An estimated 110 million landmines are buried in the ground in more than 60 countries around the world. Landmines can be active for decades causing thousands of deaths and severe injuries and suffering. Between 80 to 90 percent of the victims are civilians, among them many children. In addition, landmines hinder economic development and repatriation of refugees and displaced persons.
Demining is an extremely time consuming and costly process. One landmine costs about 3 dollars to purchase and 300 to 1000 dollars to deactivate. The UN is increasingly called upon to operate mine clearance programmes in areas that are completely infested with landmines and unexploded ordnance.
The Ottawa Convention - banning landmines
In the work to put an end to the suffering and casualties caused by anti-personnel landmines (AP-mines) the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, known informally as the Ottawa Treaty, the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, or often simply the Mine Ban Treaty (MTB) was adopted, in Ottawa, in 1997. It is also known as the Ottawa Convention and it entered into force in 1999. The four core aims of the convention are:
- Ensuring universal adherence
- Destroying stockpiled mines
- Clearing mined areas
- Assisting the victims
The primary purpose of the convention is to ban the use, development, production, acquisition, transfer and stockpiling of antipersonnel landmines. Existing stocks of such mines shall be destroyed. It also aims to ensure the clearing of minefields, to offer assistance to victims and to contribute to the destruction of stored mines.
UN mine actions
Several of the UN departments, agencies, programmes and funds are engaged in the action against the use of landmines.
The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) was established in 1997 as a focal point for mine action within the United Nations. UNMAS collaborates with several other UN departments, agencies, programmes and funds to ensure an effective, proactive and coordinated response to the problems of landmines and explosive remnants of war, including cluster munitions.
Children are particularly vulnerable to landmines. Innocent and naturally curious, they are a perfect target for a mine. UNICEF supports mine clearance and community-based mine risk education through local authorities and NGOs and is an active advocate for the promotion of a total ban on anti-personnel landmines.
The Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) provides information, monitors the use of landmines and coordinates resource mobilization.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is responsible for standards and the promotion of technical capacities and institutional capacity building for victim assistance.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) takes part in the continuing work of mine clearance and mine risk education by assisting mine-affected countries in establishing national and local mine action programmes.
For more information on UN bodies involved in mine action, see E-Mine. The UN Mine Action Gateway.
International Day of Mine Awareness
April 4 each year is observed as the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, (A/RES/60/97).
More on UN and mine action
- Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Ottawa convention), United Nations Treaty Collection.
- At the website of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) there is information on landmines and mine action:
- The Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention entered into force in 1999. The Parties have agreed to never to use antipersonnel mines, destroy mines in their stockpiles, clear mines in their territory, offer assistance to mine clearance programmes and adopt implementation measures to make sure that the terms of the treaty are upheld. A list of signatures and ratifications is posted at the Convention web site: Disarmament : State Parties and Signatories.
- Article 7 reports to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. The State Parties to the Convention are obliged to report about their national implemention measures. These reports are published as "Article 7 reports".
- Other documentation from the Convention including Annual reports from the meetings of State Parties can be retrieved from Meetings of States Parties to the Mine Ban Convention.
- IMAS - International Mine Action Standards. International standards that have been designed for all UN mine action operations and can be found at the website.
Websites and research guides
- Information on mine affected countries and UN supported mine actions programs linking to country reports is posted at the UNMAS website:
- UNRIC Library Backgrounder: Landmines with relevant URLs within the UN system, such as UN documents, treaties, declarations, Secretary-General reports, a selection of speeches and statements by UN officials, articles in UN journals, etc.
- More information on key documents, treaties, statistics and web resources and mine action, see the research guide Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War. The guide was created by the UNOG Library, Geneva, and the UN Library, New York, in collaboration with the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS).
- UN Pulse #landmines. Dag Hammarskjöld Library's (New York) blog.
- See also DagDok : UNIDIR for more information.
Key UN documents
UN documents and publications in catalogues and databases
- United Nations Digital Library offers UN documents and open access publications, UN voting data and speeches, UN maps, Content in 6+ languages. Replaces the traditional online catalogue UNBISnet.
- UN iLibrary UN publications online covering different topics.
- ODS full-text UN documents published from 1993 onward and scanned documents published between 1946 and 1993 in the official languages of the UN.
- Daily list of documents (ODS). Documents published for the day, with full text links, can be found in the United Nations full text database ODS.
- UNBIS Thesaurus a multilingual database of the controlled vocabulary used to describe UN documents.
- Index to proceedings is an annual bibliographic guide to the proceedings and documentation of the major UN organs. The index includes:
- a list of all documents
- a comprehensive subject index
- an index to speeches
- a voting chart of resolutions
- United Nations Documents Index (United Nations Digital Library) References to all documents by subject area are published. A collection of indexes is held by the Dag Hammarskjöld and Law Library, Uppsala, and the Libraries at UN Headquarters in New York and Geneva.