Steps to a Mine-Free World

On August 1st 2010, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, in the making since February 2007, finally came into effect. The pact was officially created in February of 2010 when the countries of Moldova and Burkina Faso ratified the convention to complete the needed thirty ratifications. The international convention bans the production, use and stockpiling of cluster munitions.

The Convention requires, among other things, that signatory countries must not only disarm and destroy all existent cluster munitions, but also provide medical and psychological care for the victims of these weapons. They need to clearly mark and to their best attempts remove all mines from known areas where cluster munitions may have been distributed. In addition, they should fund risk education so civilians will know how to handle and keep their distance from the weapons.

Cluster bombs often hold up to hundreds of explosive submunitions that are intended to detonate upon impact. The bombs are typically fired from the ground or dropped by air and erupt to cover expansive areas sometimes as large as several football fields. However, cluster bombs are known to have a high initial failure rate so that the submunitions do not detonate immediately. This leaves them volatile threats for decades to come. Mines can remain active for up to 50 years and can be very difficult to clear. In addition they are not precision guided so there is no way to predict that they will stay in the strategic area that they were fired, often encroaching into civilian territory.

Landmines are especially dangerous for children, who may be too young to heed the posted warnings or who may curiously explore the fatal areas. Children are also less able to recover from the injuries from these submunitions because they are not yet fully developed.

Cluster bombs are intended for military purposes, yet according to UNICEF (the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) 98% of the victims are civilians. These weapons have killed over 10,000 civilians world wide, of which 40% are children.

Currently, 107 states have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, demonstrating the overwhelming support to solve the landmine issue and the success of multi-country collaboration. The participating countries and organizations have successfully illuminated the broader harm of these weapons beyond the use of military personnel.