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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.

A year later, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) was formed by six non-governmental organizations of which PHR was one, who all shared a singular goal: a worldwide ban on antipersonnel landmines.

As a founding and active member of the ICBL, PHR mobilized members of the health professional community, got endorsement of major medical associations, and conducted extensive media outreach, while also participating in major international disarmament meetings that eventually led to the International Mine Ban Treaty. Over the years, PHR has continued to contribute its unique research, utilizing the skills of epidemiologists and public health experts, to document the toll of the weapon on communities around the world, and publishing reports such as the comprehensive Landmines: A Deadly Legacy in 1993. In 1998, PHR surgeons developed innovative survey tools to monitor the capacity of hospitals and clinics to treat complicated landmine injuries that are still used today by aid organizations.

The result of the ICBL's innovative use of scientific research, advocacy, outreach was the creation of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. This treaty, which came into force faster than any other arms control treaty in modern history, bans the use, trade, production, and stockpiling of antipersonnel mines and requires its participants to participate in demining and victim assistance efforts. The treaty, signed by 122 governments in December 1997, is considered the defining instrument for ridding the world of landmines.

In 1997 the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to both the ICBL and the campaign's coordinator, Jody Williams. As one of the founding members of the ICBL, 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.