Anti-personnel mine treaty reviewed in Cartagena summit
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Colombia hosts the second Summit for a Landmine-free World in Cartagena, where representatives of 100 nations will review the 1997 Ottawa treaty outlawing the use of anti-personnel mines.
AFP - Representatives from over 100 nations are set to gather in Cartagena Sunday to review a UN treaty banning the use of anti-personnel mines, which killed more than 5,000 people in 2008 alone.
The summit is the second conference reviewing the 1997 Ottawa Treaty, which came into force in March 1999 after pressure from victims of the weaponry.
Some 156 nations are signatories to the ban, but three world powers -- the United States, China and Russia -- have declined to join the treaty, which bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines, as well as their destruction.
Earlier this week, President Barack Obama's adminsitration said it had not changed its policy and would continue to assess it despite completing the first review of Washington's position since 2003.
"While our review is ongoing, our current policy remains in effect," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said ahead of the Cartagena Summit on a Mine-free World, which runs until Friday.
"We determined that we wouldn't be able to meet our national defense needs, nor our security commitments to our friends and allies if we signed the convention."
Sylvie Brigot, director of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), condemned the US position.
"We cannot understand this shameful decision," she said, describing it as an "outrage to survivors of anti-personnel mines."
According to ICBL, the 1997 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for its work to combat the weapons, significant progress has been achieved toward ending the use of landmines since the Ottawa Treaty came into effect.
"In 1999, at least 15 governments were using landmines. Since 2007, it is only two: Burma and Russia," said Mary Waheram of Human Rights Watch, an ICBL member, during a Bogota press conference.
Another 13 non-governmental armed groups have also declined to renounce the use of mines, but that figure is down significantly from the dozens of groups using the weaponry a decade ago.
It is no accident that Colombia is hosting the second review conference of the treaty, five years after the first review in Nairobi.
Colombia has a large number of landmine victims, second globally only to Afghanistan, with more than 8,000 amputees as a result since 1990.
It is also home to the FARC guerilla movement (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), which Waheram called "one of the most important users of mines" among the world's armed rebel groups.
Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos has acknowledged that the weapons are used to protect drug labs and coca leaf crops.
According to ICBL, 127 governments plan to send delegations to the Cartagena summit, with a number dispatching high-level representatives.
China, Russia and the United States will attend as observers, as will delegates from the International Committee of the Red Cross, various UN agencies and some 400 representatives from civil society.
Over the course of the nearly week-long meeting, participants will seek to draw up a five-year "action plan" and draft a final declaration.
"We want real engagement by the most affected countries and donors for demining programs," Brigot said.
"We want them to recognize that much remains to be done."
Handicap International, an organization founded by ICBL, estimates that anti-personnel mines and unexploded ordinance kill or mutilate one person every 90 minutes worldwide.