An international conference to ban landmines ended Friday in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. Some organizers have called the week-long summit a success, others say there is more to be done.
As the first-ever Nairobi summit for a mine-free world draws to a close, the general consensus among event organizers is, more needs to be done to compensate victims of landmines, and to convince the leaders of the world's most powerful nations to sign on to the global anti-landmine treaty.
In one of the conference's most measurable successes, Ethiopia became the 144th nation to ratify the 1997 Ottawa Convention to ban the use, production and stockpiling of landmines.
Austrian Ambassador Wolfgang Petritsch, one of the top organizers of the summit, says the international campaign to ban landmines already has had proven successes.
"We have now over 37 million stockpiled landmines destroyed," he said. "We need to imagine what it would have meant, if they would have been planted. The financial cost to demine, the human cost, this is just an incredible progress. We need to forcefully continue to do this, and, of course, we need to see that time limits on demining are also met."
Mr. Petritsch's figure of more than 37 million stockpiled landmines destroyed so far represents about a fifth of the world's total number of stockpiled landmines, according to officials. Those that are planted kill or maim roughly 8,000 people every year.
The United States has been a leader in demining efforts around the world, and has promised to stop using landmines by 2010. But it is one of the 46 countries that has yet to ratify the treaty. The United States wanted to sign the treaty, but only if an exception were made to allow continued use of mines to protect American troops in Korea. China and Russia also have not signed on.
Mr. Petritsch echoed the appeal of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki for the leaders of the world's most powerful nations to cease the production and use of landmines.
"Now, in the age of international terrorism, any weapon that one can get rid of altogether is a contribution to overall security," he said. "And, of course, the United States as the world leader should appreciate this. So, therefore, I would like to join Kibaki in appealing to the United States. Let's join forces, and let's get rid of one type of weapon, and then let's go on and eliminate others."
The anti-landmine treaty requires its member nations to destroy all mines within four years, and demine their countries within 10 years. Under the treaty, countries are required to help provide long-term care for people maimed by landmines. Anti-mine campaigners say compensation for landmine victims has flagged for the past three years.
The next summit for a mine-free world is scheduled for 2009. By then, Mr. Petritsch and others hope, all countries will have banned what he calls the world's most primitive weapon.