By Alan Cole in the UK | Xperedon |
A leading landmine NGO that has worked in 40 countries worldwide has applauded a historic landmine ban in Somalia but is also appealing for renewed efforts to support the efforts of peace workers.
Somalia, one of the African nations most affected by landmines, is of this month, the newest state party to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, or the Ottawa Convention as it is known, that was adopted in Oslo in 1997, and opened for signature in Ottawa that year.
All of Sub-Saharan Africa is now formally bound by the treaty, with signatories promising never to use, produce or transfer anti-personnel mines as well as try to rid communities of existing stockpiles.
MAG (Mines Advisory Group) is a non-profit organisation involved in the clearance of landmines worldwide, including Somalia, where it has been running successful clearance operations in regions across the country including Puntland and South Galcaio.
The charity says it welcomes the landmark treaty agreement coming into practice and calls for ever greater efforts to restore safety to communities.
MAG Regional Operations Manager, Jamie Eyre, explains:
"MAG welcomes Somalia’s membership as the 160th state party to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. MAG is actively committed to supporting the Government in the clearance of contaminated areas and destruction of stockpiles.”
The charity has provided a sustained presence in Somalia since 2008 and in July 2008 it provided technical support to the Puntland Mine Action Centre (PMAC) to destroy stockpiled anti-personnel mines near Garowe.
“This was the first officially recorded destruction of anti-personnel mine stocks in the Somali state of Puntland and the beginning of a fruitful relationship with PMAC," explains Mr Eyre.
Somalia has become synonymous with violence since law and order collapsed in 1991, with internal fighting contributing to one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises.
Mr Eyre explains as well as planted landmines the accumulation of stockpiles of weapons in the country is a chief concern for MAG.
"Access to conventional weapons exacerbates violence, fuels crime, and actively undermines security and peace-building efforts,” he says.
“This year, MAG has continued to provide the necessary technical support and other expertise to support the stabilisation of Somalia, through our Physical Security and Stockpile Management (PSSM) project, Police Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams and Risk Education projects across the country," he says, adding that the charity will continue to play a major role in the fight against landmines in Somalia.
The work of NGOs in the development of an improving international consensus on the need to end the suffering caused by landmines is well documented, and has been gathering momentum over the last decade.
NGOs at work in the most dangerous places in the world, including Somalia, are dependent on charitable support to keep their programmes going and also maintain the safety of staff.
“MAG saves lives and enables entire communities to look to the future with confidence, explains Mr Eyre.
“However, it can only continue to do so with the support of friends who share its vision of a world free from landmines and other explosive remnants of conflict.”
As well as clearing mines and stockpiled mines, keeping landmines reduction high up the agenda as a global peace issue and promoting the care and welfare of survivors are the key tenets of landmine NGOs.
Somalia will participate as a state party in the upcoming Twelfth Meeting of the States Parties in December in Geneva. Of the Convention’s 160 states parties, 155 no longer hold stocks of anti-personnel mines.
NGOs like MAG, working to clear landmines, partner with local and international agencies as part of sustainable humanitarian development programmes.
Their work is vital in terms of liberating communities from the dangers of landmines and helping to restore normality, so that access to agriculture, commerce, education, health, and even basic food and water supplies can be built up.