First mine action day to be marked at UN toward ending scourge

3 April 2006

Though 15,000 men, women and children around the world are still losing lives or limbs by coming upon explosive mines each year, the end of the scourge is now in sight if international action is sustained, a United Nations official said today as he previewed the first international day dedicated to the issue.

Though 15,000 men, women and children around the world are still losing lives or limbs by coming upon explosive mines each year, the end of the scourge is now in sight if international action is sustained, a United Nations official said today as he previewed the first international day dedicated to the issue.

“Some years ago, we were talking about hundreds of years to solve problems of mine action in Afghanistan and other parts of the world,” Max Gaylard, Director of the Mine Action Service of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, told correspondents at UN Headquarters on the eve of the first International Day for Mine Awareness and assistance in Mine Action, to be observed on 4 April.

“Now we're talking about maybe a decade, certainly years and not many decades, so we've come a long way,” Mr. Gaylard said, noting that in the late 1990s, there were around 25,000 mine victims annually, a number which is now decreasing every year due to the mobilization of the international community, the mine ban treaty signed in Ottowa in 1997, and the completion of comprehensive surveys in mine-affected countries.

The International Day aims to ensure that international motivation – and funds – continued to be applied to the problem until it is solved, he said.

“The mine-affected countries have taken on the responsibility to clear the mines from their territories, but they can't do it alone,” Mr. Gaylard said. Funding was fairly good at the moment, he added, but it is crucial that donors do not lose interest.

“The decision to make April 4th International Mine Action Day shows the commitment of the international community to achieve more progress toward the implementation of the Ottawa Convention,” said Ismael Abraão Gaspar Martins, Ambassador of Angola, a country where mines still kill and maim while hampering recovery from a 30-year civil war.

“Clearing land mines is not just a humanitarian problem, it is also a development problem,” Mr. Martins said. “Without it, we cannot transform affected lands into productive lands.”

The First international Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action will be observed at UN Headquarters in New York by a film screening and a panel that includes actor Danny Glover, who is a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Member States and the UN.