Excellencies, distinguished panellists, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank the Permanent Representatives of Belgium, Canada and Colombia for inviting us today to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ground-breaking treaty to ban landmines. I am pleased to greet 162 (with emphasis) States Parties around the world and all the participants in this meeting to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Mine Ban Convention!
The achievements under the treaty have been extraordinary: in under 20 years, it is estimated that more than 2,500km2 of mined area have been returned to communities like the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg; more than 4.3 million anti-personnel mines destroyed, and untold lives being saved as a direct result of mine action.
Together with its partners, UNDP has been involved in mine action in over 40 countries, dating back to the early 1990s in Afghanistan. Often the question comes: why is it a human development issue. Minister Axworthy gave me an excellent answer- there will be no human development without human security. Need all hands on deck! We have been working in close cooperation with mine-affected States, civil society, donor partners, victims and our UN partners since then.
In Cambodia, under the leadership of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority, roughly 1,125 square kilometres of land have been released between 2003 and 2015 twice the size of Singapore. With our partners, we have assisted the Government in building the capacity of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority to monitor, regulate and coordinate mine action in the country. And the Government has done more. Over 405,000 Cambodians now enjoy greater community security. They live without fear and live productively through farming, with new roads, schools and health centres built and through what was once contaminated land.
In Albania, considerable progress has been made in victim assistance. In 2013–2016, together with the Government of Albania and local NGOs, UNDP supported a socioeconomic and medical needs assessment of marginalized explosive remnants of war victims. Findings from this assessment have informed the update of the National Action Plan for Persons with Disabilities, supported by a substantial budget from the government.
Last year, to further strengthen the link between mine action and sustainable development and help countries free themselves of landmines, UNDP issued its corporate ‘Mine Action for Sustainable Development Support Framework’, which focuses on rebuilding lives and livelihoods in previously landmine impacted areas; developing the capacity of local and national mine action authorities; and supporting international normative frameworks related to, for example, the Mine Ban Convention, and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Given the humanitarian and developmental impacts of mines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war (ERW), UNDP joins the rest of the mine action community at the forefront of efforts to rebuild lives and communities that have become marginalized, and left vulnerable by conflict and fragility.
I would like to conclude with three points:
First, we need to raise awareness at the international and national level on the role that mine action can play in achieving the SDGs and capture evidence for this purpose.
Second, we need financing and new partnerships to accelerate the efforts. Latest trends in mine action financing have been downwards whereas we would need increased resources to do our job.
Third, and extremely important: the process leading to the Mine Ban Convention was transformational, opening the way to other global civil society movements. The speed at which it led to the adoption of the text had never been seen before, and its implementation now by 162 member states and some non-member states is truly remarkable. Yet, some States still haven’t joined. Today we call upon them to become parties so we can reach universal support and definitively ban landmines.
Building on the achievements that were made in the last 20 years and that we celebrate today, let us all advocate for the need to link mine action to humanitarian and development work within the context of SDGs implementation. Leaving no one behind is also leaving no mine behind.