April 5, 2006

Dining for Demining: Anti-landmine campaign at UN

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan,
actor Michael Douglas and singer Angelique Kidjo promoted a
global drive to rid the world of land mines in 82 countries
that kill up to 20,000 people a year.

A $500 per person dinner to raise money for mine clearance
marked the first U.N.-sponsored International Day for Mine
Awareness on Tuesday. UN officials say it might take as little
as 10 years to rid the world of millions of hidden land mines
that are inexpensive to make and hard to eliminate.

"The goal of a world without land mines appears achievable
in years -- not decades as we used to think," Annan said,
adding that the money raised would go to eliminating mines in
Afghanistan, Bosnia and the once killing fields of Cambodia.

"Tens of thousands of lives have been saved and millions
more improved as a result of the decision and commitment of
this man and the inspiration that he leads," Douglas said of
Annan in presenting him an award.

Douglas, an Oscar-winning movie star, is a UN messenger of
peace, specializing in disarmament. Kidjo, a native of Benin,
is a goodwill ambassador for the UN Children's Fund,


The dinner, attended by some 500 people, was sponsored by
the UN Association of the USA, a grass roots foreign policy
group, which initiated an Adopt-A-Minefield campaign in 2000,
that has now raised $17 million.

The drive spawned a "Night of a Thousand Dinners" started
in 2001 by the Canadian Land mine Foundation. Since then some
1,000 dinners, picnics, lunches, and brunches have been held in
homes, church centers and restaurants around the world.