APOPO at the anti-landmine conference in Vienna

Mine Action authorities, donors and operators gather for the 16 meeting of Member States of the Ottawa Treaty.

This week, taking place at the UN Office in Vienna, Austria, APOPO’s Head of Mine Action Håvard Bach is also attending. This year marked two decades since the Mine Ban Treaty (Ottawa Treaty) was adopted and signed by 122 countries in Ottawa, Canada. The treaty, which bans the use, production and storing of landmines, now lists 163 countries as signatories, whose representatives have come together in Vienna to assess the current situation, discuss challenges and confirm commitments for a mine-free world by 2025.

“After 20 years, the Ottawa Treaty has significantly driven the clearance and destructions of millions of landmines all over the world as well as raised awareness of the plight of people still living in terror due to these insidious weapons. This week the world’s Mine Action authorities are gathered to discuss how we can make the 2025 target of a mine free world into a reality” - Håvard Bach

Austria was instrumental in the making of this treaty. In 1997, it was one of a core group of five countries that held diplomatic negotiations that resulted in the adoption of the treaty. Austria was also involved in writing the text of the Convention, which has now become international law. Ambassador Hajnoczi who is chairing the conference, also led the Austrian delegation and negotiations back in 1997.

During the week representatives of some of the world's most mine contaminated countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Colombia and Serbia, will present updates of the work carried out in their countries. It is expected that several countries such as Angola, Ecuador, Iraq, Thailand, Ukraine and Zimbabwe will ask for extensions to meet their landmine clearance obligations. Greece, Oman and Ukraine have not completed their stockpile destruction obligations and will present an update on their efforts to destroy these weapons.

Algeria will formally declare that after more than three decades it is now mine-free, and Belarus will announce that it has met its stockpile destruction obligation after destroying over one million Soviet-era landmines.

The international mine action community has set a target to make the world free of landmines by the year 2025 and much work needs to be done in order to achieve this goal. People living in countries from Angola to Cambodia and Zimbabwe, do so in daily fear from these savage remnants of conflicts that ended decades ago. APOPO’s mine detection rats are an effective technology that is proven to speed up mine action when integrated into existing methods. With a spirit of partnership, APOPO calls on other operators to come and discuss how we can integrate with their technology and methodology.

Together, we can rid some of the world’s most affected countries of landmines.