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Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle 20 Years on the occassion of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines

29.11.2012

On 29 November, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle made the following speech at the opening of the exhibition on “20 Years of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines” at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin.

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-- Translation of advance text --

President Maurer, Ms Williams, Excellencies, Members of the Bundestag, boys and girls, distinguished guests,

Today we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. This exhibition highlights the horrific suffering caused by landmines and cluster munitions.

Harrowing images bear witness to the inhumanity, brutality and suffering so many innocent people have had to endure. Nobody who sees these images can be unmoved. They’re a plea for peace.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines has always been a great humanitarian and political success. The Ottawa Convention initiated a ban on an entire category of weapons. With 160 States Parties, today the Convention is closer than ever to universality.

During the last 20 years, the number of victims has fallen to a quarter. But every victim is a victim too many. And every victim has their own story.

Many of you are dedicated to our common cause.

You, Ms Williams, and you, Mr Goose and Mr Gebauer, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for your work in 1997. That was both a mark of recognition and an incentive. I’m delighted that Mr Alizada, who survived a mine explosion as a 14 year-old boy in Afghanistan, is here to talk to us today. I’d like to thank the photographers who took these images as well as the pupils from Halle for their commitment to the campaign to ban landmines. And my thanks also go to Handicap International, SODI and medico international as well as the many volunteers for their untiring efforts.

Recently in Laos, it was brought home to me once more how many innocent people fall victim to a war long over as a result of accidents with cluster munitions. It is often children who are maimed for life while out playing. Mine-infested land causes appalling suffering and remains an obstacle to development and reconstruction for years.

Germany is a staunch supporter of the Ottawa Process on the global prohibition of anti-personnel mines. The same applies to the Oslo Process on the worldwide ban on cluster munitions.

Although we can’t undo the suffering inflicted on innocent people by landmines and cluster munitions by imposing a ban, we can help to prevent human suffering. And we can help the victims. The German Government has assisted more than 40 countries around the world with mine and ordnance clearance, mine awareness and victim assistance. Since 2011, we’ve again increased funding for this by about 30 per cent to just under 20 million euros.

We’ve assumed responsibility for the victims not just financially but, above all, politically.

I appeal to all those states which have not yet acceded to the Oslo and Ottawa Conventions to help ensure that unexploded ordnance doesn’t claim more casualties every year.

Germany’s foreign policy is a policy for peace. Wherever possible, it is a preventive instrument which is used to identify and defuse emerging risks at an early stage.

Our dedication to human rights, to the fight again climate change and to disarmament is part of our preventive diplomacy. Germany has gained the trust of the international community with its long-standing unswerving commitment to this cause. Germany’s recent election to the UN Human Rights Council is a mark of this trust.

Together with our partners the US, France, Britain, Russia and China, we are working to find a political solution to the dispute surrounding Iran’s nuclear programme.

The German Government successfully sought to anchor disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation in NATO’s Strategic Concept.

However, disarmament policy also entails concrete support on the ground.

We’re helping Libya to control small arms and ammunition as well as radioactive materials and to destroy chemical weapons.

We’re helping to destroy chemical weapon stockpiles in Russia.

Combating the proliferation of small arms is a particularly important part of preventive security policy.

For, as Kofi Annan once aptly said, small arms are the real weapons of mass destruction.

We’re helping in Mauritania, in South Sudan and the Sudan, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Côte d’Ivoire to secure weapons and ammunition.

This exhibition spotlights the terrible consequences of war and violence for millions of people around the world. Just like any of us, each one of these people only has one life.

While peace is taken for granted by most of us, it remains the most fervent wish of millions of people in the world.

I hope that your wander round the exhibition will give you pause for thought.

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