countries already ravaged by the economic, environmental, and psychological scars of war.

PHR conducted critical research on the prevalence and medical consequences of landmine injuries, mobilized the health community’s engagement, and participated in international disarmament meetings that led to the International Mine Ban Treaty. This treaty, which came into force faster than any arms control treaty in modern history, bans the use, trade, production, and stockpiling of antipersonnel mines and requires signatories to participate in demining and victim assistance efforts. The treaty was originally signed by 122 governments in December 1997, and – since then – 80 percent of the world’s governments have joined. It is considered the defining instrument for ridding the world of the scourge of landmines.

In 1997, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the campaign and its coordinator, Jody Williams. As one of the founding members of the campaign, PHR shared in the Prize.

In its announcement, the Norwegian Nobel Committee applauded the campaign for changing a ban from "a vision to a feasible reality." The Committee also recognized that the campaign offered "a model for similar processes in the future" in areas of disarmament and peace. PHR President Dr. Charles Clements and staff and members led the Nobel march through the streets of Oslo.

In 2000, PHR issued Measuring Landmine Incidents and Injuries and the Capacity to Provide Care, A Guide to Assist Governments and Non-governmental Organizations in Collecting Data about Landmine Victims, Hospitals, and Orthopaedic Centers, to provide essential data for properly quantifying the public health consequences of landmines responsible for the death or injury of tens of thousands of people every year.

In early 2000, PHR also shifted its attention to pressuring the United States — one of the few holdouts to the treaty, to join the rest of the world in banning the weapon. As coordinator of over 500 groups and thousands of individual members of the US Campaign to Ban Landmines (USCBL), PHR organized meetings with Members of Congress, conducted educational speaking tours and editorial board meetings across the country and organized a successful Ban Landmines Week in Washington, DC. PHR continues to serve on the USCBL Steering Committee.