In honor of the 12th anniversary of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, experts visited Georgetown on Tuesday to discuss the impact of the agreement and the continuing efforts to obtain the United States’ signature.

Professor and Director of the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery Ken Rutherford, Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams and Director of Human Rights Watch’s Arm Division Stephen Goose participated in the panel, sponsored by Lecture Fund and the School of Continuing Studies.

The treaty, largely achieved through the efforts of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines  led by Williams, includes 132 countries worldwide and requires signatories to both halt mine production and destroy existing antipersonnel mines.

Throughout the evening, Williams stressed the importance of citizen involvement in putting pressure on the United States. She cited her organization’s success as the culmination of small commitments from many advocates.

“The ICBL really was a grassroots campaign of ordinary citizens,” she said.

Referencing the incredible strides made by the agreement — the fastest implemented multilateral treaty in history at just 15 months — Williams encouraged students to take an interest in international policy.

“Being a part of a democracy is not simply voting every four years,” she said.

Despite some dismissal of the relevance of landmine injuries, 90 percent of  the average 20,000 land mine victims per year are civilians.

Rutherford, (CED ’91, GRD ’00), provided an account of these deadly weapons. His vehicle struck a land mine — costing him both of his legs — while he was serving on an international rescue team in Somalia in 1993. According to Rutherford, he has utilized the event as the foundation for his advocacy work.

“The experience fundamentally altered my life and crystallized my vision,” he said.

One of the strongest proponents of a land mine ban in the United States, Rutherford also leads the Mine Action Information Center at James Madison University.

Despite President Obama’s creation of the Land Mine Policy Review in 2009, the U.S. still has not agreed to sign the Mine Ban Treaty. The agreement, if signed, would require the U.S. military to destroy a stockpile of over 1 million mines.

Goose expressed his frustration on the topic, saying that the United States’ obstinacy is both hampering the dangerous process of de-mining and persuading countries like China and Russia to ignore the treaty as well.

The United States has not used antipersonnel mines since the Gulf War in 1991, trivializing the need to stockpile the weapons and further complicating the matter according to panelists. Goose believes that despite written support from 68 members of the Senate and the pressure of the international community, the United States military is delaying the process because it is unwilling to reject the possibility of future land mine use.

While the United States has tried to renegotiate terms of the treaty to include smart mines, temporary explosives that do not remain in the ground for long periods of time, the international community has rejected anything aside from a complete ban.

As the ICBL and treaty members continue to up the pressure on the United States, Goose, Williams and Rutherford were optimistic that Obama would sign the treaty sometime during 2011. For now, the trio seemed mollified by the 12th anniversary.

“The treaty demonstrates what human beings can do when they care,” Williams said.

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