Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for continued efforts to rid the world of landmines and explosive remnants of war, and lauded mine action workers for their dedication despite the dangers posed by the indiscriminate weapons.
“Let us rededicate ourselves to this life-saving cause so that our children can live on a planet free from the threats caused by landmines and explosive remnants of war,” Mr. Ban said in a message on the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.
The Secretary-General said mines and unexploded ordnance “clog roads in Afghanistan, Sudan, Cambodia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They block access to schools and hospitals in Laos, Gaza and Nepal.”
The weapons continue to cause grievous injuries and death, hamper reconstruction in post-conflict zones, damage the environment and prevent economic development long after conflicts have ended, Mr. Ban said, noting, however, that the campaign against them was bearing fruit.
UN assistance in mine action had reached more than 60 countries and territories during the past two decades, removing the weapons, creating awareness, assisting landmine survivors to rebuild their lives and helping communities and UN peacekeepers build safe environments, he said.
“Our mine action work also involves promoting universal adherence to all relevant legal instruments, including the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention, Protocol V on explosive remnants of war, and the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” said Mr. Ban.
The convention seeking to ban the use of cluster munitions will enter into force in August, the Secretary-General added.
To mark the International Day, which this year focuses on the needs of the growing number of landmine victims and survivors, a photo and art exhibition entitled “Impact!” will open at UN Headquarters in New York on Monday.
It features the work of Cambodian artists, some being landmine survivors, as well as photographs taken by Venezuelan photographer Kike Arnal, who explores the impact of cluster munitions on the lives of individuals in Lebanon, and Slovenian photographer Arne Hodaliè, who recently travelled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Events are also taking place in a number of countries, including in Sudan, where although the number of casualties has significantly decreased in recent years, mines continue to kill and maim civilians everyday, reduce agricultural activity and prevent many communities from pursuing their livelihoods.
“Each kilometre of road opened means that a farmer can now bring his produce to the market to sell. New clinics and new schools can be built. Displaced populations can return to their land and rebuild their home,” the UN Mine Action Office said in a statement issued in Khartoum.
Meanwhile in Kabul, dozens of deminers met yesterday with the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, as well as ambassadors and donors at a compound devoted to mine awareness and filled with the debris of war.
Mr. de Mistura, who took up his post as the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) last month, noted that more than 15,000 minefields and battlefields have been cleared, and millions of Afghans have received mine risk education throughout the country, since the time when he worked there 22 years ago.
“Afghanistan can be proud of being on the side of example, rather than the problem,” he stated. “Afghanistan needs this feeling these days in particular, not only on demining, but in many other fields,” he added.