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Diana championed the ban of landmines. 25 years on from her death, their use is on the rise again

Explosive weapons
International United Kingdom

Saturday 31st August 2022 marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Humanity & Inclusion pays tribute to her tremendous work in bringing global attention to the scourge of landmines. The Ottawa Treaty banning landmines was championed by the Princess and signed in December 1997, three months after her death.

Lady Diana with ICBL campaigner Susan B. Walker at centre of the picture – February 1997.

Lady Diana with ICBL campaigner Susan B. Walker at centre of the picture – February 1997. | © ICBL

In the 1990s, there were an estimated 100 million mines worldwide. This was a tragedy for civilian populations in many countries. In the space of 20 years, landmines had injured some 600,000 civilians. More still had been killed.

Lady Diana visited Angola in January 1997 and Bosnia in August 1997 to see clearance activities and meet landmine victims. Lady Diana also delivered a speech at the Royal Geographical Institute in London in June 1997 calling for an end to “the plague on earth caused by landmines” and asking for an international ban.

Her visits attracted global media attention: Lady Diana's 1997 visits to Angola and Bosnia were instrumental in mobilising public opinion in support of a ban on landmines.

Her global profile helped to raise awareness among the general public about what a landmine really is: a weapon that kills and maims innocent civilians and has no military strategic benefit, contrary to what many states claimed at the time.

“Lady Diana put her profile and her image at the service of the campaign against landmines. As one of the most well-known and recognizable celebrities at the time, and unanimously popular with the public, she brought a very strong support to the campaign. She visited Angola in January 1997 and Bosnia in August 1997, both countries heavily contaminated by landmines at the time. Her meeting with mine clearance experts and mine victims were widely covered by the media and contributed to public awareness about the scourge of landmines. It was a turning point in the campaign. Humanity & Inclusion, as a co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), will be for ever grateful for Lady Diana’s commitment to the cause,” says George Graham, Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion UK.

Key dates in 1997

February 1997: The first preparatory meeting of the Ottawa Process (the diplomatic process that led to the Mine Ban Treaty) took place in Vienna, where 111 countries discussed the elements of a comprehensive ban treaty.

June 1997: Belgium hosted the second meeting of the Ottawa Process in Brussels, where 110 countries endorsed a declaration affirming their intent to conclude the negotiation and sign a ban treaty before the end of 1997.

3rd of December 1997: The Mine Ban Treaty was eventually adopted by States, a few months after Lady Diana’s death on August 31.

Landmines today

The Mine Ban Treaty was adopted by States 25 years ago and was a major civil society victory: annual landmine casualties were reduced by 3, production of this weapon is almost erased. But much still to be done to eradicate this weapon as new form of landmines emerge with improvised explosive devices.

Deaths and injuries from exploded landmines rose significantly in 2020 partly due to disruption of clearance efforts caused by the pandemic, according to the Landmine Monitor. Over 7,000 casualties from landmines and explosive remnants of war were recorded across 54 countries and areas in 2020 – up 20 per cent from 5,853 the previous year. An increase in armed conflict also led to the continued use of landmines in a number of countries. In 2022, Russian forces fighting in Ukraine have used landmines in the eastern region of Kharkiv, Human Rights Watch reported.

Facts about the Mine Ban Treaty

  • The Mine Ban Treaty has 164 signatory states, including all NATO members apart from the United States, which has not joined the treaty.
  • The Treaty comprehensively bans the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of antipersonnel mines, and requires signatory states to destroy their stockpiles and clear all mined areas as well as assist landmine survivors.
  • Under the Mine Ban Treaty, 94 states parties have destroyed a total of more than 55 million landmines from their arsenals, most recently Chile, the United Kingdom and Sri Lanka, which completed the destruction of its landmine stockpile in 2021.
  • At least 60 countries and other areas are known to be contaminated by antipersonnel mines, including 33 treaty members such as Greece and Ukraine.
Date published: 30/08/22

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