Helen Clark at the 11th Meeting of State Parties (MSP) to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention Opening Ceremony in Phnom Penh

Nov 27, 2011

It is my pleasure to participate in this opening ceremony for the Eleventh Meeting of the States Parties to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. My thanks go to the Government of Cambodia for hosting this meeting.

In 1997, the UN Secretary-General hailed this Mine Ban Convention as “a landmark step in the history of disarmament”, and “an historic victory for the weak and vulnerable of our world”. Civil society and like-minded states campaigned for the convention, with the aim of putting an end for all time to the deaths and injuries caused by anti-personnel mines.

Cambodia is among the many countries where people have suffered terribly from these devastating weapons. Indeed, recognizing the plight of Cambodia was a driving force for the adoption of this convention in Oslo in 1997.

This meeting here in Phnom Penh is an opportunity both to celebrate progress to date in overcoming the menace of anti-personnel mines, and to acknowledge that much work still remains to be done to rid the world of them.

Having recently witnessed the adoption and entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in record time, this meeting is also an opportunity to acknowledge the power of partnerships between states, civil society, and international organizations in pursuing humanitarian diplomacy which is preventive in nature and helps build a more peaceful and secure world.

While it is difficult to quantify exact numbers of victims and survivors, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines has estimated that these weapons have killed and maimed over a million people in the last thirty years. Seventy-one percent of these were estimated to be civilians, and thirty-two percent children.

In 2001 the Landmine Monitor listed ninety countries around the world affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war. Many of them are least developed countries, whose development is severely hindered by this explosive legacy of conflict and who are the least able to fund weapons clearance.

In countries emerging from conflict, these weapons slow the repatriation of refugees and the return of other displaced persons. They hamper the provision of aid and relief. They deprive communities of the productive and safe use of land and natural resources. Their persistent threat impedes the use of traditional hunting grounds, the development of livelihoods, and access to places of cultural and religious significance. The overall impact on human security and basic freedom of movement is huge.

The majority of the countries affected by anti-personnel mines now have Mine Action Programmes in place, and are committed to the comprehensive eradication of these weapons from their territory. The primary responsibility for doing that rests with the governments of affected states and territories, but the scale of the problem requires international partners to be part of the solution.

After two decades of Mine Action activities, capacity development, and with the framework for partnership and strategic work provided by the Treaty, many states are well on the way to completing the clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnance from their territories. In addition, numerous civilian service providers now provide land release operations and risk education – little of this existed prior to the 1990s.

But much work remains to be done. The United Nations currently supports national Mine Action Programmes in nearly fifty countries and territories. In partnership with Governments and NGOs, we have been successful in strengthening the capacity of national authorities to plan and implement these programmes.

At the UN, we continue to advocate the universal ratification of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and Protocol V of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. We applaud the recent accession of Tuvalu to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, and also South Sudan’s expression of consent to be bound by it.

Among UN agencies, UNDP, UNICEF, and the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) within the Department for Peace Keeping Operations (DPKO) provide technical and co-ordination support, assist with capacity building, and help mobilise funding for affected states around the world. Other United Nations’ departments and agencies are also involved in mine action activities in accordance with their own mandates and areas of expertise.

UNDP itself currently works in support of national mine action programmes in close to forty countries. The framework provided by the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, now accompanied by the Convention on Cluster Munitions and Protocol V of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, helps facilitate our work and mobilize the partnerships and resources needed. Each year, more and more states are reporting on the destruction of stockpiled munitions, the clearance of contaminated areas, and the assistance provided to landmine survivors, other victims, and affected communities.

At the beginning of this year, I visited Yemen, which over the past fifteen years has developed, with the support of many present here today, a national mine action institution. Despite recent setbacks, Yemen continues to target fulfillment of its obligations under the Convention by achieving complete clearance of landmines by 1 March 2015. It now has the oversight, management, and knowledge locally to do this, but, as in many other affected states, it continues to require technical and financial support to complete the task. Yemen’s programme for land mine clearance is some $10 million underfunded for the next four years – and it is only one of many countries needing more international support.

There is a strong link between effective mine action and progress on the Millennium Development Goals. With the legacy of decades of conflict, our hosts here in Cambodia understand this well. The contamination of so much land in this country with landmines has resulted in more than 63,900 deaths and injuries over the past three decades.

The Government of Cambodia has added demining, removing the explosive remnants of war, and victim assistance as its ninth Millennium Development Goal, recognizing that their continued presence is a significant constraint on development. In partnership with UNDP and other development partners, the Government has strengthened the capacities of its mine action sector. In 2010 it adopted a ten-year National Mine Action Strategy to achieve the objectives set by the AP Mine Ban Convention and its ninth Millennium Development Goal.

Overall, the progress over the last two decades of mine action in Cambodia has been impressive – with a reduction in the number of victims from 4,320 in 1996 to 286 in 2010. The invaluable experience gained here is now being shared with other countries through South-South knowledge exchanges.

Demining operators here have cleared some 700 square kilometers of contaminated land from mines and explosive remnants of war. That has provided hundreds of thousands of Cambodians with safe land for resettlement, agriculture, and infrastructure development. Allow me to congratulate you, Prime Minister, on the leadership of your government on this programme, which has been pivotal to its success.

To broaden the development impact of mine action, it needs to be integrated into national development strategies. In Mozambique, for example, the national Mine Action Plan for 2008-2014 supports the national poverty reduction plan as a cross-cutting issue with impact across development sectors. The challenge is to ensure that all relevant ministries and local authorities take account of mine action issues in the development and implementation of their respective development plans.

Our shared goal of achieving a world free of mines requires continued commitment. UNDP has developed a completion initiative programme to address the remaining threats posed by both landmines and cluster munitions. Sustained and predictable funding from both international and national sources will enable all states to reach their mine clearance commitments.

The sustainability and cost-effectiveness of our efforts will require strong national leadership to steer the implementation of the treaty’s provisions: to clear mined areas, to destroy stockpiles, and to enable life with dignity for victims.

I wish all present a successful conference which contributes to achieving the complete clearance of landmines.


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