Speech by Mr. Matthew Kahane, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator of the UN System In Nepal on the occasion of The International Day For Mine Awareness And Assistance In Mine Action

04 Apr 2007

Speech by Mr. Matthew Kahane, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator of the UN System In Nepal on the occasion of The International Day For Mine Awareness And Assistance In Mine Action
(Wednesday, 4 April, 2007)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This Day is a reminder that millions of people in 80 countries still live in fear of landmines and explosive remnants of war. Landmines are indiscriminate weapons that maim or kill 15,000 to 20,000 civilians every year. They wreak havoc on people’s livelihoods. They block access to land, roads, and basic services. They cost as little as $3 to produce, but as much as $1000 to remove.

The presence of landmines threatens people’s lives, and also prevents much-needed economic growth and development. Long after wars are over, landmines make land unusable for farming, schools or living, preventing people from rebuilding lives torn apart by conflict.

But this Day is an occasion to take stock of the progress in our common efforts to combat the scourge of landmines and explosive remnants of war. Thanks to the concerted efforts of all Member States, the United Nations, non-Governmental organizations and the mine-affected countries themselves -- we have seen real gains in our mine action efforts.

Since the anti-personnel mine-ban treaty opened for signature 10 years ago, 153 countries have ratified or adhered to it. It is encouraging to note that the number of active mines in the world is decreasing. About 40 million stockpiled anti-personnel landmines have been destroyed. Production, sale and transfer of anti-personnel mines have almost stopped. Large mined areas have been cleared. Victims are receiving more and better assistance, rehabilitation and reintegration. A system has been put into practice for assisting the Parties in fulfilling treaty obligations.

In another important step forward, the 32 States parties to the new Protocol Five to the Certain Conventional Weapons Convention will meet for the first time in November to consider how best to address the devastating humanitarian hazard of explosive remnants of war.

The Secretary-General in his message of the Day has encourage all States who have not yet done so to accede to all these treaties as soon as possible.He has also called upon all States Parties to honour their obligations under the treaties, including the commitment, for those in a position to do so, to render assistance to affected States and victims in need.

The Secretary-General has reiterated his call on the international community to address immediately the horrendous humanitarian effects of cluster munitions saying these indiscriminately kill and maim civilians, just as easily and frequently as landmines do. International outrage has driven a large group of countries to pursue a new international treaty to deal with these weapons, thus complementing and reinforcing other on-going efforts.

“Humanitarian Demining” is a critical first step for reconstruction of post-conflict countries. Its goal is to remove lingering remnants of war, allowing refugees to return home, schools to be reopened, land to be used for farming and critical infrastructure to be rebuilt. This differs from military demining which clears paths only for military campaigns. Humanitarian demining originated in October 1988 when the United Nations called for funding to tackle the
landmine crisis in Afghanistan.

Mine action has been more systematically integrated into humanitarian and development planning and operations over the past year, at the national and also at the international levels. Although donors continue to fund mine action primarily from humanitarian or emergency budget lines, there is increasing recognition of the importance of supporting mine action from development and reconstruction budgets as well. This is particularly important in the area of victim assistance, for example, a long-term concern for which funds are almost always inadequate.

In countries emerging from conflict, the Government, together with donors, should carry out assessments of the impact of mines on recovery and development at the earliest practical moment.

The UN warmly welcomes the evident shift in the perception of mine action from an isolated and specialist task to an integral part of mainstream humanitarian, development and peacekeeping operations and would encourages all stakeholders to continue to work together to eliminate the threat that landmines pose to the daily life and future aspirations of communities around the world.