'Ban on mines, cluster munitions can prevent many deaths' (India)

Binalakshmi Nepram, secretary-general of Control Arms Foundation of India, has been closely involved in campaigns to check proliferation of arms. She spoke to Bharat Dogra:


How have efforts to check arms proliferation progressed in recent times?

March 1, 2009 marks the 10th year since the entry into force of the Mine Ban Treaty, the international agreement that bans anti-personnel landmines. About 156 nations have accepted this treaty, while about 40 others with a stockpile of 160 million anti-personnel mines remain outside this treaty. The international campaign to ban landmines brings together over 14,000 groups in about 90 countries. This campaign was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. During 2002-06, casualties from landmines and related devices declined from 11,700 to 5,751.

On May 30 last year, the Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted by 107 countries at Dublin, Ireland. The signing of the treaty took place in December. The central provision of this treaty is the ban on the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions.

Why were these weapons emphasised by the campaigns to check arms proliferation?

Deaths and injuries from landmines can be extremely painful. Victims are frequently maimed and disabled, sometimes suffering lifetime disability. The number of civilians who became victims of landmines is very high. The explosions can be caused years after a war is over, and prevent people from using their farms, water sources and other means of meeting daily needs.

A cluster bomb is a weapon containing multiple explosive submunitions. It can lead to the dispersal of hundreds of bomb-lets. These can also cause very painful deaths for years after the conflict is over, and the risk to civilians is very high. Taken together, the treaties to ban mines and cluster munitions can prevent thousands of painful deaths and injuries every year.

How do you see the task ahead to carry forward this work?

Important as recent achievements are much more needs to be done as some of the most influential and powerful countries of the world have not yet signed these treaties. In addition, wider support has to be mobilised for the under-negotiation Arms Trade Treaty. Lakhs of people die every year in armed violence, but there is very little regulation of proliferation and trade of arms. So the ongoing international efforts for an Arms Trade Treaty are very important and need to be strengthened. In December 2006, in a vote in the General Assembly, 153 countries had extended support to such a treaty. The idea of this treaty was developed initially by 18 Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

The campaign to check arms proliferation needs to be stepped up and we need many more volunteers for this work.

Von: 01.03.2009, www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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