A Global Ban On Landmines:
Address To The Treaty Signing Conference
And Mine Action Forum
by Jody Williams,
Coordinator of International Campaign To Ban Landmines
It has been my privilege and sometimes my pleasure, not always my pleasure, to coordinate this campaign since its inception at the end of 1991 and early 1992, when we were a handful of organizations.
I have done an awful lot of interviews in the last few weeks, and I am always asked if we expected this. Certainly not! Who would have expected that within such a short time the governments of the world would have responded to a band of NGOs calling for a ban on the weapon in widespread use, a weapon that most military don't think about as different from all the other weapons they use -- it's just another one in the arsenal.
It wasn't until the voice of civil society was raised to such a high degree that governments began to listen, that change began to move the world, with lighting and unexpected speed.
It is a privilege to stand here today and see so many faces of friends who didn't, some of them, start out as friends in the early -- Max (inaudible), whose kneecaps were threatened, and he threatened mine right back -- but without these early steps, without the leadership shown by a few in the beginning, some of them lately with the first moratorium in the United States, the Belgian Government, which I see sitting there, our friends, who were the first government to unilaterally ban the weapon, the French Government, which called upon the international community to review the one convention that tried to control the weapon, that gave us the platform to push and holler and shove and make the governments begin to say the scary words: We need to ban the weapon.
Had governments not begun to say the scary words "We need to ban the weapon", it would not have happened. And gradually, they did take steps, and gradually the base was built to make the governments of the world believe that they actually could step outside of the normal diplomatic channels and do something different.
We have already heard many times praise for the leadership of Canada. It is very well deserved. It is leadership, however, built on the stepping stone of many -- as I said, Belgium, Norway and Austria. I am pleased to see Thomas Hajnoczi, the father of the treaty text. Hi, Thomas. I'm glad to see you today.
Without all of these people working together in the firm belief that they could change the world, Foreign Minister Axworthy would not have been able to make the challenge, and even then it was a scary challenge. We have talked a lot about how horrified the diplomatic community was with that challenge.
Things could have failed then. It's sort of easy to make a challenge. It's very hard to put the full fate of your government behind the challenge and make it happen. That's real leadership. We should all be very, very proud to be here again in Canada, in recognition of that leadership, because not only did they challenge the world, they quickly went beyond their challenge and went out and made it happen.
They challenged the world to work openly with civil society, to perhaps show the world that we no longer had to see each other as adversaries, that actually governments and civil society should dialogue, that we actually are part of the same world community and should work together for change. Thank you, Canada, for that leadership.
I have also been asked in the last few days in the interviews, "Ah, everybody is here, they're signing, everybody is going to feel good, and they're all going to walk away and think the job is done".
I am also pleased to say that the leadership continues. Perhaps if this were just a celebratory ceremony of signing and everybody got to shake hands and pat each other on the back and have good photo opportunities to take home, we could be a little concerned. But I think the cynics of the world, who did not believe the Ottawa Process would bear this fruit, should also look at the other part of what is happening here in Ottawa.
We are planning for the future. We will come out of this conference with a clear, defined plan of action to carry this treaty forth to reality. It will not fail. Canada has committed to a continued leadership with Norway, South Africa, the governments who really wanted to see a ban happen, are committed to making the treaty have teeth, are committed to removing the mines from the world and helping the victims of the world. We will not fail.
That leadership has helped the rest of the world come on-board. I was very pleased this morning to hear the Prime Minister mention that 125 governments are prepared to sign this treaty. I remember a year ago after the challenge, when we were all exhausted and a handful of us went to dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant, with one of my personal heroes, Bob Lawson, with the Canadian Government, the corporate ally that we always mention, our key contact in government.
We went to dinner with Bob and we did a little betting, wondering how many governments would actually sign this treaty in a year, because the Prime Minister had said, we'll sign if it's even a handful. We certainly didn't want to see a handful, but I thought maybe 36 -- the highest number was maybe 75. But here we have 125 governments recognizing that the tide of history has changed, recognizing that together we are a super power. It's a new definition of super power: It is not one; it is everybody. You are all part of being a super power!
The post cold war world is different, and we have made it different, and we should be proud we are a super power. Thank you very much for being here.
I will end recognizing a couple of people in the back.
This treaty is a gift to the people who have to live in a mine field. Tun Channareth has been one of our ambassadors for change.
The young woman in front of him, another mine survivor, who has had the courage to come out in the world and show the world not just the results of living in a mine field, but that you can be a voice for change, that tragedy does not have to turn into a lack of action. They are a symbol that mine victims can be a vital part of change, and I thank you an honour you for being here.
And it is the view of this International Campaign to Ban Landmines that this treaty is in honour of those who lived in the mine fields, and it is in honour of those who cleared those mines, and it is a gift to the world that hopefully in the next century we can do things differently and live not only in a mine-free world, but in a world where we are the super power and can change the world quickly and address humanitarian problems, the way we have done it here.
Thank you all for signing the Treaty today and tomorrow.