soon as the media calls began it hit me this is déjà vu all over again. The
media were calling about the massive
flooding in Bosnia and Herzegovina and how that would affect the
landmine situation in the country. Due to the success
of the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines Canadian media do not often
call these days about landmines. Regardless of how impressive the progress
towards a mine-free world has been for the media it is not newsworthy.
a natural disaster involving a dangerous, indiscriminate and inhumane weapon,
now that the media could get excited about.
for me it wasn’t really news. It had happened before (déjà vu), in fact, a
number of times (déjà vu all over again) hence the use of the late, great
baseball player Yogi Berra’s reference to “déjà vu
all over again”. Berra was famous for these rather odd quotes which
strangely enough were both usually accurate and often profound.
fears that the major flooding in Bosnia had dislodged landmines and moved them
from marked minefields or known hazardous areas was also experienced in Mozambique
in 1998 and Nicaragua (2000) among others.
danger of landmines moving from known, marked or suspected areas to a new
location, where people in the community think the land is safe, is very real.
The fact that it could and should have been prevented is tragic more than
years after the Ottawa
Treaty became international
law much more progress in clearing contaminated areas was possible and should
have happened in Bosnia. Tools to do the job are well known and available, but
they require the political will and sustained funding to get the job done. Not
enough of either was present in Bosnia.
when the floods hit the threat posed by submerged landmines emerged again. The uncertainty over whether the mines had
moved, and to where, made the crisis caused by the unprecedented flooding into
a new, even more dangerous situation. More time,
money and resources will be needed to make the land safe again.
countries have made much more progress than Bosnia has done to date. Nicaragua,
of the 1998 floods, is now mine-free. Mozambique, of the 2000 floods, is
expected to become mine-free this year. Mozambique will join more than two
dozen formerly affected countries, which have cleared landmines from their land,
and removed those lethal barriers to development in their country.
of the lessons from the flooding in Bosnia is that the threat posed by
landmines does not go away until all the mines are gone and the land is
declared mine-free. That reminds me of another Yogi Berra quote, “it’s not
over until it is over”.
Bosnia it was flooding that reminded everyone of the risks created by
landmines, but it can also be caused by other natural disasters like earthquakes
and fires. It is
never over until the land is cleared to internationally agreed humanitarian standards.
of affected countries and donors alike need to keep this in mind and plan to
get this job done as quickly as possible. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines
has issued a challenge
to complete the job in 10 years. With very few exceptions it can be
done. That would really be news and I look forward to taking those calls!