Opening Remarks by UNDP Resident Representative Ramla Khalidi
Regional Conference on Mine Action for Sustainable Peace and Development
March 29, 2023
Excellency, Mr. Do Hung Viet, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs;
Excellency, Mr. Lee Kyoung Dock, Charge D’Affairs of Embassy of Republic of Korea;
Distinguished guests from government agencies at national and local level - partners from Ministries of National Defense, Planning and Investment, Public Security, Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs and External Relations Commission of the Central Party Committee;
Excellencies Ambassadors and representatives from diplomatic missions
Colleagues from Mine Action Centers, and development partners;
It is my great pleasure to to join this distinguished gathering of likeminded institutions and inviduals committed to improving the lives of people affected by legacies of war. I am honored to open this two-day regional conference on Mine Action for Sustainable Peace and Development.
Wars end, but their consequences can last for decades.
I know first-hand the cost of war. My last assignment was in Syria a country plagued by unexploded ordinance that have killed and maimed thousands and prevented access to agricultural land and property. On a recent field visit, I met a young man who had lost both legs to a UXO left in his olive grove. He told me about the excruciating physical rehabilitation, which was both costly and difficult to access, but also about his struggle to make a decent living and to regain a sense of hope in the future. Supporting him and others like him through community-centered interventions, physical and psychosocial services and livelihoods support remains one of the successes I am most proud of. But I was struck by how different his life would have been if timely action had been taken to survey and clear his land and to raise awareness of the dangers of UXOs. His story is a reminder that these tragedies are preventable and must remain a priority.
Here in Vietnam, landmines and UXOs from a war that ended almost 50 years ago, still take their toll. Even today, scars remain in some villages in Central Vietnam, impacting the lives and livelihoods of the community.
Landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) hinder economic progress, reconstruction, and development in Vietnam as in other countries in the region, such as Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. Half of the ASEAN member States suffer from contamination by tens of thousands of landmines and cluster munitions.
Even as we celebrate the remarkable progress on mine action, we must remember that there is still a long road ahead. Large swathes of land lie unused because of contamination. According to the Vietnam National Mine Action Centre (VNMAC), all 63 provinces and centrally run cities in Vietnam are contaminated with UXOs, with almost 18 percent of the country’s acreage affected. That’s equivalent to up to 800,000 tons of UXOs hidden underground.
Regional and international cooperation can be central to accelerating progress by sharing new solutions, and technologies. This can lead to concrete and long-lasting results on the grounds.
One example is how the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces have used commercial drones for mine survey operations. Using this technique, allows Cambodia to more quickly and safely map out terrain that could potentially contain mines, and identify suspicious items without having to physically enter those spaces.
In Vietnam, an online registry and information management system for persons with disabilities and UXO survivors has been established to conduct an assessment in the country’s most contaminated provinces of Quang Binh and Binh Dinh.
Tools like these will improve the quality and efficiency of our actions.
Today’s conference provides a platform to explore regional opportunities and to discuss possible regional coordination and collaboration. I trust this is also an opportunity to spur innovation and renewed commitment in the region to end the deadly legacy of landmines and other UXOs.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Mine action saves and changes lives. Our goal is not only to clear contaminated land, but also to ensure that cleared land is integrated with rural development planning efforts and is a vehicle to promote peaceful and sustainable communities.
I would like to take this opportunity to express our deepest gratitude to the Government of Korea and KOICA for the generous support to address the consequences of the remnants of war in Southeast Asia. I would also like to sincerely thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their global leadership to highlight the link between mine action and sustainable development during Vietnam’s Presidency of the UNSC in 2020-2021. It was the momentum initiated by Viet Nam at the Security Council that helped guide the convening of this regional conference today.
UNDP’s vision and priorities are clear: rebuild lives and livelihoods; build the capacity of local and national authorities; and support the implementation of international normative frameworks. I would like to reaffirm UNDP’s continued support to Vietnam and the region in reducing the impact of UXO in local communities, enabling safer, greener and more resilient local development.