Banning Landmines

This lesson introduces the topic of landmines and discusses the 1997 treaty signed by 133 countries, excluding the US, China, and Russia. Are landmines a reasonable form of self-defense?

Pre-Reading Questions

  1. What is a landmine?
  2. How many landmines do you think have been planted around the world?
  3. Which parts of the world do you think have the largest number of landmines?
  4. Why do landmines continue to be a problem long after wars have ended?
  5. Which countries do you think are the largest producers of landmines?

Vocabulary Preview

  • maim: injure so that part of the body is useless
  • indiscriminately: without care
  • victim: a person who is hurt or suffers a loss
  • artificial: not natural
  • limb: arm or leg
  • rehabilitation: treatment to bring back to good condition
  • ban: not allow, prohibit
  • significant: important
  • provide: give, supply
  • elimination: getting rid of, not having anymore
  • civilian: a person not in the army
  • funds: money

Practice these vocabulary words here: Banning Landmines

Landmines

  1. Landmines are weapons of war that kill or maim soldiers and civilians indiscriminately. The United Nations estimates that more than 100 million landmines have been planted in 70 countries, most of which are poor and underdeveloped.
  2. Children are often the victims of landmines; for example, 8,000 Angolan children have lost limbs after stepping on landmines. Fitting victims with artificial limbs is very costly, so most victims do not receive rehabilitation services and are left physically unable to work and support themselves. As well, land cannot be used to produce food until mines have been cleared, and removing them is a slow and expensive process.
  3. In 1997, a treaty to ban the production and use of landmines was signed by 133 countries in Ottawa, Canada. Of the countries who have yet to sign the treaty, the most significant are the three largest producers and users of landmines – the United States, China, and Russia. All three have said they need landmines to defend themselves. Critics of this policy think that landmines are more likely to kill or maim their own soldiers than to scare off their enemies.
  4. Since the treaty was signed, more than 40 million landmines have been destroyed and only 15 countries still produce them (compared to 50 before the treaty). The United States has provided funds to pay for the removal of many of these mines at the same time as it continues to produce them.
  5. In December 2004, the first World Summit on a Mine Free World was held in Kenya. Participants demanded that the United States, China, and Russia sign the 1997 treaty.Clearly, without their co-operation, the total elimination of landmines will not be possible. However, neither Russia nor the United States sent delegates to the conference.

Post Reading Questions

  1. Why are landmines different from other conventional weapons used in war?
  2. Why do you think United States helps pay for the removal of landmines but at the same time continues to produce landmines?
  3. Do you think that the total worldwide elimination of landmines is possible in your lifetime? Why or why not?
  4. What can individual nations do to help eliminate landmines around the world?
  5. What can be done to educate children about the dangers of landmines in countries where landmines exist?

Additional Resources