BY MARAL FIRKATIAN WOZNIAK
To what extent do fancy parties with celebrity saturated guest lists affect positive social change?
In the case of landmines and the impact they have, namely in developing countries, it turns out the answer is quite a lot.
On Tuesday, April 4th, International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, the HALO Trust and Mines Advisory Group (MAG) hosted Landmine Free 2025 at Kensington Palace at which Prince Harry spoke, pledging to take action to remove all landmines from the world by the year 2025.
ONEArmenia’s current campaign, Remove Landmines from Artsakh, which aims to clear 31,839m² of land near the village of Meghvadzor in Artsakh Republic (Nagorno Karabakh Republic) works in partnership with the HALO Trust. ONEArmenia’s founder, Patrick Sarkissian and Country Director Anahit Galstyan, attended Landmine Free 2025 to learn more about the global initiative to rid the world of these dangerous and destructive remnants of war.
Pledging to remove landmines is all well and good but unless that pledge is then backed up with the action it promises to take, it isn’t much use to anyone.
Which is why following Prince Harry’s poignant and uplifting speech in which he recalled his late mother’s own personal campaign to raise awareness of the danger of landmines, Priti Patel, newly appointed Secretary of State for International Development, announced that the UK government would increase its spending on landmine clearance to £100 million over three years.
It is through a combination of awareness and action that the lofty goal of removing all landmines from the world by 2025 will be accomplished. Princess Diana set the stage when she took a stroll through a minefield in Angola 20 years ago. As Prince Harry noted in his address, she felt obliged to take action.
“My mother had been shocked and appalled by the impact that landmines were having on incredibly vulnerable people and on children in particular…She refused to accept that these destructive weapons should be left where they were, just because they were perceived as too expensive and difficult to remove.”
The Prince himself has been similarly moved to take action, as was seen in his recent trips to Angola and Mozambique. The phrase “following in his mother’s footsteps” has been used extensively to describe his recent activities as he quite literally walks the same ground she did in an effort to raise awareness.
Princess Diana’s efforts had an impact. She sparked a global conversation around a subject which had, up until that point, gone largely unnoticed. Some criticized her actions, others applauded them. ONEArmenia’s country director writes that as a little girl she was inspired by Diana’s bravery. How appropriate, then, that today she is leading a team of women in Yerevan to crowdfund and digitally market a campaign which will raise the funds necessary to take action against landmines in Artsakh.
“It’s inspirational that people like Prince Harry are involved in supporting campaigns like this, and what ONEArmenia is doing is offering individuals around the world the opportunity to say “I made this happen”.” says Galstyan upon having met Prince Harry and spoken to him about the project.
So what do the events at Kensington Palace and the coinciding pledge mean for ONEArmenia’s campaign? Financially, not much. The money pledged by the British government will not be allocated to places like Artsakh which is an internationally disputed territory. This means that there is still a need for individual donors to contribute to the cause and support the efforts of ONEArmenia to Remove Landmines from Artsakh.
While Landmine Free 2025 did not necessarily result in the financing of the clearance that needs to take place, it did go a long way towards raising awareness of the issue in Artsakh, which is half the battle. Prior to Princess Diana’s historic trip to Angola, how many people could point to Angola on a map? At best most would wave vaguely at the African continent. Regardless of whether people agreed with her actions or not, the Princess of Wales set into motion a decades long struggle to end the violence that results from the hidden danger presented by landmines.
Today, the end is in sight. We can realistically set a goal for a future free of landmines. On a global scale, that goal is 2025. For Artsakh, the HALO Trust estimates that it is possible for the region to be cleared of landmines by 2020.