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Landmine Summit: "Enough words, now is time for action on the ground"

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Handicap International welcomes Cartagena Action Plan and funding pledges for victim assistance but will watch implementation closely

Cartagena and Brussels, 4 December 2009. -Yesterday and today, leaders from all over the world gather in Colombia to renew their commitment and adopt an action plan for the next five years. Handicap International welcomes the adoption of the Cartagena Action Plan but calls on all states to focus now on the implementation of this plan. "Enough words and speeches," said Stan Brabant from Handicap International. "Time has now come for action. We call on all states to translate their political commitment in actions on the ground. Landmine survivors cannot wait."

One of the highlights of the Cartagena Summit was victim assistance, the area of the treaty where the least progress was reported in the past years. In response to our September 2009 report Voices from the Ground, several states indicated their willingness to do more and pledged funding, in particular Australia and Germany. In a special session on victim assistance, 31 states intervened emphasizing their progress at the national level, including the development of national plans, improved rehabilitation programs, access, internal governmental department coordination, establishment of focal points, support for NGO and grass-root initiatives, and overall increase in service availability and quality. "This is good," said Stan Brabant from Handicap International, "but the true measure of success of the Mine Ban Treaty's victim assistance provisions will come from the survivors on the ground." In a statement delivered Thursday morning, Princess Astrid of Belgium responded to our call when she said, "We should consider involving victims themselves in the evaluation of the action plan on the ground since they are the best placed to feel the improvement or not of their living conditions. That is why I warmly welcome the presence here of the mine ban advocates."

Another highlight of the Cartagena Summit was the presence of a delegation from the United States. In a statement delivered on Tuesday, the head of the US delegation informed participants that the Obama administration has begun a comprehensive landmine policy review. In the statement, the US representative said, "The Administration's decision to attend this Review Conference is the result of an on-going comprehensive review of US landmine policy initiated at the direction of President Obama." This statement was contrary to the position first outlined by the Department of State last Tuesday, November 24. The original US announcement was followed by a fierce outcry from civil society, non-governmental organizations and the international community including the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

Other highlights were announcements of the completion of landmine clearance by four states, Albania, Greece, Rwanda and Zambia.