Landmines Thwart Development Progress, says UNDP Administrator

27 Nov 2011

Phnom Pen - The existence of anti-personnel mines in developing countries can thwart development progress, said the UN’s development chief Helen Clark yesterday in Phnom Penh at opening of the international conference on landmines.

“There is a strong link between effective mine action and progress on the Millennium Development Goals,” said Helen Clark. “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.”

In 1997, the UN Secretary-General hailed the Mine Ban Convention as “a landmark step in the history of disarmament,” and “an historic victory for the weak and vulnerable of our world.”

“The situation in countries like Cambodia drove the adoption of the Mine Ban Convention as it is among the many countries where people have suffered terribly from these devastating weapons,” Clark said. “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.”

Demining operators here have cleared some 700 square kilometers of contaminated land in Cambodia from mines and explosive remnants of war. That has provided hundreds of thousands of Cambodians with safe land for resettlement, agriculture, and infrastructure development.

“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,” she continued. “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.”

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 30 years. 71% of these were civilians, and 32% 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 the least able to fund weapons clearance.

UNDP works on national mine action programmes in close to forty countries and territories to strengthen the capacity of national authorizes to effectively plan and implement the programmes.

“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,” said Clark. “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.”

Helen Clark was in Cambodia to open the 11th Meeting of State Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines, and on Their Destruction. While in Cambodia she also met with Prime Minister Hun Sen to discuss Cambodia and UNDP's ongoing work to clear landmines in that country, progress on the Millennium Development Goals, particularly on combatting HIV/AIDS and maternal mortality, and the recent flooding that affected 2 million people. She also met with President Designate of the Conference, Prak Sokhonn, the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Dr. Ing Kahntha Phavi, and the UN Country Team.

Contact Information

Munthit Ker,
Public Information & Media Officer
UNDP in  Cambodia
 Munthit.ker@undp.org or +855 (0) 11905261