Canada is pledging new money to help clear landmines in Sri Lanka and Ukraine, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland announced before she left to attend an international demining event held at Kensington Palace in London Tuesday.
Canada’s announcement comes as the international community marks the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action today.
The new funding includes $1.9 million over three years to find and clear landmines in northern Sri Lanka, which will allow residents in the affected areas to resume their livelihoods in agriculture and the fishery. It also includes more than $3.8 million for education, training and mine-clearance activities in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, Freeland announced.
This new funding comes on top of $13.8 million that Ottawa pledged to help finance urgent humanitarian demining activities in Colombia, the second most mined country in the world. Canada has also committed $6 million to contribute to the demining of areas liberated from Islamic State militants in Iraq. According to figures released by the federal government, Canada has contributed $237 million over the last decade to fund demining programs around the world.
“Demining work worldwide is critically important, and the devastating impact of these weapons on civilians is without question,” Freeland said in a statement. “Canada’s funding for these projects builds on the significant work already undertaken in mine clearing in these countries. It is my hope that the funding will help to create a world free of anti-personnel mines.”
The event at Kensignton Palace dubbed #LandmineFree2025 was hosted by the world’s two leading landmine charities, Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and The HALO Trust.
The event, which was attended by Prince Harry, marked the 20th anniversary of Diana, Princess of Wales’ walk through an Angolan minefield; and the signing of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty in Ottawa.
UK’s Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel, who joined Prince Harry in The Orangery at Kensington Palace, announced that the UK is tripling its support for landmine clearance and pledged about $170 (£100) million over the next three years.
MAG and The HALO Trust estimate that it will take about $170 million a year to clear the remaining minefields to reach their goal of landmine-free world by 2025.
In 1997, Canada became the first country to sign the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty, also known as the Ottawa Convention. The international treaty bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines. With 162 countries that have joined the convention, it is considered one of the most successful disarmament treaties ever established.
Since the signing of the Ottawa Convention, 27 countries have been declared landmine-free, over 51 million stockpiled landmines have been destroyed and the global trade has all but stopped. Yet more than 60 million people still live in areas littered with unexploded munitions, according to The HALO Trust.
Nearly 40 per cent of the people injured or killed by landmines every year are children, who often fall victim while innocently playing or travelling to and from school, said Jane Cocking, CEO of MAG.
“Twenty years on from the landmark Mine Ban Treaty, these indiscriminate weapons still blight the lives of far too many people around the world,” Cocking said. “Yet, with the sort of commitment and ambition shown today, ridding the world of this problem is far from impossible.”
James Cowan, CEO of The HALO Trust, said the event present an historic opportunity to unite government, corporate and private donors.
“As with the eradication of smallpox, a mine free world is not a pipe dream but a real possibility, but only with the right financial support,” Cowan said.
UN Secretary General António Guterres urged the international community “to keep this issue at the top of the international agenda.”
“Peace without mine action is incomplete peace,” Guterres said in a statement.