Guyana urged to ratify Ottawa Convention banning landmines
Signed in 1997, still to be blessed by parliament
Stabroek News
May 8, 2002

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A land mine seminar aimed at securing Guyana's ratification of the 1997 Ottawa Convention banning the production, transfer and use of anti-personnel mines was held yesterday at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel.

The one-day event hosted jointly by the Canadian High Commission, the Embassy of the Netherlands and with the cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs saw persons from strategic agencies being briefed on the key principles of the document including why it should be ratified.

Among the agencies invited to participate in the discussions were the Guyana Defence Force, the International Red Cross and its local affiliate, the ministries of Foreign and Home Affairs, the Attorney-General's Chambers and representatives of the Dutch Government.

Canada's Ambassador for Mine Action, Daniel Livermore, examined the genesis of the idea of a land mine ban. The workshop, similar to that held in the Congo last week, and which will be held in the neighbouring republic of Suriname tomorrow, is aimed at securing uniformity in the South and Latin American region for the implementation of the treaty.

At present, only Guyana and Suriname in South America are left to ratify the convention and it is the aim of the Canadian government to garner regional solidarity for the full implementation of the convention. In the case of Guyana the process of ratification is said to engaging parliament. Guyana had signed the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction in December 1997. Why it is yet to be ratified by Parliament was unclear yesterday.

According to Livermore, the seminars are specifically being held to familiarize those countries yet to ratify the convention on the need to join those that have already taken the step.

The aim of the convention is to rid the world of all anti-personnel landmines thus ensuring that land once polluted by such devices was made safe for its inhabitants.

According to the Canadian diplomat once states ratify the 1997 convention they were duty bound to ensure among other things that land mines were not transshipped through their territory and that such devices were not being manufactured or in use on their landscape.

According to the document, a landmine is described as a device placed on or near the ground, which is detonated by either physical contact or approach or otherwise victim-activated. Eighty per cent of the victims of landmines are said to be civilians with almost half of this number being classified as children.

Since the ratification of the convention, the number of victims has been significantly reduced from a high of 26,000 per year in the 1990s to 15,000 to 20,000 at present. When the convention was open for signature, 133 states signed it and 122 of them have since ratified it.

In recent years, he said some 50 states have destroyed more than 27 million stockpiled mines. He added that mine clearance has made a real difference in returning land to safe and productive use and is taking place in no less than 76 countries. He added that vast tracts of land in Nicragua, Peru and Honduras are no longer riddled with mines and have been given back to communities for gainful use.

According to Livermore, only two countries in the Americas region have not signed on to the convention - Cuba and the United States of America. The two have for differing reasons refused to sign the convention for ending landmine use but according to the Canadian diplomat they have been very cooperative in seeing its measures achieved.

The intention in seeking Guyana's and Suriname's compliance is to be able to highlight the Americas as a model in the international community as it would be the first region to achieve total compliance.

Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Elisabeth Harper, also addressed the forum.