On global Mine Action Day, Ban urges States to abide by pacts against landmines
In his message to mark the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, the Secretary-General applauded the 156 States which are party to the Mine Ban Treaty, the 55 countries that have ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and the 99 others that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“Mine clearance prevents an indiscriminate weapon from causing harm and havoc long after conflicts have ended, while also creating jobs, transforming danger zones into productive land and setting societies on course for lasting security,” said Mr. Ban.
Last year alone, hundreds of thousands of people received United Nations mine risk education that prevented tragedy for individuals, families and communities, he said. In Afghanistan alone, 14,400 people were employed in the mine action sector, helping to destroy more than a million explosive remnants of war.
UN development agencies are working to connect mine action with broader development plans to promote agricultural production, strengthen infrastructure, improve water supply and provide better education and health services, he added, saying the efforts would help affected States achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Mr. Ban pointed out that despite its many well-documented successes, mine action remains underfunded. This year’s portfolio of mine action projects has secured only about a quarter of the needed resources, leaving a funding gap of $367 million, he noted.
“While this is a significant sum, the cost is far outweighed by the benefits of removing explosive hazards, creating awareness, providing mine risk education, assisting survivors and helping communities,” said Mr. Ban.
The UN Mine Action UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) reported that despite significant achievements in the global campaign against the use of the weapons, landmines and explosive remnants of war continue to kill or injure thousands of people a year.
“Landmines and explosive remnants of war take a heavy toll on people’s livelihoods, countries’ economic and social development, and international peace-building efforts,” said Jordan Ryan, Director of the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery.
“Clearing these hazards and releasing land back to the communities allow them to have access to basic infrastructure and services, earn a living, and live safely – all of which ultimately link mine action to broader development plans, including the Millennium Development Goals,” he added.
Maxwell Kerley, the UNMAS Director, said that the Day was an “opportunity to revitalize international support for mine action.”
“We’ve made impressive progress toward eliminating landmines and explosive remnants of war during 2010. This year will be a very important year for mine action as we continue to strengthen our partnerships with affected countries around the world,” said Mr. Kerley.
According to UNMAS, joint efforts by mine-affected countries, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the UN to clear mines, provide mine risk education, and destroy stockpiles has helped to reduce the annual number of new casualties to about 4,000, a 75 per cent fall from a high of 26,000 in 1997.
Mine action work opened up 7,000 kilometres of roads in both the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and in Sudan. Nearly 290,000 people in Somalia learnt about landmines and their risks. In Iraq, 18.7 million square metres of land were cleared from late 2007 to July 2010, helping 1,500 families return to their farms, and enabling 2,400 children to go back to school.
“It is essential that we all sustain our efforts to protect vulnerable populations and to rehabilitate and reintegrate those who have survived accidents with landmines and explosive remnants of war,” said Susan Bissell, the head of the child protection unit of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
She cited the civil society group, Landmine Monitor, which reported that at least 40 per cent of civilian mine casualties last year were children. “This is a problem with a proven solution, and a strong international commitment can, and should, put an end to it once and for all,” said Ms. Bissell.
UN support to mine action provides services in more than 40 countries and includes building national capacities of national mine action, finding and destroying landmines and explosive remnants of war, assisting victims, teaching people how to remain safe in a mine-affected environment, advocating for universal participation in the Anti-Personnel Mine-Ban Treaty and other treaties, and destroying stockpiled devices.