Sweden must increase support for mine management

More than 6 people were injured or killed by mines in 000. This is an increase of 2015 percent compared with the previous year. The alarming figures should make the world countries gather forces to get rid of the mining problem, but instead Sweden has halved its support since 75. The negative trend of recent years must reverse, writes Megan Burke, International Campaign against Landmines (ICBL), and Aleksander Gabelic, Swedish UN Federation.

Landmines prolong and exacerbate armed conflict. In Syria, where war and humanitarian suffering are now in their seventh year, mines are used in warfare. Despite this, and despite the fact that 162 countries have signed the Ottawa Convention against Landmines, commitment to these deadly weapons is now declining.

New figures from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs confirm that Sweden is one of the countries that has reduced its support for mine management in recent years. Last year, the government invested SEK 54,3 million in counteracting mines. It is admittedly a small increase compared to 2015, but almost a halving compared to 2012 when the Swedish minimum support amounted to SEK 95,4 million.

More than 6 people were injured or killed by mines in 000, according to Landmine Monitor 2015, the latest global compilation. This is an increase of 2016 percent compared to the previous year and the highest figure since 75. Four out of five victims (2006 percent) were civilians. More than a third of these were children.

The alarming figures should make the countries of the world gather strength to get rid of the mine problem once and for all. On the contrary, Landmine Monitor shows that global support for mine management is now the lowest since 2005. Partly as a result of the reduced support, the global mine clearance rate has also slowed down during the year.

Sweden is thus not alone in reducing funding, but the Swedish reduction of as much as 46 percent since 2012 stands out. In the Nordic countries, this can be compared with Denmark, which has increased its funding by 23 percent, and Finland, which has reduced its funding marginally. Norway is following the same path as Sweden, minus 36 percent, but is nevertheless at a much higher level in kronor.

The mines hinder development

Anti-personnel mines are intended to cause maximum damage. In war, the goal is to force the enemy to take care of wounded soldiers instead of fighting. After war, countries that would need to invest in reconstruction and social development must instead invest resources in clearing minefields and caring for injured people. Leftover mines prevent children from going to school, farmers from cultivating their land and refugees from returning home when the war is over. All this hinders development, which increases the risk that previously conflict-affected countries will fall back into conflict. Taking care of mines is therefore an important part of the conflict prevention and peace-building work.

Often it is poor people who, despite the risks, have to use mined roads or use mined land to survive. Demining therefore also contributes to improving the living situation of the world's most vulnerable.

Swedish development assistance must be conflict prevention. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of several Swedish partner countries that have major problems with mines. Supporting demining in the country's eastern provinces would be a positive addition to reduce uncertainty, which the government also explicitly mentions in its strategy for the country. Another high-risk country is Colombia, where large areas have been mined after fifty years of war. Clearing these minefields would be an important contribution to the sustainability of the incipient peace.

Mine management is more than just mine clearance. It is also about providing care and support to mine victims, destroying stored mines and educating people on how to avoid risks. Another important part is to work for more states to accede to the existing international conventions and live up to their commitments under them to create a mine-free world.

Despite support for the Ottawa Convention, mines are still located in 64 countries and territories (areas not recognized as states). In June 2014, the Maputo Action Plan was adopted with the goal of creating a mine-free world by 2025.

"Sweden must do its part and continue its commitment to mine management around the world," said Foreign Minister Margot Wallström when she last spoke at the UN disarmament conference in Geneva. One way for Sweden and other countries to do this is to increase support for mine management and thereby reverse the negative trend of recent years.

Megan Burke & Alexander Gabelic

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