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More anti-land mine work ahead, say Nobel Prize winners

Jody Williams and Tun Channareth after receiving the prize   
December 10, 1997
Web posted at: 4:32 p.m. EST (2132 GMT)

OSLO, Norway (CNN) -- The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and its American coordinator, Jody Williams, on Wednesday received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for a global effort that resulted in a treaty signed by 122 countries last week to ban land mines.

In accepting the award at Oslo's City Hall, Williams said the ICBL's mission was far from over.

"We're not so naive that we think that because of what we have accomplished this month that the problem is eradicated," she said after receiving the peace prize presented by Nobel Committee head Francis Sejersted. "There are still tens of millions of mines in 70 countries around the world affecting lives on a daily basis."

One of those countries -- Cambodia -- was represented at the ceremony by anti-land mine activist Tun Channareth, 37, a former guerrilla who lost both legs in a mine explosion in 1982. Seated in a wheelchair, he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the ICBL, raising the gold medal high above his head.

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Williams, 47, and the ICBL will share the coveted $1 million award. The group, founded in 1991 by a few activists, is now active in 60 countries and comprises more than 1,000 organizations.

Praised by the Nobel Prize committee as the driving force behind the land mine ban, Williams has often criticized her home country, the United States, as well as other nations that opposed the treaty and did not sign it at a conference held last week in the Canadian capital of Ottawa.

In her acceptance speech, she accused the Clinton administration of trying to "weaken the treaty ... to accommodate U.S. policy and fortunately the world said no."

The United States walked out of the treaty conference because it wanted the agreement to contain key exceptions, including for the Korean Peninsula, where thousands of American soldiers are deployed.

What's next?

Another ICBL activist, Rae McGrath, echoed Williams' remarks. Speaking after her at the awards ceremony he, too, said much work remains in the aftermath of the treaty signing.

Among the ICBL's next goals:

  • Getting 40 countries to ratify the treaty which goes into effect six months after that occurs.

  • Pushing holdouts including the United States, Russia, China, India and Pakistan to sign.

  • Cleaning up mines that lurk below the soil around the world.

McGrath, holding aloft in one hand a deactivated land mine, said: "Sadly, we can be assured today that a Kurdish farmer, a mother searching for firewood, or a child playing in snow will be killed or maimed by a mine like this."


"This is not an attempt to vilify selected nations," said McGrath, a former British soldier who founded the London-based Land Mine Advisory Group. "It is a plea for civil society to demand transparency from its government and from its arms industry. There is no moral excuse to wring your hands and cry, 'I didn't know,' if you didn't ask to know."

It is estimated that at least 100 million land mines are buried around the world and that they are responsible for killing or maiming 26,000 people a year.

The peace prize is presented in Oslo. The Nobel honors for science, literature and medicine prizes were to be presented in Stockholm, Sweden, later in the day.

The Nobel Prizes are always presented on December 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, whose will established the prizes.


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