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Global activists from Ukraine, Poland, Iran, Cambodia, United Kingdom, France, and the United States gathered to discuss demining actions in a forum held in New York City during the sixty-sixth session of the Commission on the Status of Women in United Nations (CSW66).
This week, New York City was the epicenter of the ONE MINE ONE LIFE WORLDWIDE MOVEMENT, a global NGO that aims to draw international attention to the 60 million people who live in fear of being killed or maimed every day by a landmine.
Activists from Ukraine, Poland, Iran, Cambodia, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States denounced that the number of children who fell victim to landmines in the past year increased significantly due to planted hidden landmines years ago.
“Children account for 54 percent of all civilian casualties, a situation that has increased in the past weeks with the Russian invasion to Ukraine where new landmines were planted. Landmines cause injuries and deaths of people worldwide every day; that’s why we want to raise awareness and encourage the international community to treat demining actions as one of the most important goals for our global human survival,” said Princess Angelika Jarosławska Sapieha, International Peace Ambassador and head of the One Mine One Life Movement.
The current global events brought a group of panelists and experts from three continents to New York City to discuss global demining actions.
“There are newly planted landmines in Ukraine along humanitarian corridors that were supposed to be designed for the safe evacuation of civilians, children, and families,” said Svitlana Salamatova, President of the Geopolitical Alliance of Women, Head of the Ukrainian Women in the UN Project, Co-founder of ICA Ukraine, and Head of the independent delegation of Ukrainian women in the UN.
“Today, Ukraine has a wide field of mining. Almost all key routes throughout the country are mined, and all key infrastructure interchanges are mined, and key agricultural infrastructure as well. In the event of damage to major roads, the movement of humanitarian goods is at high risk of death,” added Salamatova.
In her remarks, the Head of the Ukrainian Women in the UN Project, emphasizes that for the next 100 years, demining experts, specialized NGOs, peacekeepers, and global activists will have the mission to actively clear the Ukrainian land of mines. This advances their goal of allowing children and their families to be able to live in safety again.
Antipersonnel mines violate one of the most important, non-negotiable human rights; living and developing and functioning without constant fear.
“There are over 60 million landmines silently poised in sixty countries. Today, as the grass grows, these antipersonnel landmines also grow beneath the soil. The landmines cost only $3 dollars to put in the ground, yet one thousand dollars to remove. It takes a pound to detonate a landmine, the average weight of a newborn child. Landmines are cancer to the earth,” said Heidi Kühn, Founder of Roots of Peace, a 25 year humanitarian organization dedicated to removing landmines in Afghanistan and other six countries and rebuilding those war-torn regions through agriculture.
“The goal of One Mine One Life is not only demining but also preventing the formation of new mines. The campaign was created to build awareness and publicize the need to support all organizations, following the example of Princess Diana. As One Mine One Life, we want to build social responsibility and support all brave deminers who, risking their lives every day, do not always have enough time to show their heroic and wonderful work.” Said Max C. Meder, One Mine One Life Campaign, Chief Communication Officer.
One Mine One Life’s symbol is a butterfly with the world map in a heart. The symbolism, Meder explained, is not accidental. The heart symbolizes that a landmine hurts the integrity of a victim. The Butterfly metaphor can be interpreted as a process of transformation and hope. “We truly believe that we can create a positive butterfly effect and eliminate these indiscriminate, inhuman weapons together,” Meder concludes.
Brendan Moriarty, American film director, and producer, director of The Road to Freedom, who was born and raised in Cambodia, told about the incredible contribution to many international demining organizations around the globe, who are fighting for decades to clear the world from landmines. He added that there is still a lot of work to be done, and we need the global butterfly effect to make it happen.
“As an artist and filmmaker, I made my first two films in Cambodia. Growing up in Cambodia gave me a personal love for the country and its ancient history (…). Growing up, I saw every day how it affects people…(…) I was always conscious of it. That’s why I feel that this panel is a great opportunity to broaden the global perspective.”
Bill Morse, President of Landmine Relief Fund and International Project Manager for Cambodian Self Help Demining, highlighted that in 2003 he met Aki Ra, an ex-Khmer Rouge soldier, whose mission was clearing landmines by hand. Bill and his wife Jill decided to join Ra in his mission, and so far, they’ve removed over 250 minefields in more than two decades.
“My wife and I have been here for 40 years, helping to fund the demining work, building schools on the old minefields, and setting up organic and rural villages programs (…) Risk education is one of the five pillars of my action. Most injuries today don’t happen in minefields, and half of the injuries in Cambodia last year happened outside the minefield and happened because of the unexploded ordnance,” – Morse added.
“The responsibility of clearing landmines is yours and mine. It’s the responsibility of all of us. We want a mine-free world by 2025. That’s the objective around the planet. Can we do that? I think in Cambodia we can. Will we, do it? Only time will tell. What we need is funding. Money hires people, people clear landmines, and when landmines are cleared, people live a productive life. The use of landmines will only stop when all of us will stand up and say “no.” We will demand our governments never to use these terrible weapons that have killed and maimed innocents for decades,” Morse concluded.