Grassroots Key in Mine Ban

Article excerpt

"We knew that it was not good enough to end the landmine epidemic at some distant future date. Not with a hundred million mines planted all over the world. Not with thousands of innocent civilians - men, women and children - dying every year. We knew we had to act.... For all of them, for all of us, this is a day we will never forget."

- Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Ottawa, Dec. 3, 1997.

Supported by numerous church organizations, including the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund, 121 countries signed a treaty in Ottawa in December to ban the production, stockpiling and use of anti-personnel landmines. The high level of involvement of non-governmental organizations prompted United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to call the process the "new diplomacy."

In his address to the convention just before the signing of the treaty by Canada, Norway and South Africa, Mr. Annan outlined the structure of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines under its chairperson, Nobel Prize winner Jody Williams, saying the alliance was "made up of individuals and governments, of grass-roots movements and global humanitarian organizations."

It is, he told ambassadors, foreign ministers, members of non-governmental organizations and citizens of various countries packing the main hall of the former railway station, "an alliance that has shamed the world and enlightened it, unmasked its excuses and revealed its potential. It has held up a mirror to us all, revealing the wickedness of human folly and the wisdom of human courage. …