Dear Mr. Hikmat Hajiyev,
Dear Vice- Rector
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here with you today to observe the UN’s International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.
This day is an important opportunity to reiterate our commitment to eradicating the threat of landmines and explosive ordnance.
It is also an occasion to reflect on the progress we have made in raising global awareness of the dangers of landmines and how far we have come in reaching our ultimate target of a mine-free world.
All of us observing this International Day know all too well the destructive power of mines. Mines shatter people’s lives and livelihoods, undermining stability and setting back progress on human development.
Mine-clearance experts are working hard throughout the world, at considerable risk to themselves, to eradicate the threat of explosive ordnance.
Only by removing such threats can civilian infrastructure like schools and hospitals be safely reconstructed. These brave interventions have the power to transform risky places into safe and thriving communities.
Despite these efforts, mines continue to kill and maim civilians. In 2020 the United Nations mine action community reported that over 10,000 people had been killed or injured by mines, explosive remnants of war and IEDs.
And the threat posed by mines is increasing in complexity and scope.
This terrible threat lies in wait for children on their way to school, women on their way to work, families traveling to the market and peacekeepers on patrol. According to the UN report, one in every four casualties is a child.
It is clear, then, that we must do more and we must do better together, as an absolute priority.
Gender sensitive approaches are vital to ensure that mine action programmes consider the needs of both women and men – in prioritization of mine action programmes.
In recommitting to our aim of a mine-free world, the focus of our efforts will be on three key areas.
The first of these key areas is that of expanding capabilities and capacities.
The rapidly evolving nature of explosive threats means it is crucial to ensure that those on the front lines have sufficient expertise, resources and equipment when working in areas rife with the threat of explosive ordnance.
The second key area is that of building partnerships.
Partnerships are vital for achieving progress in overcoming and recovering from the threat of mines. Above all, such partnerships are essential in order to integrate mine clearance action in humanitarian response planning.
Strong and enduring partnerships between national and international stakeholders will remain critical for the success of mine action programmes, and I hope to see this collaborative approach continue and grow across peacebuilding, stabilization, and development settings.
The third key area is mainstreaming and integrating mine action and development.
No society can make progress on the Sustainable Development Goals until the deadly threat of mines and explosive ordnance has been eradicated.
By turning former battlefields into farmland and making schools and hospitals safe, mine action is an essential first step to restoring peaceful and stable environments. As such, mine action has a key role to play in supporting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Moreover, all efforts to develop national capacities for mine action contribute to Sustainable Development Goal 16, including training national security forces and strengthening national mine action institutions as part of security sector reforms. By promoting the participation of women in peacebuilding and stabilization processes, furthermore, mine action also serves as a driver of the Women, Peace and Security agenda.
All these efforts must be still further integrated with wider development aims. This means that our immediate endeavours to save lives must be accompanied by efforts to help those already affected by explosives. This includes ensuring the delivery of adequate services for victims and promoting the rights of persons with disabilities.
This year’s International Day for Mine Awareness takes place in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the various restrictions on movement since the pandemic began, the mine action community has intensified its reliance on innovative technologies to keep delivering its essential services.
While the world grapples with how best to respond to COVID-19, the communities affected by explosive ordnance must not be forgotten or left behind. As the tragic statistics of mine casualties reveal, the risks these communities face do not diminish because the world is facing a pandemic.
Over the past three decades, UNDP has provided mine action support to over 40 countries. This support has not only helped numerous governments to eradicate explosive ordnance contamination but also to harness the capacities of different institutions in tackling residual risks, including incorporating support for victims in the socio-economic and development activities of these institutions.
As a key player in the UN Inter-Agency Cooperation Group on Mine Action, UNDP is a major contributor to the implementation of the UN Strategy on Mine Action (2019–23), with a special responsibility for linking mine action to developmental outcomes and the achievement of the SDGs.
We are committed to scaling up our engagement on mine action in partnership with our national counterparts, the UN family and civil society.
In Azerbaijan we are particularly proud of having helped to establish the National Mine Action Agency (ANAMA) in 1999. With UNDP support, ANAMA has helped clear over 806,000 mines and other explosive ordnances in Azerbaijan over the past 20 years, helping to ensure the safe return home of over 160,500 displaced people.
Over the past challenging few months, we have continued to work closely with the National Mine Action Agency. Just two weeks ago, UNDP and ANAMA signed new funding to restore community safety in the aftermath of the recent conflict.
With USD 1 million from UNDP crisis response fund and UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund, UNDP will provide support to ANAMA to train, equip and deploy emergency response teams to clear mines and unexploded ordnance in the conflict-affected areas.
Over the coming months, UNDP will scale up its support for mine action in Azerbaijan by supporting ANAMA with technical expertise, equipment, capacity development and funding to help communities safely access water and to build homes, schools and health clinics.
UNDP will further continue to support ANAMA in conducting a mine action needs assessment, providing international expertise and helping the Agency to procure personal protective equipment and mine-clearing equipment.
Additional support will include prioritising mine-clearance areas, developing heat maps for mine detection and procuring mine action equipment and mine-detecting dogs.
So I very much wish to thank the organizers of this event for placing this issue as a high priority on their agenda. And I would also particularly like to thank all those brave people who continue to face down these explosive threats – from peacekeepers on patrol to community liaison officers helping others to stay safe.
Let’s support these people and their efforts in the best way we can to secure a safer future for everyone.