With landmines in the way, there is no safe development

It’s International Development Week, and we want to share how indiscriminate weapons negatively impact the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

On Day One, we’re looking at how landmines can completely stop development and affect 12 out of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). When thinking about landmine contamination, it is important to think about the area of land suspected to be contaminated, and not how many landmines have actually been laid. Think about your backyard for example: If you thought there was even one landmine there, you would avoid that area - even if there were actually zero landmines, or ten. So, when a community has an area of land that is suspected of contamination, safe development activities cannot happen on that land as it should be avoided. The contamination could be on farmland (SDG #1, Zero poverty & #2, Zero Hunger), at a clinic (SDG #3, Good health and well-being), near a school (SDG #4 Quality Education) or water well (SDG #6, Clean water and sanitation) - wherever there is landmine contamination there are lethal barriers to development. 

If land is suspected to be contaminated, or is confirmed contaminated, these important activities cannot take place safely. This means that development is stalled as children are unable to walk to school or families are unable to farm their land. This leads to poverty, hunger, poor health, not receiving a quality education or being unable to access clean water. Of course, people need to eat, access healthcare, go to school, and drink water. Since clearance takes decades, people in affected communities are often left with no choice but to either displace or stay put and go about these daily activities, risking their lives. This risk is not sustainable, as many people lose their lives or limbs in the process. This is clearly not peaceful and too often no one is held accountable for the civilian harm caused (SDG #16, Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions). People experience this risk in different ways, as men, women, boys, and girls have different activities that they perform which either makes them higher or lower risk for an incident (SDG #5, Gender Equality). For example, in many communities it is the men who farm the land which puts them at higher risk for contamination on farmland. Being forced to take these risks, or being unable to and therefore stopped from daily activities increases inequalities (SDG #10, Reduced Inequalities).

When people are risking their lives for daily necessities such as farming, it is easily seen how SDG goals of affordable and clean energy (SDG #7), decent work and economic growth (SDG #8), industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG #9), and sustainable cities and communities (SDG #11) are extremely difficult to achieve. When landmines are contaminating large areas of land, it is impossible to build new infrastructure and invest in clean energy to create sustainable cities without clearing the landmines first. 

Landmines stop progress towards sustainable development, this much is clear. Later this week we will talk about the importance of clearance and how this will help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Clearance is step one, development is step two.