Mine Action and Sustaining Peace: Stronger Partnerships for Better Delivery - Security Council VTC

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08-Apr-2021 02:29:52
At Security Council debate, speakers call for end to indiscriminate use of improvised explosive devices presidential statement urges Including mine action in ceasefire, peace agreements.

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Expressing deep concern over the high number of civilian casualties caused by landmines, explosive war remnants and improvised explosive devices, the Security Council today reiterated its call on belligerents to “immediately and definitively” end the indiscriminate use of such weapons, as senior Government officials debated ways to rid the world of a pernicious legacy.

In a presidential statement (S/PRST/2021/8) issued by Viet Nam’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, who presided over today’s virtual ministerial debate as Council President for April, Governments called for strengthened implementation of resolution 2365 (2017), the 15-member organ’s first stand-alone text on mine action.

Through the statement — issued on the heels of the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, on 4 April — the Council encouraged the continued inclusion of mine action in ceasefire and peace agreements. It stressed the importance of considering mine action in the earliest planning stages of both peacekeeping operations and special political missions.

It likewise stressed the need to enhance measures to combat the illicit procurement of components, explosives and materials for the construction of improvised explosive devices, recognizing that the United Nations and Governments must work together to ensure that missions are adequately resourced.

The day heard from some of the world’s leading advocates of mine clearance. Among them was Nguyen Thi Dieu Linh, Provincial Programme Manager and Manager of Project RENEW All-Women Demining Team in Viet Nam, who was born and raised in Quang Tri province, where the former demilitarized zone divided North and South Viet Nam from 1954 to 1975. The area experienced some of the heaviest bombing in world history.

While the war ended nearly 46 years ago, she said explosive ordinance can still be found in rice fields, schoolyards and residential areas. Since 1975, nearly 3,500 people have been killed and 5,000 injured by explosive remnants of war in Quang Tri province alone. Having worked in mine action for 12 years, she called on Governments to increase national capacity and ownership to ensure the success of results.

In addition, national and international actors should coordinate closely at operational, management and policy levels, she said, pointing out that such cooperation in Quang Tri led to real results: 600 villages surveyed, 21 million square metres of land cleared, 748,000 explosive items destroyed and 900,000 people supported. Frequent documentation and sharing of lessons learned, along with women’s involvement in all aspects of mine action, are similarly crucial. “I hope mine action remains on the agenda of the international community, and that the recommendations I have made are well considered,” she stressed.

Stefano Toscano, Director of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, said today’s conflicts typically feature multiple actors, agendas and risks. There has been an uptick in the use of and contamination from improvised explosive devices in urban and populated areas, and casings can range from soda cans and plastic bags to pressure cookers, shoeboxes and gas cylinders. “This makes them particularly dangerous to civilians,” he said.

With the adoption of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention in 1997 and the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008, a majority of States agreed to ban these weapons.

Noting that the International Mine Action Standards represent a unique feature in the field of conventional disarmament, he said the recent development of new Standards for addressing improvised explosive devices and urban contamination testifies to the sector’s ability to adjust to an evolving context. Innovations, such as remotely operated vehicles, are also increasingly used, ensuring greater safety for deminers. He underscored the importance for mine action to remain on the Council’s agenda, as it has proven to foster peace, notably in Colombia and Afghanistan. “Mine action is needed more than ever,” he said. “It saves lives and enables development.”

On that point, Michelle Yeoh, Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), linked mine action to the Sustainable Development Goals, stressing the importance of looking at the issue “beyond square meters cleared”. UNDP is demonstrating the long-term development impact of mine action in the form of improved livelihoods, job creation, tourism and use of released land for agricultural purposes. Involved in mine action since 1993, the Programme has helped to create emergency jobs, rebuild damaged infrastructure, carry out repatriation plans and mend trust among people.

While UNDP and its partners can celebrate numerous achievements — Albania, Guinea Bissau, Jordan, Mozambique and Uganda have declared themselves free of known mine fields — there is still contamination in countries where war has long since ended. In Viet Nam, where nearly 20 per cent of the country is damaged by contaminants, women in particular are leading the clearance teams. She underscored the need for increased financing to accelerate such efforts. “It’s the human thing to do,” she added.

In that context, Secretary-General António Guterres urged Member States to ensure that all peace operations have the capacity to operate in environments of high explosive threat, particularly from improvised explosive devices.

“Peacekeepers must have the knowledge and the equipment they need to deliver on their mandates safely,” he emphasized. Improvised explosive devices represent the single greatest threat to African Union troops in Somalia and United Nations peacekeepers in Mali. In addition, new explosive threats are emerging in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while landmines continue to hinder peacekeeper mobility in South Sudan and Abyei.

Stressing that mine action is an essential first step towards peace and stability, he said deminers are often the first to enter cities and villages after ceasefires, clearing schools and hospitals, or allowing for critical repairs to water or sanitation infrastructure. Mine action also enables the safe and voluntary return of refugees and can support political and peace processes.

“I urge this Council to strengthen efforts to further integrate mine action into relevant resolutions, reporting and sanctions regimes,” he said, also pressing countries that have not yet done so to accede to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction. “Ultimately, mine action is a national responsibility.”

In the ensuing open debate, foreign ministers and other Government representatives from across the globe took the floor to denounce the ongoing use of weapons that have been banned for decades under the Ottawa Treaty, with many stressing that the majority of victims are innocent civilians, who are either killed or who lose limbs and are forever haunted by the trauma of their injuries.

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