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Landmines and cluster munitions
Aid to survivors and clearance of affected lands

JRS works at both grassroots and government levels to achieve its aims. An example is JRS work on landmines where, together with other agencies, we have been instrumental in enabling the voices of survivors to be heard. The result: vital international treaties have been drawn up to address their concerns.

JRS plays an active role in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Cluster Munitions Coalition. A recent achievement of the latter is the Convention on Cluster Munitions, signed in Oslo in December 2008, which entered into force on 1 August 2010.

This treaty bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions, and requires countries to clear affected areas within 10 years and to destroy stockpiles of the weapon within eight. Further, the Convention includes ground-breaking provisions for assistance to survivors and affected communities. Together with the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, it is one of the most significant international disarmament treaties.

"Our interest in banning landmines began during work in refugee camps in the 80s, where we saw first-hand the horrific consequences these weapons have on their victims. The Cambodia anti-landmine movement has been very influential in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. It began with a letter from four soldiers in the JRS Centre of the Dove, a vocational training project that provides landmine survivors with skills.

The letter said: 'Before we were soldiers who laid the mines that blew off the arms, legs and eyes of one another; now, we work together in the Centre of the Dove, and we beg the world to stop making mines, stop laying mines, begin clearing mines, and to work so that our communities and people with disabilities can live a full life once again.'

In 1997, one of these former soldiers, Tun Chunnareth, rode his wheelchair onto the stage in Oslo and received the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the campaign. He is working with JRS in Siam Reap, continuing his crusade against landmines. We have the Nobel Prize on display in our office."
Denise Coghlan RSM

  • Campaigns
International Campaign to Ban Landmines/ Cluster Munitions Coalition

Up until the 1990s, antipersonnel landmines were used by almost all the world’s armed forces, in one form or another. Thanks to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, landmine use has dramatically dropped. Today, although the weapon is only used in a handful of conflicts, it continues to pose a significant and lasting threat.

JRS helped establish the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) in 1994, to accompany those injured by landmines, help survivors tell their stories, promote solid ethical reflection and support national campaigns. The awarding of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize to the Campaign gave a boost to the many tireless JRS staff who participated in the campaign. Tun Chunnareth, who has worked with JRS Cambodia for years and is himself a landmine victim, has been a prominent spokesperson for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. It was he who accepted the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on behalf of the campaign. JRS continues to lobby for the signing and ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty by other countries.

JRS provides information for the ICBL's annual 'Landmine Monitor', an in-depth study into the on-going use, production and destruction of landmines, as well as a watchdog style report on states' commitments under the Mine Ban Treaty (1997 Ottawa Convention). JRS has played a leading role in the campaign and contributed research on Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia for the 'Landmine Monitor'. In addition JRS continues to support landmine survivors in countries such as Bosnia, Cambodia, Thailand, and Kosovo, and actively raises awareness of the issue in these and other landmine-affected countries.

Following the signing of the treaty banning landmines, civil society groups, including JRS, established the Cluster Munitions Coalition, and shifted their advocacy activities to concentrate on the prohibition of cluster munitions. These weapons, when fired, release hundreds of submunitions and saturate an area as wide as several football fields. Like landmines, cluster munitions, or cluster bombs, often fail to explode on impact, representing a fatal threat to anyone in the area. Most cluster munitions, therefore, hit areas outside the military objective targeted.

After years of campaigning, in May 2008 in Dublin, Ireland, 107 countries negotiated and adopted a treaty that bans cluster bombs and provides assistance to affected communities. The Convention on Cluster Munitions, CCM, prohibits all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions. Separate articles in the Convention concern assistance to victims, clearance of contaminated areas and destruction of stockpiles. It becomes binding international law when it enters into force on 1 August 2010.

Some reasons to campaign for a total ban on landmines and cluster munitions

Socio-economic costs
The presence of these weapons poses a threat to displaced civilians returning to their homes, hampers post-conflict development, renders agricultural land inaccessible and forces people to work in contaminated areas because there is no other means for them to earn an income. It also hinders the provision of aid and relief services and threatens, injures and kills aid workers.

The human costs
Antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions still maim and kill ordinary people every day. They blow off their victims' legs, feet, toes and hands. They fire shrapnel into their faces and bodies. They kill. Moreover, medical treatment for survivors, where available, is costly, burdening already overstretched healthcare systems.

Civilians bear the brunt
The vast majority of victims are civilians and not soldiers. This is not just during a conflict – most of the countries where casualties are reported are at peace.

Humanitarian law
Under international humanitarian law, parties to an armed conflict are obligated to protect civilians. Weapons that cannot discriminate between civilian and military targets or  cause excessive humanitarian harm constitute a grave concern, and this is why countries signed a treaty banning antipersonnel landmines in 1997. It is important that countries do the same for cluster munitions.

Long-term effects
Once planted or fired, cluster munitions and landmines remain unless they are cleared. The only way to prevent long-term damage is to stop their use altogether and devote resources to clearing contaminated areas and helping survivors.

Children are victimised
A child who is injured by a landmine or a cluster bomb may face months of recovery. A growing child with a prosthetic limb will need it refitted each year. Some never return to school after their accident. Many face social exclusion. Like adult victims, they will face enormous practical, economic, social and psychological challenges in their rehabilitation and reintegration process.

Border protection: there are alternatives
Mines are largely ineffective in protecting border regions, for example from non-state armed groups. Instead of offering protection, minefields terrorise and impoverish the communities living in the area. Alternatives exist and include the use of mobile and fixed border patrols and motion detection equipment and barriers.

For further information see International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munitions Coalition