Nepal’s Landmine Removal Efforts Should be Modeled Worldwide
An important step in the fight against landmines was taken earlier this week, as the United Nations declared Nepal to be landmine-free after Nepalese Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal detonated the lastmine in his country.
Landmines, which are weight-triggered explosive devices, are controversial weapons because they kill indiscriminately. Thousands of individuals die each year from landmine explosions, and the Landmine Monitor reports that 70-85 percent of these casualties are civilians. Though the number has dwindled over the years, there are still more than 60 countries in the world with minefields, halting development and threatening civilian populations across the globe. In this context, Nepal’s accomplishment should be praised. The Nepalese army laid 53 minefields during a 10-year insurgency that lasted until 2006, but began clearing the mines in 2007 with the help of the United Nations Mine Action Team.
While Nepal should be extremely proud of this accomplishment -- as U.N. official Robert Piper said after the ceremony, this was “one more milestone on the road to peace” -- much more needs to be on an international level to ban landmine usage, and to demine areas that are already afflicted. The 1997 Mine Ban Treaty has been signed by more than 150 countries around the world, but the treaty has been weakened without the signatures of several global superpowers, including the United States, China, and India, and enforcing compliance has been difficult. Thus landmine usage has continued. Recently, Human Rights Watch has reported that the Libyan Government has been using landmines in its current conflict with rebel forces.
It would be encouraging if Nepal’s demining efforts were applied as a model worldwide, but obstacles to demining remain. Some of the countries in the most affected regions (such as Northern Africa) have the least resources and therefore the least ability to remove the minefields themselves. In addition to signing and enforcing the Mine Ban Treaty, the U.S. and its allies should increase funding for demining efforts around the world. Nepal’s milestone is indeed great step forward for a country still recovering from a decade-long internal struggle. But overall, it’s a small battle in a drawn-out war against mines.