Prince Harry urges world to keep his mother's promise to rid the globe of landmines

Robert Jobson
Prince Harry attends The Landmine Free World 2025 reception on International Mine Awareness Day: Getty Images

Prince Harry has urged the world to keep his mother's promise to rid the globe of landmines.

In a passionate speech that signalled his determination to continue the legacy of his mother's campaign, he called for the world to become free of landmines by 2025.

The Prince revived memories of the last months of her life when he introduced two victims whose plight was first shared with the world by Diana, Princess of Wales 20 years ago.

He said: "My mother had been shocked and appalled by the impact that landmines were having on incredibly vulnerable people and on children in particular. She did not understand why more people were not willing to address the cause of so much suffering. 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."

Prince Harry visiting a mine clearance site in Angola (PA)

His speech at Kensington Palace on International Mine Awareness Day came as the international development secretary announced that the government was tripling the money it spends on landmine clearance to £100 million.

However the emotional core of the evening came as Harry introduced to the audience two men - one Muslim, one Serbian - who met Diana as boys after they both lost legs to mines in Bosnia.

"She shared their stories with the world, and helped campaigners – many of whom are in this room – to change history," he said.

"Those two young boys, Malic and Žarko, are now grown men and are with us today. 20 years on, they both still struggle with their physical and emotional injuries and with the high costs of replacing their prosthetics.

"When my mother said goodbye to Žarko that August, just weeks before her untimely death, she told him he would not be forgotten. Please help me keep her word to Žarko and Malic, and other people like them throughout the world, who still need us to finish the job and rid the planet of landmines. Collectively we have the knowledge, skill, and resources to achieve it, so let's make future generations proud."

Princess Diana touring a minefield in body armour during her visit to Angola (PA)

Malic Bradaric, 34, said he remembered everything of the day he met Diana. "She still lives in our hearts today," he said.

Ken Rutherford, a landmine victim and campaigner who hosted Diana in Bosnia, said she was the first global celebrity to take up the issue. "Harry is carrying on his mother's work. I think she would be extremely proud of what he is doing," he said.

Priti Patel, the international development secretary, joined the prince to announce that the Department for International Development (Dfid) was trebling its support for landmine clearance to £100 million over three years.

Landmine charities have estimated that it will cost £822 million to clear the accessible parts of the world - excluding the likes of Korea and Iran - of mines by 2025.

Harry, who has visited minefields in Angola and Mozambique and is a patron of the landmines charity HALO Trust, said his mother's work was not always popular. He added: "At the time, the attention my mother brought to this issue wasn’t universally popular; some believed she had stepped over the line into the arena of political campaigning – but for her this wasn't about politics; it was about people."

The reception took place at Kensington Palace in London (Getty Images)

The Landmine Free 2025 reception, which also marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Ottawa treaty banning anti-personnel mines, was hosted by the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and the HALO Trust and attended by foreign ministers and philanthropists.

Ms Patel, whose department currently gives £10 million a year, agreed the change in policy after the two charities successfully lobbied development minister Rory Stewart. Mr Stewart, a former private tutor to Princes William and Harry, was a senior coalition official in Iraq in the aftermath of the Gulf War.

Describing landmines as “a global scourge that destroy opportunity and hope”, Ms Patel said it would allow Britain to clear 150 square kilometres of contaminated land in countries including Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan and Cambodia and help 800,000 people.

In 2015 almost 5,000 people were injured and over 1,600 killed by landmines or other explosive devices left behind by conflict. More than a third were children.

“We cannot and will not accept this,” said Ms Patel. “We have a moral duty to act - and it is in our national interest to act.”

Major-General James Cowan, chief executive of the HALO Trust, said the funding marked “the start of a countdown to a mine free world”.

He said: “As with the eradication of smallpox, a mine-free world is not a pipe dream but a real possibility, but only with the right financial support.”

Dr Jane Cocking, chief executive of MAG, said: “The UK is setting up and demonstrating leadership which we hope will be emulated by other governments. Without others coming in with similar generosity we will not be able to reach that target globally.”

The announcement comes after a series of damaging headlines for Dfid, including this week’s report by MPs that contractors employed by the government to implement aid projects overseas routinely indulge in profiteering and overcharging.

There has also been sustained criticism of the way the UK’s £11 billion aid budget is handled, including the £285 million airport on St Helena which failed to take the wind into account. Yegna, a pop group seeking to change attitudes to women that was dubbed the “Ethiopian Spice Girls”, had its funding withdrawn after critical articles in the media.

The success of the lobbying campaign is a remarkable turnaround for two charities which used to be bitter rivals.

In 2011 Halo Trust, the charity supported by Diana, reacted furiously after it lost a multi-million Dfid demining contract in Cambodia to MAG, one of the landmine clearance groups awarded the joint Nobel Peace Prize in 1997.

Recently they have patched up their differences. Dr Cocking said: “Whatever the rights and wrongs of the argument at the time, right now everybody has far more to gain from being mutually supportive than from public or private squabbles.”

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