Friday, April 3, 2015

Students in West Virginia commemorate 2015's International Day for Mine Awareness and Mine Action

Students in West Virginia commemorate 2015's International Day for Mine Awareness and Mine Action

U.S. students have marked Mine Action Day with a solidarity action while government officials for the first time referred to goal of U.S. accession to the Mine Ban Treaty.

To commemorate April 4, which is the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, U.S. students are calling on everyone to "Lend Your Leg" to help create a world without landmines, cluster munitions, and other explosive weapons.

The Department of State and Secretary of State John Kerry have issued Mine Action Day statements that, unlike previous years, refer by name to the Mine Ban Treaty and "ultimate goal" of U.S. accession. The U.S. statements also detail the policy commitments made in 2014 banning U.S. production and acqusition of antipersonnel mines as well as banning U.S. use of the weapons outside of Korea. 

Proud Students Against Landmines (PSALM) at Saint Francis Central Catholic School in Morgantown, West Virginia held a "Lend Your Leg" solidarity event to mark 2015 Mine Action Day that saw over 400 members of the school community make individual signs with messages supporting a world without landmines. 

"Lend Your Leg" is an initiative that encourages people worldwide to undertake the simple but symbolic gesture of rolling up a pant leg or sleeve to symbolize the damage still caused by landmines and other explosive remnants of war. John Kerry himself participated in the action together with landmine survivors in 2013 in Colombia, where "Remángate" was created a few years earlier and has been championed by celebrities including Juanes.

In early March, PSALM held another event to mark 16 years since the Mine Ban Treaty entered into force on March 1, becoming binding international law around the world, but not in the U.S.. The occasion also marked the sixteenth anniversary of the founding of PSALM, which is coordinated by Saint Francis teacher Nora Sheets 

PSALM spokespersons Dake and Abby urged concrete steps to ensure landmines and cluster munitions are never used and that "the United States joins the treaties to ban these weapons that cause so much suffering for children and others all around the world." The students also called on the U.S. to start participating in key meetings of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, as the U.S. has done as an observer in Mine Ban Treaty meetings since 2009. 

PSALM is a member of the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines, which this week launched a new website to provide information on landmine policy and the need for the U.S. to join the Mine Ban Treaty: