UXO Sector Working Group Meeting 2023
June 7, 2023
June 7th, 2023, Vientiane Capital- Acknowledging achievements and challenges within the UXO/Mine Action sector from October 2022 to May 2023, the first UXO/Mine Action Sector Working Group (SWG) meeting of 2023 was held in Vientiane Capital with support from the Government of the Republic of Korea.
Achievements include identification of 9,732 ha of Confirmed Hazardous Areas (CHA) and UXO clearance of 2,912 ha. Mr. Chomyaeng Phengthongsawat, Director-General of the National Regulatory Authority for the UXO/Mine Action Sector in Lao PDR (NRA), also reported progress on streamlining the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) process between the Lao government and development partners, increases in staff and operations for several UXO operators, and expansion of regional and global partnerships in UXO/Mine Action.
The meeting was chaired by H.E. Padeumphone Sonthany, Vice Minister of Labour and Social Welfare (MoLSW) and Vice Chairperson of the NRA, and co-chaired by Ms. Catherine Phuong, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Officer in Charge, and H.E. Peter M. Haymond, Ambassador of the United States to Lao PDR. Also in attendance were Embassy representatives, Ministry officials, Provincial authorities, UXO operators and other UXO stakeholders.
Furthermore, Mr. Anousak Phongsa, National Programme Director of the Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Programme (UXO Lao) highlighted how funding gaps have hindered UXO operators in Lao PDR from accomplishing national strategic goals for UXO/Mine Action and Sustainable Development Goal 18: “Lives Safe from UXO.” Mr. Phongsa also noted that continuous and stable international cooperation is key to strengthening the Lao national UXO/Mine Action capacity. Accordingly, Ms. Phuong from UNDP stressed a significant role of INGOs, in pursuance of our collective goals, and the importance of a long-term plan over sustainable financing. In this regard, she urged “it is wise for the UXO sector to consider diversifying funding sources to serve impacted communities for the long term” and called for urgent action as “UXO and Mine Action cannot wait!”.
Likewise, a representative from Bolikhamxai province shared the local governments’ concerns in delayed response for UXO removal and clearance for local development. In response, Mr Chomyaeng from NRA emphasized the importance of integrated planning process between UXO work and local development and stressed that “it is possible only when local governments engage national, provincial or district UXO Regulatory Authorities in the early stages of development planning and provide NRA enough time to accommodate the budget for such activities”.
Finally, the meeting reviewed key findings and recommendations from the recent knowledge products produced by the NRA and UNDP, which advocate for the UXO sector to be more inclusive of women, persons with disabilities, and other groups. It also addresses the need for increased integration of UXO clearance and development activities, and evidence-based improvements to current risk education practices.
Sector stakeholders agreed to implement recommendations from the studies collaboratively. H.E. Haymond reaffirmed that “To achieve success in the most critical places, we must involve everyone, working together and understanding each other's mandates and roles.” Similarly, H.E. Sonthany reiterated that “We must consider how to best coordinate and integrate our efforts with other sectors to amplify the impact of UXO/Mine action.”
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