This Sunday marks the start of the Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World, during which over 1,000 delegates will review The Ottawa Treaty, otherwise known as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, or simply The Mine Ban Treaty. With the review conference and President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony just days away, the Obama Administration deemed it an appropriate time to announce its decision to join human rights bastions like China, Pakistan, Cuba, and Myanmar, in its refusal to support The Mine Ban Treaty. 158 other countries endorse the Treaty, including every other country in the Western Hemisphere (minus Cuba) and all our NATO allies. The decision was made in a brief, closed-door State Department session and no official reasons have since been offered.
The Mine Ban Treaty bans the construction and development of all AP landmines. State Parties must also promise to destroy all their AP landmines within four years, provide annual transparency reports and offer victim assistance for those devastated by landmine explosions. The Covenant’s inception was inspired by Princess Diana’s 1997 visits to Angola and Bosnia, where she was famously photographed wearing a helmet and ballistic jacket while walking through mine fields. At the time, Angola had more than one landmine per Angolan citizen, or 10 million land mines, buried in the country while Bosnia had an estimated 750,000. As a result of Princess Diana’s work and The Mine Ban Treaty, more than 2.2 million AP landmines have been removed worldwide in the past decade.
The United States’ refusal to ratify The Mine Ban Treaty seems a strange turn, even for an Administration that has, thus far, straddled the fence in their approach to human rights. The fact that President Obama intends to send an observer to Cartagena was viewed by most as a positive indication of the United States’ intended support of the Treaty. Moreover, since the United States has not produced or used an AP landmine in over a decade, and since nearly all of the United States’ allies support the Treaty, it is particularly puzzling that the State Department’s only explanations for this decision are conflicts with current national defense needs and US security commitments.
If the Obama Administration truly wants the world to believe that human rights is, indeed, an “essential element of American global foreign policy,” as Secretary of State Clinton said earlier this year, the Administration must break free of the human rights routine of former President Bush and take substantive steps towards protecting the world’s citizens. The first step could have been an easy one; ratifying a covenant that the United States already follows. How sad that such a perfect opportunity was missed. Perhaps a second review of The Mine Ban Treaty is necessary not only in Cartagena, but in Washington as well.
Has this post sparked your interest? Read more at:
Popularity: 2% [?]