With over 5,000 casualties last year from landmines that continue to indiscriminately kill and maim decades after they are laid, two senior United Nations officials today warned that, despite significant progress in ridding the world of these explosive devices, much more needs to be done.
“Over the past two years over 41 million stockpiled anti-personnel mines have been destroyed,” the Assistant-Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Dmitry Titov, told reporters in New York. “And the production, transfer and sale of anti-personnel mines has stopped in many parts of the world.”
He noted that in Sudan mine clearance efforts have opened up to 29,000 kilometres of road, unblocking trade routes, allowing refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their communities, and helping humanitarian agencies deliver emergency relief supplies to various vulnerable groups around the country.
Some headway has even been made in war-torn Afghanistan, site of the oldest and largest mine action programme, where the number of casualties of landmine blasts has dropped from over 100 per month in 2005 to less than 60 a month at present owing to the destruction of around 84,000 mines in 2008 alone.
However, the goals of “clearing land and transport routes to improve the livelihoods of communities are still hampered by the threat of landmines in over 70 countries,” stressed Director of the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) Maxwell Kerley.
“Some 14 million stockpiled anti-personnel mines still remain to be destroyed throughout the world,” said Mr. Kerley, recalling a recent report by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urging all UN Member States to ratify the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which has been signed by 103 countries and ratified by 24 to date.
Mr. Kerley also noted that some 1,000 participants representing governments, international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are slated to attend the UNMAS summit on a mine-free world, to be held in Cartagena, Colombia, in two weeks.
Fourteen UN departments, agencies, programmes and funds play a role in mine-action programmes in 30 countries and three territories.