The General Assembly this morning called on Member States to quickly provide needed information, and technical and material assistance to locate, remove, destroy or otherwise render ineffective minefields, mines, booby-traps and other devices in accordance with international law.
Meeting to consider international assistance in mine clearance, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, the resolution on mine action. Urging Member States, regional, governmental, non-governmental organizations and foundations to continue cooperation with the Secretary-General and to provide information and resources to strengthen the United Nations mine action, including awareness, training, surveying, mine detection and clearance, research and clearance. The Assembly also welcomed the creation of the United Nations Mine Action Service within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations as the focal point for mine action within the United Nations.
In introducing the draft, the representative of Austria, on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said although the overall ratio between newly laid mines and mines cleared had improved, the continued use of those weapons sometimes rendered mine-clearance efforts almost futile. The primary responsibility for mine action clearance was that of the parties responsible for laying the mines. Nonetheless, the extent of international assistance should realistically take into account the capacity of parties to fulfil their obligations.
The representative of Thailand said with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations now coordinating mine action, a mine-affected country could only receive assistance from the United Nations if it was a theatre of the Organization's peacekeeping operations. For all mine-affected countries to obtain assistance on landmines, the issue of mine action should come under the framework of humanitarian assistance, he said.
The representative of Iran said the Department of Peacekeeping Operations must ensure that no State hindered or otherwise impeded access to
General Assembly Plenary - 1a - Press Release GA/9505 60th Meeting (AM) 17 November 1998
mine-clearance technology. At the same time, all States, particularly those which had the required technology and equipment, should declare to the Department the technical assistance that they could make available to mine-affected countries and relevant United Nations programmes.
The representative of Norway said new technology in demining must be affordable, appropriate and accessible to meet the requirements of the end- user. While further development of demining technology was needed, there was an inherent risk in funding research and development at the expense of mine action conducted with present technology. The techniques and methodology used today had an important effect on thousand of lives in mine afflicted countries around the world. That activity must go on at an unimpeded pace.
Several speakers stressed the need for demining responsibility to be shouldered by those States that had laid landmines. In addition, many delegations urged the provision of adequate resources for the Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Clearance.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Japan, United States, Australia, Yemen, Uruguay, Libya, Nicaragua (for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Dominican Republic), Republic of Korea, China, New Zealand, Russian Federation, Egypt, Pakistan, Sudan, Croatia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, San Marino and Angola.
The Assembly will meet tomorrow at 10 a.m. to take action on a resolution on Bethlehem 2000 and to consider the situation in Central America.
ERNST SUCHARIPA (Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union, and Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Ireland and Liechtenstein, introduced the draft resolution, saying that Bangladesh, Columbia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Ukraine and Vanuatu had joined as additional sponsors.
Every year landmines maimed or killed more than 20,000 people, particularly women, children and those living off the land, he said. Peacekeeping, peace-building and reconstruction in post-conflict situations were often rendered extremely difficult due the presence of those mines.
Although the overall ratio between newly laid mines and mines cleared had somewhat improved, he said continued use of those weapons in some areas sometimes rendered mine-clearance efforts almost futile. Mine action now was undertaken in a holistic approach, including the development of national mine action capacities, mine awareness programmes and victim assistance. The primary responsibility for mine action lay with the parties responsible for laying the mines. The extent to which the international community should be called upon to provide assistance in mine action must take into account the capacity of the parties involved to take on those obligations by themselves. In that regard, the commitment to renounce the use of anti-personnel mines was of particular importance.
Several important events in the field of mine action had taken place in recent months, he said. The European Union welcomed the Ottawa Convention which would enter into force on 1 March 1999. Also, the European Union Council of Ministers had adopted on 28 November 1997, a new joint action plan on anti-personnel landmines which established a common moratorium on production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines. The European Union further looked forward to the entry into force on 3 December 1998 of the amended Protocol II to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Chemical Weapons deemed Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects. It called upon all States that had not yet done so to become parties to the Convention and, in particular, to the amended Protocol II.
Assistance in mine action required improved international coordination, he continued. The European Union supported the central coordinating role of the United Nations in the field of humanitarian mine action worldwide, and welcomed the creation of the United Nations Mine Action Service and the policy outlined in "Mine Action and Effective Coordination". The European Union would continue to commit important resources to international mine action efforts. Between 1993 to 1997, it had contributed $140 million, not including the individual contributions by the European Union's Member States. In 1998, it would increase its contribution by $60 million for mine action, making the European Union the world's major donor in that area.
ASDA JAYANAMA (Thailand) said his country suffered acutely from the problem of landmines even though it was neither a producer or exporter of the devices. Landmines infested 797 square kilometres of Thai territory. In the past, Thailand had tried to address the landmine problem using its own resources. It also provided active assistance in demining efforts in Cambodia, bilaterally and multilaterally, through the United Nations
Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). Domestically, Thailand was creating a legal and institutional framework that complemented international efforts on mine action. Its draft mine action plan included demining training, the destruction of landmines in stock, and the elimination of such devices in the ground within 10 years. That plan was expected to be considered and adopted by Thailand's National Committee on Anti-Personnel Landmine Management this month.
Mine action was an extremely costly undertaking, particularly for a developing country in economic crisis such as Thailand, he continued. While donor assistance was important, national efforts must be encouraged too. The most viable long-term solution to the landmine problem lay in capacity-building, so that mine-affected countries could become effective and self-reliant in clearing landmines. An international focal point should be created to coordinate all mine action by the United Nations. At present, the Organization's efforts to address landmines fell under the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Therefore, a mine-affected country could only receive landmine assistance from the United Nations if that country was a theatre of the Organization's peacekeeping operations. Thailand believed for all mine-affected countries to obtain assistance on landmines, the issue of mine action should come under the framework of humanitarian assistance.
MASAKI KONISHI (Japan) said landmines not only cause inhumane suffering, but also hindered peace-building in the sense that they remain hidden even after peace accords were drawn up. A recent report by UNHCR referred to the landmines set in cars and wells by the withdrawing Serbian forces in Kosovo, which hindered returnees trying to resettle. United Nations and other humanitarian personnel on the ground were often denied passage to their destination due to mines, to which they had also sometimes fallen victim. In the longer term, the existence of mines or even the fear that they were hidden
in the ground, prevented the farmer from working his field. They deprived him of his livelihood and prevented his community from achieving economic development.
He said to tackle the complex problems of mines, initiatives had been taken in different countries. The international community must now take concrete action. The assumption of mine-action responsibilities by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, in order to enhance coordination was a step forward. Japan intended to make financial contributions to the United Nations Mine Action Service, to build its capacity to carry out its coordinating function. This year Japan would make a contribution of $2.12 million to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for assistance in mine clearance.
PRISCILLA CLAPP (United States) said that her country was determined to bring the terrible mine legacy of modern warfare to an end. The landmine crisis continued to loom large, but in the past year much progress had been made. Although the United States was not yet able to sign the Ottawa Convention, its commitment to global humanitarian demining was one of the longest running. Not only was the United States working with the international community to realize the goal of a world where landmines did not threaten civilians, it had been a leader in bilateral assistance to mine-affected countries. The United States was currently supporting demining
assistance programmes in 24 countries, with more under consideration for next year. Her country had undertaken a number of initiatives seeking to eliminate the threat of landmines to civilians by the year 2010.
To achieve that ambitious goal, the international community would have to join together to coordinate its efforts on a much greater scale, she continued. It would also require an annual investment worldwide on the magnitude of $1 billion, or roughly five times what the world had spent on demining. Several major international conferences had led to a remarkable degree of consensus on what needed to be done, how to do it and how to organize the efforts to do it.
The United States had become the focal point of international coordination for mine action. Developing new ways to engage the private sector in humanitarian demining was a critical part of the United States effort. Her Government had been working with a number of private partners, using their creative talent and resources to help conquer the landmine problem. She believed that a significant infusion of private resources would be required to reach the goals of 2010 and the Ottawa Conference.
JANNE HAALNAD MATLARY (Norway) said both inputs and outputs of the endeavours to rid the world of landmines needed to be further improved through increased efforts with regard to: coordination at all levels; data gathering systems; transfer of competence and further strengthening of national capacities; rehabilitation and reintegration of landmine survivors; effective use of existing and further development of new technology; and constant development of methodology and standards. Sufficient and predictable funding was needed if the United Nations Mine Action Service was to fulfil its coordination role. Developing national ownership and strong national coordination and building sustainable national capacities would continue to be important as well.
She said new technology in demining would have to meet the requirements of the end-user in being affordable, appropriate and accessible. To ensure good coordination, a clear picture of the current status of the landmine problem was needed. More resources were needed to well document information. While further development of demining technology was needed, there was an inherent risk in funding research and development at the expense of mine action conducted with present technology. The techniques and methodology used today had an important effect on thousands of lives in mine afflicted countries around the world. That activity must go on at an unimpeded pace, she said.
PENNY WENSLEY (Australia) said the conclusion of the Ottawa Convention was a major step towards the achievement of a global ban on landmines. Australia looked forward to ratifying the Convention as an original State party, before its entry into force next March. Australia had also ratified the revised landmines protocol (Protocol II) to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Australia continued to encourage all States that have not yet done so to become parties to the Convention and revised Protocol II.
Further work was needed, she said, given the number of landmines still in the ground and the fact that a number of countries central to the landmines issue remained outside the Ottawa Convention. The ultimate goal of
Australia's demining assistance was to build local capacity in affected countries to implement and sustain demining programmes. Lessons needed to be learned about the best ways to increase the awareness of communities living in mine affected areas. Particular focus needed to be given to reaching the most vulnerable groups in communities in danger. It was Australia's hope that, in the search for better demining outcomes, those important elements of effective demining programs were not overlooked.
AHMED AL-HADDAD (Yemen) said that the effects of landmines had the potential to last well beyond their immediate affects. Yemen, recognizing the humanitarian suffering of people caused by landmines, took pride that it was one of first States to sign the Ottawa Convention in 1997. Yemen itself suffered from mines laid on its territories. Although, it had tried to eliminate the mines, the country's efforts had been limited due to limited resources. He called on States, which could do so, to assist mine affected countries in the developing national mine-clearance capacities. His delegation welcomed the efforts of the Organization in mine action, especially in promoting awareness among children.
Member States needed to provide the Secretary-General with the necessary information to strengthen mine-clearance activities, he said. Adequate technology must be developed to that end. He thanked the United States Government for its assistance in mine clearance in his country. Adequate data and statistics, however, were sill lacking. Mine clearance in Yemen called for capacities beyond that of the country. Yemen was, nevertheless, committed to undertake the roles necessary to continue its efforts in the field.
JORGE PEREZ-OTERMIN (Uruguay) said the role of the United Nations in mine clearance was growing constantly, and the Secretary-General's report gave a clear idea of the challenges in that respect. Uruguay supported the Secretary General's proposals for better coordination on the part of the United Nations. His country had also joined in the efforts leading to the Ottawa Convention. Mine-fields continued to be a serious threat in all areas of the world, and mine clearance was important for rebuilding societies.
Uruguay supported the goal proclaimed by the Organization of American States (OAS) to free the eastern hemisphere from the scourge of anti-personnel landmines, he said. On the subregional level, he also noted the political declaration of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) regarding the agreement to establish a zone free from anti-personnel mines. In conclusion, he expressed support for the draft resolution on assistance in mine-clearance, which reaffirmed the need for international support for those activities.
ISA BABAA (Libya) said the international community had to commit itself on a global level to address the problem of mines. While the United Nations carried out its demining activities, people in the affected countries continued to suffer. A lack of resources continued to hamper mine clearance efforts, as did a lack of political resolve. Many countries attempting to clear their land of mines suffered from underdevelopment and poverty. Technical assistance, training, exchange of information and new technology was needed.
The latest effort by the international community had been the Ottawa Convention, he said. However, the responsibility of the colonial Powers who
had laid the mines had been overlooked. The Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the Non-Aligned Movement had addressed that issue during their most recent summits. They had called on countries to shoulder their responsibility and cooperate financially with demining efforts.
Libya continued to suffer from the mines that were laid during the Second World War, he said. Although more than 50 years had passed since the War, mines and explosives remain hidden by sand and rock. Libya had made some progress in demining, but a lack of maps and expertise had hindered efforts. Last July, Italy and Libya concluded a bilateral agreement for the removal of mines left behind during the War. A joint Libyan-Italian fund would be established for financing the rehabilitation of affected areas and the training of specialists to treat affected people. That set an outstanding precedent and he hoped the other two countries who had laid mines, namely Germany and the United Kingdom, would follow that example.
ALFONSO ORTEGA URBINA (Nicaragua), speaking on behalf of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Dominican Republic, said that landmines prolonged the effects of war during times of peace. While the cost of one landmine was equivalent to that of a compact disk, and their effects took years to overcome.
Mine-clearance resources should be used to increase awareness and foster preventive knowledge in civil society regarding the problem of mines, he said. The increasing number of civilian victims related to lack of awareness of the mines existence, lack of knowledge on how to reduce their risks, and the continuation of risky actions, such as collecting firewood.
Regional mine-clearance programmes, initiated by the OAS, used dogs to detect explosives, he said. That programme would have to be redefined due to the damage caused by hurricane Mitch. Another cooperative effort between UNICEF, the United States Government and a publisher of comic books had resulted in the publishing of a comic strip on landmine awareness that sought to teach children in Central America how to deal with the problem. The production of videos, radio programmes and puppet shows were also designed to teach children about the dangers of mines and to change their conduct to avoid accidents. Another programme, called "Child-to-Child", taught some 23,000 children in Nicaragua to deal with mine accidents.
Mine-clearing in Nicaragua had been hindered by the recent torrential rains, which had shifted the locations of mines, he added. Areas had been inundated, bridges had moved and topographical changes had taken place, making logistics relating to mine-clearance more costly. As a result, mine clearance in Central America could not move ahead on schedule. Special equipment was needed for clearing from slopes and an awareness campaign for peasants would be needed. In conclusion, he said the speed with which the international community had ratified the Ottawa Convention demonstrated the political will to end this scourge of mankind. Nicaragua was in the final stages of ratifying the Convention, hoping that the western hemisphere would be a zone free from such mines.
LEE SEE-YOUNG (Republic of Korea) said more resources had to be allocated for capacity-building in mine-affected States. Also, donor
countries had to pursue sustainable mine action in the context of development assistance. Despite the need for a global approach in certain areas, mine action should normally be country specific, in light of the diverse capability and environment of affected States. His country was making efforts to complete the domestic procedure for the accession to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and its amended Protocol II.
Although it was not in a position, at present, to subscribe to the total ban on the use of anti-personnel landmines, due to its unique security situation, it would be able to accede to the Ottawa Convention if and when a durable peace mechanism was established on the Korean peninsula or a viable alternative to anti-personnel landmines was developed, he said. The most urgent and realistic task was a total ban on the transfer of anti-personnel landmines. His country supported the early start of negotiations on a legal instrument governing that ban at the Conference on Disarmament. Such an inclusive and incremental approach deserved serious attention since mines being use in conflict areas were mostly imported.
SHEN GUOFANG (China) said that his country was very concerned over the loss of lives as a result of indiscriminate use of landmines. China had maintained that appropriate and reasonable limit should be placed on the use and transfer of landmines, without undermining the legitimate right of countries to self-defence. Effective control over the transfer of landmines was also essential.
His country had also participated in various demining activities. The President of China had declared that his country would continue its support for mine-clearance, including contributions to the Voluntary Trust Fund for Mine Clearance, he continued. Despite the fact that China had been hit with floods, which had added to the financial burden of the country, it had formulated its own programme of action, which included earmarking funds for demining in Bosnia and Herzegovina. China was also providing demining training. His country supported the draft resolution and was ready to join the consensus on it.
TREVOR HUGHES (New Zealand) said that New Zealand had nearly completed the domestic requirements for ratification of the Ottawa Convention. It was important for the Member States which had not yet done so, to sign and ratify it as soon as possible. The high levels of support and commitment for mine action displayed by an increasingly diverse number of participants at the recent international meetings in Ottawa, Washington and Phnom Penh were most encouraging. However, to achieve real progress, the international efforts must be coordinated effectively. It was imperative that the United Nations actively placed itself at the heart of international demining coordination efforts.
For that purpose, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Mine Action Service must be adequately funded and staffed, he continued. His delegation was particularly concerned that the hand-over period from gratis personnel to permanent staff must not cause a disruption of operational capacity or a loss of institutional memory. The establishment of the Inter-Agency Coordination Group of Mine Action and the Steering Committee of Mine Action, as outlined in the Secretary-General's report, represented helpful progress. New Zealand had continued to work in the field in 1998,
contributing to mine-clearance efforts in Angola, Mozambique, the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Cambodia. It had also continued to provide financial support to the United Nations Trust Fund for Mine Clearance and other relevant programmes.
ANDREY E. GRANOVSKY (Russian Federation) said his country recognized the ban on the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of landmines as the ultimate objective. The goal now was to secure the maximum participation of the international community to Protocol II of the Conventional Weapons Convention. He was convinced of the urgency of enabling the international community to mobilize its full capacity for demining and he welcomed the establishment of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations Mine Action Service. All the necessary conditions existed so that the United Nations could play the leading role in demining activities.
Overcoming mine danger in regional conflicts was still a pressing problem, he said. It had to be included in the mandate of peacekeeping missions. In the context of peacekeeping, the landmine problem was acute. Troops deployed in areas where mines existed were hindered in their activities. Mines threatened humanitarian workers and prevented them from adequately carrying out their missions. Although the Russian Federation needed financial assistance to face its demining tasks, it was ready to provide assistance to countries on a multilateral and bilateral basis.
NABIL ELARBY (Egypt) said that the importance of the landmine question in the international community since 1993 showed that several aspects of the problem had to be taken into account. The title of the resolution before the Assembly should be "Assistance in Mine Clearance", which would be more in line with the draft's proposals. The very serious threat of landmines created social and economic problems but, first and foremost, it was a humanitarian problem. People should be free to live without that threat. The time had come to make known worldwide, the scope of the problem. Egypt strongly believed that the technological burdens of mine clearance should not be borne solely by the affected countries, but required international support. The Organization and its specialized agencies should work towards that end.
He said that 23 million landmines, most of which had been placed in 1942, were scattered throughout Egyptian land, making it the country with the largest number of mines. Assistance received for demining in the country was not up to the task required. His Government had begun an ambitious plan to eliminate the mines, with a target date of 2006, for the completion of the tasks. The implementation of the plan, however, placed technological and financial burdens on Egypt which it could not bear alone. All States that contributed to the placing of those mines should give information to the Egyptian Government as to their whereabouts. The mines, furthermore, were an obstacle to the development of the country's natural resources, especially in the Sinai.
In his report, the Secretary-General had erroneously stated that the primary responsibility for mine-clearance rested with the States concerned, he said. That was a mistaken approach to the problem which should recognize the responsibility of the international community as a whole, especially those States that had placed the mines. Recognizing the responsibility of States that had laid landmines was necessary. In spite of the positive international
response to the Ottawa Convention, a large number of States, including Egypt, had reservations on the Convention which should be addressed by the international community and the Disarmament Conference. For all those reasons, and in light of the votes this year and last in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), Egypt believed that various aspects of the mine problem needed to be reconsidered. Egypt would cooperate fully with the Organization's ultimate objective of demining.
SHAFQAT ALI KHAN (Pakistan) said that his country was acutely aware of the problems caused by the indiscriminate use of landmines. In that context, its contribution towards demining operations all over the world had been second to none. Pakistan's active role in the demining operations in Kuwait, Somalia, Angola and Bosnia reflected its commitment to the international efforts to deal with the menace of mines. His delegation had not entirely agreed with the explanation of the concept of mine action as contained in the report of the Secretary-General. In its view, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations simply did not have the mandate to deal with "advocacy to stigmatize the use of landmines and support a total ban on anti-personnel mines". The disarmament aspect of that issue should be handled by other competent forums of the United Nations system.
Despite recent encouraging developments, efforts of the international community to deal with the problem of landmines had not been adequate, he continued. One area which needed urgent attention was the provision of sufficient resources for mine clearance operations. The contributions made to the United Nations Voluntary Fund had been far from sufficient. The response to requests for in-kind contributions to establish a stand-by United Nations landmine clearing capability had been lukewarm. As the mine-clearing operations required a continuous flow of resources, voluntary contributions alone would not be sufficient to effectively address that issue. It was necessary to pool resources and enforce regulations to ensure universal adherence to existing multilateral instruments. Possibilities of establishing international mechanisms to have States responsible for indiscriminate use of mines pay for mine-clearing operations should be explored.
His delegation also wanted to draw the attention of international community to the continuing destruction caused by the landmines left behind by occupation forces in Afghanistan. While the Secretary-General's report mentioned that the mine clearance in Afghanistan had been exceeded by 15 per cent, his country felt that it was far below what was actually required. At the present rate it would take at least another decade to clear even the remaining high priority mined areas, let alone the demining of the whole country. The great interest of the international community in the mine-clearance issue should be translated into action in Afghanistan.
MOHAMED MUSTAFA M. AHMED (Sudan) said mines had been laid in Sudan during the Second World War and, as well as by insurgents. The number of mines planted were estimated at 3 million. Sudan was considered one of the most affected countries in Africa. The country had established the Sudan Mine Action Service, which concentrated on coordinating efforts of regional and national bodies for assistance in mine clearance and rehabilitation.
The great number of mines laid by the insurgents had adversely affected Sudan's development, he said. Due to the landmine problem, Sudan's
population, which depended on agriculture, could not pursue those activities. The United Nations had sent an assessment mission to Sudan and he hoped more could be done in that respect. The United Nations, which was determined to be impartial and to give priority to the most vulnerable countries, had made assistance to countries contingent on its mine action activities. The insurgents were the ones laying the mines in Sudan and they were not party to the Ottawa Convention. The laying of mines was also a form of terrorism and the States providing those weapons were practising terrorism.
IVAN SIMONOVIC (Croatia) said that his country was one of the world's eight most mine-affected countries. It had in recent years placed great emphasis on both its internal obligations, as well as on international efforts in demining and assistance to mine victims. With over 1 million mines scattered over 6,000 square kilometres of its territory, the mines effect, especially with regard to refugees and economic recovery, could not be overestimated. Between 1995 and 1996 there had been 580 victims of mines in Croatia, 102 of them, children. With a continued emphasis of the international community on the return of refugees and displaced persons in Croatia, those numbers were likely to rise.
International assistance in demining represented a mere fraction of the country's pressing needs, he said. "Not taking away from national commitments and mine clearance efforts, these needs can only be fully addressed if the international community upholds its commitment and determination to assist -- financially or in kind -- most affected countries", he said.
Until recently, all mine clearance in Croatia was conducted by the military and special police, or the State-demining agency, he continued. That situation had changed and mine legislation in Croatia now enabled the Croatian Mine Centre to award contracts to outside agencies. Projects for mine clearance were approved by the Centre and the invitation for their bids was advertised. The Croatian Government was financing the overwhelming majority of those projects (over 95 per cent). Since 1996, little international financing had been provided to assist his country in demining. He welcomed the recent decision by the European Union to send experts from the Western European Union to coordinate, supervise and train new Croatian demining teams.
Croatia believed it was important to sustain the unique synergy among Governments, international organizations, institutions and civil society, which made the Ottawa process a gratifying precedent in multilateral negotiation, he added. His delegation, however, was concerned that too much emphasis was being directed to mine-related activities that had little or no impact on the actual demining process or new activities in mine-affected countries. Funds to finance commercial demining, as well as assistance for specialized equipment, training and personnel, were needed to support the most affected countries.
SEYED MOHAMMAD HADI NEJAD HOSSEINIAN (Iran), said during the Iran-Iraq war nearly 16 million landmines, covering more than 4 million hectares, had been laid in his country. For the past 10 years, Iran had embarked upon a mine-clearance operation to enable displaced civilians to return to their homes and resume normal life. It had succeeded in neutralizing and destroying about 6.2 million mines manually. The mines laid in Iran had put huge expanses of its agricultural land out of production and rendered them
Efforts in mine clearance should be intensified if the international community was to reduce the number of casualties caused by landmines, he said. In addition to limited resources hampering mine-clearance programmes, the absence of political will on the part of developed countries -- which had the potential to contribute to safer, faster, and cost-effective mine clearance through transfer of mine-clearance equipment and technology to infested countries -- was very serious.
He said improved technology meant cost-effective removal and destruction of landmines and ultimately, the saving of lives. Therefore, serious attempts should be made to improve mine-clearance technology and to transfer new technologies to developing countries, particularly the mine-affected nations. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations needed to ensure that no restrictions were imposed by any State which would hinder or otherwise impede access to mine-clearance technology. At the same time, all States, particularly those which had the required technology and equipment, should declare to Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the technical assistance that they could make available to mine-affected countries and relevant United Nations programmes.
ALOUNKEO KITTIKHOUN (Lao People's Democratic Republic) said that to address the mine problem, his country had drawn up a comprehensive programme. Within that framework, the first unexploded ordnance removal project was initiated in 1994 by the Mines Advisory Group in Xieng Khoung, one of the most affected provinces. In 1996, a national programme was elaborated to create a national capacity for removal of unexploded ordnances and demining projects, and to coordinate awareness and survey projects throughout the country.
Although progress had been made, safe and reliable enhancement for clearance productivity remained a challenging requirement, he said. For 1998, the needs were estimated at $15.8 million. Without cash grants or contributions, national operations would not be sustainable in the future. To attain that goal, his Government, the UNDP and UNICEF would continue their efforts to mobilization of resources aimed at ensuring the necessary funding for existing programmes and the ongoing viability of the medium and long-term programmes.
GIAN NICOLA FILIPPI BALESTRA (San Marino) said his country placed particular emphasis on mine awareness and risk-reduction education. The San Marino National Committee for UNICEF was currently involved in a fund-raising campaign which would contribute to promote mine-awareness education for Croatian children in primary and secondary schools. It was an important project that needed to be carried out very swiftly.
He said that in Croatia there were still 120 square metres of potentially mine-infested areas.San Marino expected to raise approximately $50,000 to support mine clearance in Croatia. That relatively small contribution was a way for the people of San Marino to express their commitment to a united effort to eliminate the hazards of landmines. He stressed that the fight against landmines started with the fight against their production. "We should not underestimate the importance of the appeal to all countries with mine-producing industries to start a process of transformation
of their production", he added.
JOSEFA COELHO DA CRUZ (Angola) said that in her country, the National Institute for the Removal of Obstacles and Explosive Devices and the specialized government agency responsible for the coordination and execution of demining operations were working to ensure the resettlement of populations, reinitiation of productive activities and the free circulation of people and goods. The National Institute was also working jointly with UNICEF to coordinate a national awareness campaign on the danger of landmines. In spite of the internal situation in her country, Angola continued to honour its commitment to the Ottawa Convention.
Angola was one of the countries with the largest number of landmines, she said. The fact that Angola had not yet ratified the Ottawa Convention did not imply its indifference; the document was already in the Parliament for ratification. Unfortunately, the demining efforts conducted by the Government and NGOs had been significantly reduced as a result of the deterioration of the military situation caused by National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) militaristic wing. That was affecting the humanitarian assistance efforts and interfering with the circulation of goods and people in some regions. The UNITA was also remining roads and agricultural lands. In spite of those difficulties, major access thoroughfares had been cleared and the work had been initiated on secondary roads. The Government had also intensified the mine awareness campaign and the training of the technical demining brigades.
Some priority activities were still pending, due to the lack of resources for demining programmes, she continued. The lack of improved mine detection and technology continued to be debilitating. To reduce the tragedy of landmines and promote reconstruction and development in mine-infested countries, new and enhanced technology must be developed to expedite mine-clearance activities and increase the effectiveness. Her delegation appealed to the international community to continue its support to the Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Clearance and to provide new and additional resources for that noble cause.
Action on the Draft
Acting President of the General Assembly AKSOLTAN T. ATAEVA (Turkmenistan) then informed the delegates that since the introduction of the draft, Angola, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Jordan, Costa Rica, Panama, Romania, Slovenia, Turkmenistan and Uruguay had joined the number of its co-sponsors.
The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, the resolution on assistance in mine action.
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