One hundred million uncleared landmines lie in the fields and alongside the roads and footpaths of one-third of the countries in the developing world. Claiming over 500 victims a week, landmines are often called "weapons of mass destruction in slow motion".
But global mine action is making progress. Recently, Albania, Greece, Rwanda and Zambia announced that they are now entirely clear of mines.
A new action plan has made the 10 year limit on mine clearance more forceful than ever. Kit Cockburn recently spoke with UN Mine Action Sector Policy Director, Gustavo Laurie, who says some countries are asking for another 10 years to comply:
LAURIE: I think there were about 15 that requested this last year, and 4 more countries that requested this year. Among those countries that have requested this year we have Argentina, we have Uganda, we have Tajikistan and we have Cambodia. But the good thing is that only four new countries asked for an extension compared to the 15 last year. So we hope that every year we will have less countries making use of this provision that allows for extension.
COCKBURN: Some have said that while progress is being made in many areas that victim assistance remains fairly inadequate. They say that mine surviors lack proper rehabilitation as well as the means for social and economic re-integration.
LAURIE: Of course we should bear in mind we have less new victims than in the past. Probably a decade ago the number of new victims per year was maybe 15,000 new victims per year year. Now we're talking about 5,000 or 6,000 new victims per year. Nevertheless providing victims with the right services can be very expensive. And these kind of services are lacking in almost all countries that are affected except of course countries from the first world.
COCKBURN: The landmine ban convention has garnered wide international support, 156 countries have signed the convention. However, China, Russia and the USA have not. How far does their absence from the list challenge the credibility and efficacy of the convention?
LAURIE: I don't think there's any challenge to the legitimacy of the convention. Those 3 countries that you mentioned participated in Cartagena. The Russian Federation, China, India, Cuba, Kazakstan, Sri Lanka, Nepal countries that are not states parties to the convention but they follow very closely what's happening there. And even though they feel that they could not join fully the convention at this stage, at least some of them are already complying with some of the provisions in the convention at this stage, at least many of them are already complying with the provisions in the convention.
Producers: Kit Cockburn/Gerry Adams.