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Welcome to the 21st century.

The historian Eric Hobsbawm describes the years 1914 to 1991 - the years between the start of the First World War and collapse of the Soviet Union - as the "short twentieth century," the age of extremes. But if the 20th century "ended" six years ago, when did the 21st begin? Historians probably will debate that question for another century, but they could do worse than to pick December 3rd 1997, the day the landmines ban was signed in Ottawa.

The "Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction" is a preview of the Common Security agenda of the 21st century: the international rule of law; demilitarization; peacebuilding; human security. And its successful negotiation highlights the growing influence of small and medium powers, and the crucial role that will be played by the global citizens' movement in pursuing that agenda. The Convention grows out of a long tradition of humanitarian law, but it also marks a major milestone in that tradition, becoming the first treaty to eliminate a weapon in every day use by militaries around the world.

Of course, the task of eliminating landmines has only begun with the signing of the Ottawa Convention. In addition to obtaining universal adherence to the treaty and its early entry into force, a huge job remains in removing the mines already planted and assisting in the rehabilitation and reintegration of landmine survivors. The global community must ensure that these urgent needs are not forgotten.

But it must also turn its attention to the broader 21st century security agenda. The abolition of nuclear weapons is one item on that agenda. The control of small arms is another (see the article by Ernie Regehr in this issue). A number of the other articles in this issue examine hold-over items - governments' misguided attempts to project 20th century ideas into the 21st. NATO expansion (Kirsten Ruecker), Canadian steps towards participation in "Star Wars" missile defences (Bill Robinson), and the proposed Canadian purchase of surplus submarines (20-Minute Workout) are all proof that no century entirely ends on a single calendar date. The 21st century may have begun, but the residue of the last century will remain with us for some time to come.

Bill Robinson
COPYRIGHT 1997 Project Ploughshares
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Robinson, Bill
Publication:Ploughshares Monitor
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Dec 1, 1997
Words:376
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