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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2005, Vol. 5 No. 1 .

Mine Action After Diana; Progress in the Struggle Against Landmines
Stuart Maslen

London and Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2004
201 pp PB 15.99 ISBN 0-7453-2256-5.

The use of landmines as legitimate weapons of warfare has been greatly discredited in recent years. This is due in no small part to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the multifaceted approach adopted to address the destructive effect of landmines, known as ?mine action?. This approach has included advocacy against the use of anti-personnel mines, humanitarian demining, mine risk education, victim assistance and the destruction of stockpiles. The efforts of Diana, Princess of Wales, in seeking an international ban on landmines, helped to raise public awareness for an important cause, one being pursued, as she herself put it, ?in the name of humanity?.

Mine Action After Diana provides much more for the reader than the title initially suggests. In addition to looking at anti-personnel mines, Stuart Maslen also considers the effects of unexploded ordinance, and gives an overview of the historical and contemporary threats to lives and livelihoods from landmines and unexploded ordinance in times of conflict and, moreover, long-after the war has ended (Chapter 1). Chapter 2 addresses several of the myths about mine action, while Chapter 3 provides a history of mine action, including the adoption of the International Mine Action Standards. Each of the major components of mine action, clearance, education, advocacy, victim assistance and stockpile destruction, are discussed in detail in Chapter 4. Drawing on case studies, such as Afghanistan, Cambodia and Iraq, Chapter 5 looks at how some mine action programmes have improved in recent time through better management and coordination with national authorities. Chapter 6 looks at the challenge of integrating mine action into development. Chapter 7 provides a ?who?s who of mine action?, looking at the parts played by a wide range of actors, including the military, NGOs, governments (affected and donor), the United Nations and commercial companies.

Speaking to the book?s sub-heading, the final chapter draws on its predecessors to provide an ?audit? of mine action thus far. Stuart Maslen notes the successes achieved: the destruction of millions of devices, the positive impact on the public conscience, the reduction globally in victim numbers and deminer casualties and the creation of an international treaty banning the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of anti-personnel mines, to name just a few. The hurdles to be overcome, in relation to management, planning, detection technology, education and community liaison, are acknowledged and faced up to, with the author outlining a series of concrete steps which need to be taken by states, the United Nations, donors and those more directly involved in mine action. The book concludes that the process ?has undoubtedly improved greatly during the 1990s?, and that mine action continues ?to learn actively from its successes and failures?.

This book has a broad appeal. Its specific subject-matter of mine action involves discussion of a variety of topics, including conduct of warfare, the human cost of conflict, humanitarianism, development and international law. Although there remains significant work to be done in the struggle against landmines, these weapons have achieved an almost pariah status, even in some military and political circles. For those interested in how the campaign against landmines should proceed from here, Mine Action After Diana is compulsory reading.

Shane Darcy, Lecturer, Transitional Justice Institute, University of Ulster.

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