Today we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. In the past decade, much progress has been made towards eradicating the threat of anti-personnel landmines, with 162 States now Parties to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention.
The United Nations is playing a vital role in freeing the world from the threat of mines and explosive remnants of war, meeting the needs of victims and survivors and ensuring their human rights. Last year alone, the United Nations destroyed more than 400,000 landmines and explosive remnants of war and more than 2,000 tons of obsolete ammunition. It cleared and verified more than 1,500 kilometres of roadways, provided mine risk education to millions of people and trained thousands of military and police officers to handle and safely dispose of explosive hazards.
I commend all who contributed to this success. However, women, girls, boys and men continue to fall victim to landmines laid decades ago in places such as Afghanistan and Cambodia, and I am alarmed that these indiscriminate weapons are still being used in conflicts today.
Furthermore, civilians and communities are exposed to an increasingly wide range of explosive hazards, from mines to cluster munitions, unsafe and unsecured weapons and ammunition, and improvised explosive devices. I am extremely concerned by the extensive use of improvised explosive devices by armed groups in Iraq, which poses a major threat to civilians. In Syria, the widespread use of “barrel bombs” and other explosive weapons in populated areas has caused great devastation and human suffering, leaving a legacy of explosive remnants of war that will remain a threat until their removal.
The theme for this year’s Day — “More than Mines” — reflects the reality faced by civilians, humanitarians, peacekeepers and development agencies in war-zones and countries recovering from conflict. When explosive hazards block the way, food is not delivered; refugees and internally displaced people cannot safely return home; children cannot go to school; trade is disrupted; development and peacebuilding efforts are hindered; peacekeeping operations cannot deploy safely.
On this International Day, I urge Member States to stay committed to the cause of mine action through financial contributions and political support, which is particularly crucial this year as the General Assembly debates assistance in mine action. The proposed resolution will provide an opportunity to recognize that mine action is indeed “More than Mines” and to recommit ourselves to working with affected states to reduce the menace of mines and explosive hazards.
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