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New GA Resolution on Mine Action Adopted

Mine Clearance Efforts Shift from Humanitarian Focus to Socio-Economic Impact on Affected Communities, Joint Inspection Unit Reports in Briefing

(New York, NY 1 November 2013)

Remarkable recent achievements in mine action demonstrated the United Nations’ ability to “deliver as one,” delegates in the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) heard today as they concluded their consideration of assistance in mine action, with the approval of a draft resolution on that topic.

By the terms of that text, the General Assembly, deeply alarmed by the number of mines that continued to be laid each year as well as the presence of a decreasing but still very large number of, and area of square kilometres contaminated by, mines and explosive remnants of war, would call for the continuation of the efforts of States to foster the establishment and development of national mine-action capacities in countries in which mines and explosive remnants of war constitute a serious threat to the safety, health and lives of the local civilian population.

By related provisions, the General Assembly would urge all States, in particular those with the capacity to do so, as well as the United Nations system and other relevant bodies to support mine-affected States, by providing assistance for the development of national mine-action capacities; support for national programmes; reliable, predictable, timely and, where possible, multi-annual contributions for mine-action activities; and the information and technical, financial and material assistance to locate, remove, destroy and otherwise render ineffective minefields, mines, booby traps, other devices and explosive remnants of war.

The Assistant Secretary-General for the Rule of Law and Security Institutions of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Dmitry Titov, said that 2012 and 2013 had been extraordinary years for the mine-action sector.  Introducing the report on assistance in mine action, he said that more than 44.5 million stockpiled anti-personnel mines had been destroyed and an unprecedented number of mined and suspected hazardous areas had been cleared and declared safe.  That hard work translated into “lives saved, roads and airports cleared, schools reopened and land returned to agricultural use”.

But there was no room for complacency, he warned, because armed conflicts in the last two years, in Libya, Mali and Syria, and elsewhere, had exposed civilians to the dangers of landmines, cluster munitions and improvised explosive devices.  Trade and livelihoods in more than 60 countries and territories remained threatened by roads and land still implanted with mines.  To meet those problems, the Organization, led by its Mine Action Service, would continue its work, which “millions of people in this troubled world legitimately expected from the United Nations”.

Also briefing the Committee today was Istvan Posta, Chair of the Joint Inspection Unit, who said that the nature of mine action had evolved from a humanitarian focus to an increasing emphasis on the socio-economic impact on affected communities.  Mine action was considered a success in several ways, among which was the integration of international legal standards by many countries.  However, more inclusive and transparent management of the Voluntary Trust Refund was necessary.  Further, the United Nations should assign an existing body to bridge the gap between mine action and the health systems to deal with the victims.

Ken Herman, Senior Adviser on Information Management Policy Coordination, Secretariat of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, also addressed the Committee, and noted that in the view of many agencies, the Joint Inspection Unit’s report missed an important opportunity to demonstrate the overall success of the mine-action sector in decreasing the number of accidents related to mines and unexploded ordnance.

Several delegates reported on the mine-action efforts in their countries, with many emphasizing that mines represented, not just a danger to life and limb but also a challenge to economic development.  The representative of Libya lamented that the mine-contaminated areas were often agricultural, which prevented countries from exploiting resources fully and investing in the land.  Some of the anti-personnel mines left behind by the battalions of the former regime were able to evade detection.  The high cost of mine clearance and the sophisticated technology it required was a further challenge in developing countries.

“Action for clearance was action toward saving lives, enabling development, and building and enhancing security and stability,” the representative of Lebanon agreed.  Though his country had achieved significant progress in mine clearance, it still suffered from heavy recontamination, from the more than 4 million cluster bombs dropped on its territory by Israel.  The Organization and the country were working together in mine-risk education, victim assistance and rapid response.  Those interventions, he said, were “smart, specific, time-bound and measureable”, and focused on both immediate relief and long-term recovery.

Picking up that thread, Afghanistan’s representative said that more than three decades of war had left the country heavily mined and “littered” with abandoned landmines and other explosive remnants of war.  The country was doing more for land mine eradication now than at any other time in its history.  But even with 75 per cent of former landmines cleared, the remaining 25 per cent represented more civilian casualties than any other landmine-affected country.

Cuba’s delegate said that landmine use was part of the country’s defence doctrine and an expression of the resolve of its people to protect the nation’s independence.  In accordance with the United Nations Charter, Cuba would continue that policy as long as it was subjected to aggression.  He nevertheless encouraged the Organization’s mine clearance and rehabilitation programmes, and supported the draft resolution on mine assistance because it addressed the humanitarian aspect without detriment to the legitimate needs of the self-defence of Member States.

Before opening its annual debate on mine action, the Committee concluded its consideration of the peaceful uses of outer space with the consensus approval of two draft resolutions on that topic:  Recommendations on national legislation relevant to the peaceful exploration of outer space; and International cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

Contributing to the debate on mine action were the representatives of Guatemala, Iraq, Peru, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Ukraine, Japan, Colombia, New Zealand, Croatia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mexico, Mauritania, China, Australia, and Bosnia Herzegovina.  A representative of the European Union delegation also addressed the Committee.

The representative of Thailand made a general statement on the draft resolution on mine action.


To read more, click: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2013/gaspd544.doc.htm

Statements: https://papersmart.unmeetings.org/ga/fourth/68th-session/agenda/48/