Prince Harry Praises Late Mother Princess Diana in Anti-Landmine Fight: 'Please Help Me Keep Her Word'
The royal, who has continued his mother’s legacy by backing a plan to rid the world of landmines by 2025, gave a powerful speech at Kensington Palace on Tuesday to mark International Mine Awareness Day.
“Twenty years ago, in the last months of her life, my mother campaigned to draw attention to the horrific and indiscriminate impact of landmines,” he said during the reception on behalf of the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and The HALO Trust.
“She visited affected areas such as Huambo in Angola and Travnik in Bosnia. She heard how people in these communities lived in constant fear that each step may be their last,” he continued. “She met with those who had suffered life changing injuries as a result of anti-personnel mines, she listened to their stories, and helped share them with the world.”
This year marks the 20th anniversary since the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty in Ottawa was signed – and many of those involved in the campaign believe that wouldn’t have happened without Diana’s landmark tours to Angola and Bosnia to highlight the plight of survivors and the need to clear up the mine fields.
“I know if my mother was here with us today, she wouldn’t be willing to accept any credit for the fact that the Ottawa treaty was signed by 122 states in the same year as her visits to Angola and Bosnia,” Hary said. “Rather, she would have applauded the public outrage and the resolve of those in positions of power to end the indiscriminate killing of civilians. She would have applauded that, in a moment of global conscience, the treaty put humanitarian, not military, considerations at its heart.”
In the year marking the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death, Harry is “pleased to have this moment to recognize the significant contribution his mother made in this field, the progress which has been made by MAG, HALO, the U.K. government and other organizations, and the opportunity to continue raising awareness of making the world landmine-free by 2025,” his office at Kensington Palace said in a statement before the event.
Harry has visited minefields in both Angola in 2013 and Mozambique in 2010, where — like his mother — he walked in a minefield. He has met amputees and witnessed the terrible impact landmines have on some of the poorest communities.
During his speech, Harry also introduced two landmine victims — Malic and Žarko — whom his mother had met during her visit in 1997.
“When my mother said goodbye to Žarko that August, just weeks before her untimely death, she told him he would not be forgotten,” he said. “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 and finish what we started.”
After his speech, Harry chatted with Malic and Žarko.
“Perhaps we can meet again when the world is landmine-free,” Harry said. “I will be 40 by then.”
Žarko then said he remembered every detail of the day he met Diana.
“I was so surprised when I saw her. “I could not believe my eyes — it was a princess, wearing blue jeans,” he said. “I remember her words when she was leaving. She told us, ‘You are not going to be forgotten.’
“What she said gave me a lot of strength whenever I have had hard times.
“When she got killed I could not believe it. I felt like a part of me had disappeared. I had a sinking feeling.”
Ken Rutherford joined Diana in Bosnia just weeks before she died. He and his colleague and friend Jerry White of the Landmine Survivors Network were alongside the late princess as she focused on the victims.
“Right now the world’s lacking leadership on landmines,” Rutherford tells PEOPLE. “Prince Harry stepping into the void following his mother’s footsteps is the right time. She injected energy and attention and political limelight. Prince Harry did the same tonight.”
White adds, “He’s a natural and is charismatic and compassionate like his mother. He is an injection into the landmine movement that is so important. And it comes at a very important time even for British leadership in the world to show and redouble efforts for a mine-free world.”