Japan’s determination for a world without landmines
Landmines are more than just weapons. They are a deadly threat, even decades after the war is over. The UK-based Halo Trust, an organization working to eradicate anti-personnel landmines, held an event in Tokyo to appeal for cooperation in mine clearance activities, which still face many challenges.
Legacy of War: Landmines
Japan and many other countries have funded the removal of anti-personnel mines scattered in conflict zones around the world, and have cleared countless mines. Nevertheless, countless landmines still remain buried, indiscriminately killing and maiming thousands of innocent people every year. Many of them are children.
Giles Dooley, a British news photographer who has been documenting the long-term effects of the conflict for the past two decades, calls landmines a “legacy of war.
A victim of homemade explosive devices (IEDs) made from explosives and detonators, Dooley is a strong proponent of demining. Hearing about his experience, from the long struggle to heal and rebuild his life to the excruciating pain of his wounds, brings us closer to and helps us understand the damage that many of us suffer every day. Mr. Dooley continues to travel to Angola, Cambodia, Syria, and other areas where the scars of conflict remain, taking photos of the victims and conveying the devastation. These photos are posted on his website named “Legacy of War,” where he conveys the tragic situation caused by anti-personnel mines over the long term, along with the voices of the victims.
Mr. Dooley was in Tokyo with a message to attend a Landmine Free 2025 campaign event, “An Evening for Zero Landmines,” held on June 11 by the UK’s Halo Trust (Hazardous Areas Life-support Organization) and Japan’s AAR Japan (Association for Aid and Relief, Japan). The event was attended by many Japanese politicians and foreign diplomats.
Promoting Landmine Awareness
The stories of IEDs and unexploded ordnance (UXO) are also the stories of people whose lives have been destroyed by them,” Dooley said. A Laotian woman lost her daughter and siblings to unexploded ordnance decades after the peace declaration. A Cambodian man who lost both his legs and his job, sleeping and waking in a dog basket on a tarp. All I have heard from the people I have met so far are tragic stories. It’s not just the pain of injury. It’s not just the pain of the injury. The whole family is affected.”
Mr. James Cowan, President of the Halo Trust, was one of the speakers who advocated the importance of eliminating landmines from the world. When landmines are removed, the country will return to normalcy, tourism, industry and agriculture will resume, and people will be able to live normal lives again. The Halo Trust, the world’s oldest and largest humanitarian demining organization, and AAR, one of the oldest and most active international NGOs in Japan, are urging the Japanese government to increase its support for demining activities.
Commitment to Mine Clearance
In 1997, more than 130 countries, including Japan, signed the Ottawa Convention on the Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines, which prohibits the use, storage, production, and transfer of anti-personnel mines. Also in 2014, Japan, along with other parties, agreed to an ambitious goal of eliminating landmines from the world by 2025. Japan remains a major contributor to the fund, but its aid has been declining in recent years. According to the “Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitor Report,” Japan’s support for mine clearance activities decreased by more than 40% from 6.2 billion yen in 2001 to 3.6 billion yen in 2005.
The “Evening for Zero Landmines” was held to draw attention to this issue in Japan and attracted a large number of participants. Both Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of the New Komeito Party, and Kiyohito Tsuji, parliamentary secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Liberal Democratic Party, gave speeches at the event. Among the opposition parties, Katsuya Okada, a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, and others were also present. At the venue, panel photos documenting landmine clearance activities around the world were displayed, and a video message from Prince Henry of the United Kingdom was played. Prince Henry is taking over the mine clearance activities that his late mother, Princess Diana, was actively involved in before her death.
Yukie Osa, President of AAR, stresses the need to encourage Japan and other donor countries to reach the goal of zero landmines by 2025. Japan’s interest in the landmine issue has been declining since the signing of the Ottawa Treaty,” she said. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been getting a lot of attention lately, and we need to be more aware that the landmine issue is closely related to and symbolic of the SDGs.
Cowan added that although Japan’s contribution has been declining, the country is still one of the few countries that has continuously supported demining activities over the years. It’s time to rekindle the momentum we had in 1997.
In a poignant message he delivered at the event, Mr. Dooley stressed that the issue of landmines is one that affects every individual’s life, and that the physical and psychological effects of landmines will continue “for generations to come” if they are not removed quickly. He is particularly concerned about children. Every time I see a child who has been affected by a landmine, I think about the pain I feel every day, the psychological impact, and the opportunities I have lost because of my injury,” he said. Every morning when I wake up, I think about the fact that somewhere in the world today, there is another child just like me, injured by a landmine and facing the same reality. I continue to do this because I believe that one day I will wake up in the morning and know that there will be no more children injured by landmines