James Cowan on BBC News

James Cowan on BBC News


Now, this weekend marks 20 years since images of Princess Diana walking through a minefield in Angola were released. It
was to help raise global awareness of landmines and the plight of their victims. The charity she worked with, The HALO Trust now warning, two decades later that global targets for landmine clearance are at risk due to a lack of funding Well, joining me via webcam is the chief executive of The HALO Trust, James Cowen Very good to talk to you, maybe you could tell us how things have changed in those 20 years since Diana first, I suppose, publicized worldwide
just what a problem landmines were Well good morning Gavin, I’m actually sat in Huambo City which is the city in Angola where Princess Diana came back in 1997 And it’s a story in which there’s some great news and, I’m afraid, some bad news The great news is that the galvanised the campaign, her intervention resulted in part in the Ottawa land mine treaty of 1997 and, as a result of that, most of the world now has signed up to that treaty, seeking to get rid of landmines The bad news is, though, that global funding for Mine Action is declined and, as a result, here in Angola for instance, where I once had a workforce of 1,100 Angolans, I can now only employ 300 people and it’s going to take me 40 years – 40 years – to clear Angola and that’s not unusual around the world This is a problem that we can solve and what we do is really very simple: we stop people being killed and wounded; we give jobs to people who might otherwise be unemployed or even in, such as Afghanistan, in the Taliban; we clear
land for farming, and we give confidence to investors to come into countries like
Angola to improve its economy It’s a job worth doing So where are – Angola you mentioned and Afghanistan you mentioned – where are the other problem areas? One would guess Syria perhaps Iraq, that area, the Middle East I think, Gavin, it’s worth dividing the world into post-conflict countries and countries in conflict Of course when you get to post-conflict countries it’s much easier to work and you can spend your money much more efficiently So, good examples of that are: here in Angola; Colombia is a place we’re growing fast; Sri Lanka, a very vicious war there, with widespread use of mines; Cambodia is another example The countries in conflict are more difficult. Our largest countries, Afghanistan we can still work there, we’ve had to cut our work force back – not because of the conflict – from 4,000 people to 2,400, but because of cuts in funding And then, of course, the new countries, and it’s not really so much about mines I used to be in the army and I know about IEDs, IEDs are the, sort-of, “new mine” and IEDs are the thing that are being used in Syria and in Iraq, along with barrel bombs, along with cluster munitions, along with artillery and rocketry – these things are killing a lot of people and so what HALO’s trying to do is finish the job as far as landmines are concerned and then get fit for the future to be relevant for the new conflicts James, thanks very much for taking the time to talk to us from Angola James Cowan, there, from The HALO Trust

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