Novel success with arms control Land mines: International Campaign to Ban Landmines and its U.S. coordinator -- awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize -- made unprecedented gains quickly and by starting at the bottom.

Sun Journal

October 11, 1997|By Philip Winslow | Philip Winslow,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

In the world of arms control, the requirements for success have usually been these: presidents and prime ministers who conclude the issue is important, and then five to 10 years for negotiations. Low expectations were always in order.

But the International Campaign to Ban Landmines found unprecedented success: a tight, quickly drafted agreement to do away with a weapon that kills or maims an estimated 26,000 people a year, most of them civilians. And that success came from the bottom up rather than down from presidents and prime ministers.

The International Campaign and its American coordinator, Jody Williams, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday to mark that result, one that seemed improbable when the anti-mine campaign began. What follows is a chronology of that effort:

1990: Robert Muller, director of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, holds a November meeting in Washington with invited anti-war activists about the prospects of changing an existing weapons treaty to include a ban on land mines. As an infantry soldier in Vietnam, Muller was wounded by a mine.

1992: Muller's initiative leads to creation in autumn 1992 of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a loose-knit coalition whose members have the same goal, even though a working plan is yet to be defined: to outlaw anti-personnel mines, which have been used in combat since the U.S. Civil War.

Among the first members are the Germany charity Medico International, the Vietnam Veterans Handicap International, Boston-based Physicians for Human Rights, the Mines Advisory Group and Human Rights Watch. Within five years, the ICBL will include more than 1,000 nongovernmental organizations in nearly 60 countries.

Also, President George Bush signs legislation introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, banning U.S. exports of anti-personnel mines for one year.

1993: President Clinton extends the moratorium on mine exports. The United Nations General Assembly calls on all nations to end exports of the mines.

1994: Offering an important endorsement of the ICBL, the

International Committee of the Red Cross calls for a ban on anti-personnel mines. Since the 1980s, the Red Cross had been treating civilian land mine victims in Angola, Cambodia and other countries, and was becoming alarmed at the growing percentage of its budget that was being spent to provide artificial limbs and relief supplies that had to be delivered by air becaused of mined roads.

Jody Williams, coordinator of the ICBL, begins to focus her efforts on Canada. Led by Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy, Canadian officials meet with nongovernmental groups in countries such as South Africa and Mozambique, telling them the success or failure of the movement was in their hands.

1995: Germany, Austria, Belgium and Norway outlaw the use of mines.

1996: In March, after a visit to Angola, Madeleine K. Albright, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, urges the White House to formulate a new policy on land mines.

In April, after lobbying by Muller and others in the Vietnam veterans organization, 15 senior retired U.S. military officers sign a letter to Clinton calling for an immediate ban. The officers include Gen. John Gavin, former NATO commander in Europe; Gen. David Jones, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of allied forces against Iraq in 1991.

Clinton announces in May that he favors a global ban "as soon as possible" but wants to reserve the right to use mines to protect U.S. troops defending South Korea.

Axworthy, the Canadian foreign minister, announces in December plans to have a formal treaty ready for signature in December 1997.

1997: Representatives of 90 nations meeting in Oslo, Norway, agree Sept. 17 to sign a treaty to ban all anti-personnel mines and provide international aid for de-mining and mine victims.

On the same day, President Clinton announces in Washington )) that the United States will not agree to the treaty, saying that mines are still needed to protect U.S. forces.

Russia and China also decline to endorse the agreement.

On Oct. 10, the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to the ICBL. Russia announces that it will sign the treaty.

Pub Date: 10/11/97

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