1997 – International landmine ban

The International Committee to Ban Landmines (ICBL) was formed in 1991 to address the injury and death caused to ordinary people by landmines in former conflict zones. It became one of the most effective human rights campaigns in history, linking a wide variety of rights groups and galvanizing the landmark 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.

Following its launch the ICBL quickly gained momentum. It used the media to highlight the devastation wrought by landmines and encouraged the public to pressure their governments into supporting a ban. It also raised money for expensive de-mining operations in countries such as Angola, Bosnia and Cambodia, and promoted mine awareness to prevent more casualties.

In 1992 the European Parliament passed a five-year moratorium on the trade of anti-personal landmines (APLs). In the same year the US passed a bill calling for a one-year moratorium on the export of APLs, which was later extended. In 1993 the UN General Assembly passed a resolution against trade of APLs, established a fund for mine clearance and, at the urging of the French delegation, reviewed the 1980 treaty that to date regulated landmine use.

ICBL founding coordinator Jody Williams, frustrated with the pace of negotiations, conducted her own conference to discuss an international ban without the sponsorship of a large international organization or major diplomatic power, inviting countries keen on a ban. At the meeting, the Canadian delegation proposed plans to come to Ottawa for a treaty negotiation.

In September 1996, at a planning conference in Ottawa, Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy challenged delegates to return to Ottawa the following year to sign a treaty banning landmines. The Ottawa Declaration issued at that conference outlined provisions for the treaty.

The Mine Ban Treaty was eventually adopted in Oslo, Norway, in September 1997 and signed by 122 States in Ottawa, Canada, on December 3, 1997. As of January 2018, there were 164 Parties to the treaty. Since 1997, the number of people killed or wounded by landmines has dropped dramatically.


Pyramid of Shoes to protest landmines. Photo credit:Pascal Grappin/Handicap International