Annan hails entry into force of new pact on speedy clearance of unexploded weaponry

Annan hails entry into force of new pact on speedy clearance of unexploded weaponry

The entry into force of a new international agreement to eliminate unexploded weaponry such as landmines as soon as possible after a conflict “is not an end in itself but rather the beginning of a long series of actions” to protect civilians against the “horrendous effects of explosive remnants of war,” United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.

“This is a matter of survival for millions of civilians. I urge you all to spare no efforts to rid the world completely of this deadly menace,” he told a meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva in a message marking the entry into force of a new protocol to the treaty delivered by Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Nobuaki Tanaka.

Mr. Annan said he was “delighted” at the entry into force of “Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War,” adopted by 92 countries at the UN’s Geneva headquarters three years ago, which came into force yesterday after two dozen States agreed to be bound by it, and called on all countries to implement its provisions voluntarily, pending their adherence.

The clause obliges parties to take “remedial measures to mark and clear, remove or destroy unexploded ordnance or abandoned explosive ordnance” as early as possible after the end of hostilities, providing as significant legal basis for efforts to protect civilians and humanitarian organizations in conflict zones.

This summer’s conflict between Israel and Hizbollah underscored the problem. UN de-mining officials worry that up to 1 million pieces of unexploded ordnance were left over in southern Lebanon from the 34-day war with a density higher than in Kosovo and Iraq, especially in built-up areas, posing a constant threat to hundreds of thousands of civilians as well as humanitarian and reconstruction workers and peacekeepers.

Meanwhile Cambodia and Viet Nam continue to bear the burden of such bombs 30 years after the end of war, impeding safe land cultivation and infrastructure development.

“Wars do not always end with the last gunshot or the signing of a ceasefire agreement. Long after hostilities cease, the human consequences continue. People continue to be killed or injured by unexploded or abandoned explosive ordnance,” Mr. Annan said, telling States Parties they bear primary responsibility for the Protocol’s implementation.

“Your success will be judged by your ability to overcome many difficult challenges,” he added. “You will have to mobilize resources, share experiences and information, and cooperate closely and effectively with others.”

UN Mine Action Service Director Max Gaylard stressed that the Protocol obliged its parties to provide crucial information on the location of such explosives to humanitarian workers.

“This is welcomed by all of us at the United Nations,” he said, noting that humanitarian organizations often deploy to areas affected by landmines and other explosive remnants. “We will appreciate the additional protection.”