13/11/2003
Press Release
SC/7918



Security Council

4858th Meeting (AM)


ACTION AGAINST MINES DYNAMIC COMPONENT OF PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS,


UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL


Jean-Marie Guéhenno Describes ‘Remarkable Progress’ in UN Efforts;

Director, Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, Also Briefs


Mine action was a dynamic component of peacekeeping operations, could help to build confidence during peace processes, and engage parties to a conflict in humanitarian initiatives, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno told the Security Council this morning.


In a briefing on the importance of mine action for peacekeeping operations, he said since a 1999 discussion in the Council on the topic, United Nations mine action had made remarkable progress, in which the United Nations Mine-Action Service (UNMAS), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) were the lead actors.  The United Nations was supporting mine action in Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Croatia, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Tajikistan.


He said, although there was a strong normative framework on landmines, an instrument addressing unexploded ordnance would greatly facilitate post-conflict clearance efforts.  Parties to conflict should be aware of the important confidence-building role that mine action could play, and the Council should urge parties to conflicts to incorporate mine action into their discussions.


Peacekeeping troops could play an important role in mine clearance, he continued.  The Council should consider calling upon troop-contributing countries to train troops to demine in accordance with International Mine-Action Standards (IMAS).  Mine action could also be an important part of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, as demobilized soldiers could conduct mine action.  Moreover, there was a need for funds.  Member States should be encouraged to provide adequate and sustained financial assistance for mine action.


Martin Dahinden, Director of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, said information management and mine-action standards were particularly important to peacekeeping.  For timely and accurate information, it was important to enable different actors to collect and exchange information on the threat of mines in a standardized way, across the various phases of crisis management and reconstruction.  Until recently, that had rarely been done satisfactorily.  For that reason, the Geneva Centre had developed a computer-based Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA).


International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) had been prepared by the Geneva Centre under a mandate from the United Nations, in order to improve mine-action quality and facilitate cooperation, he said.  Peacekeepers mainly clear mines in support of their mission.  It was important, however, that the work be performed according to agreed standards and then recorded in a common format, since demining operations might then be passed on to national mine-action programmes.


Echoing several speakers’ sentiments, the representative of Cameroon called anti-personnel mines “disgusting and inhuman” weapons, which killed both in time of war and peace without discrimination.  He said they ravaged civilian populations, and continued to kill and wound people many years after the end of conflict.  They jeopardized peace-building efforts, had a negative impact on economic development, hampered resumption of agriculture, and prevented the return of refugees.


Other speakers stressed the importance of including mine action in mandates for peacekeeping operations and urged more coordination among United Nations actors and between United Nations and other actors, including those of civil society.  Several speakers urged those countries that had not yet done so to sign or ratify the 1997 Mine Ban Convention and appealed to donor countries to provide sufficient and sustainable resources for mine action.


As the issue of anti-personnel mines and unexploded ordnance had been taken up by the General Assembly last week, some speakers addressed the distribution of responsibilities of the Assembly and the Council, whereby the Assembly addressed the political aspects of mine action, and the Council undertook operational responsibilities in peacekeeping missions.


Pakistan’s representative emphasized that there was one principle that required universal acceptance and implementation, and that was the principle of the responsibility of States that placed landmines in conflict situations, or left unexploded ordnance.  Until that principle was acknowledged, he said, and countries undertook the responsibility to clear up landmines and unexploded ordnance, action in that area would continue to be slow and inadequate at the global level.


Speaking in his national capacity, the representative of Angola, who, as this month’s Council President had taken the initiative for consideration of the item, said mines were a heavy burden on countries emerging from conflict.  Angola had experienced all too well the challenges posed by landmines.  The end of the war revealed that Angola was one of the most affected countries in the world.  In 2002-2003, more than 5,000 mines and 13,000 unexploded devices were destroyed.  While his country was grateful for assistance from the international community, he stressed that a large share of Angola’s budget was devoted to mine action.  He appealed to the international community to continue its support for sustainable development and long-term security.


The representatives of Guinea, Syria, France, Chile, United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Mexico, Germany, Spain, Russian Federation, China and United States also spoke.  Mr. Guéhenno and Mr. Dahinden made concluding remarks.


The meeting, which started at 10:25 a.m., was adjourned at 12:55 p.m.


Background


The Security Council met today to consider the importance of mine action for peacekeeping operations.  Mine action was taken up by the General Assembly on 5 November 2003, when the Assembly had before it the Secretary-General’s report on assistance in mine action (documents A/58/260 and Add.1), which focuses on progress achieved in implementing the six strategic goals and 48 related objectives enumerated in the report.  [For further information on that meeting, see Press Release GA/10204 of 5 November 2003.]


The report states that progress in mine action has been achieved in six specific areas -- namely, increased information and improved technology, improved capacity to respond to emergencies, sustained efforts to build national mine-action capacity, significant improvements in quality management, successful mobilization, and increased advocacy in support of relevant legal instruments.  It also recommends specific action to enhance the quality of mine-action work by the United Nations.


The report concludes that the formal review in early 2003 of the United Nations mine-action strategy for the period 2001-2005 confirmed several important observations.  First, the strategy has provided valuable direction and guidance for all United Nations entities involved in its implementation and has fostered coordination and accountability across the mine-action community.  Second, the strategy review process revealed a considerable degree of consensus among United Nations partners on a set of fundamental principles that underpin their common endeavours, including the commitment to integrate a development perspective into mine-action planning, to emphasize the role of mine-affected communities when determining mine-action priorities, and to address gender concerns in the design, implementation and evaluation of mine-action programmes.  Third, the review offered an opportunity to modify and clarify a number of strategic objectives in the light of practical experience.


Mine action has been more systematically integrated into humanitarian and development planning and operations over the past year, at the national and also the international levels, the report continues.  The presence of mines and unexploded ordnance often poses serious constraints to development.  Although donors continue to fund mine action primarily from humanitarian or emergency budget lines, there is increasing recognition of the importance of supporting mine action from development and reconstruction budgets, as well.  The report states this is particularly important in the area of victim assistance, for example, a long-term concern for which funds are almost always inadequate.


The report also offers several recommendations.  Among them, the Inter-Agency Coordination Group on Mine Action should continuously monitor implementation of the United Nations mine-action strategy for the period 2001-2005 and report annually to the Assembly on progress made and challenges encountered.


Briefings


The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, JEAN-MARIE GUÉHENNO, said it was appropriate that the discussion on mine action took place under the presidency of Angola, as that country was one of the most severely mine-affected countries in the world.  Also, a Council mission had just returned from Afghanistan, where the United Nations Mine-Action Service (UNMAS) was managing the largest mine-action programme in the world.  Both in Angola and Afghanistan, the full range of mine-action activities were in progress:  mine-risk education, assistance to mine victims, clearance of mined areas, destruction of stockpiles, and advocacy with military leaders to persuade them to abandon the use of mines, in compliance with commitments made under the anti-personnel mine-ban treaty.  [Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Mine-Ban Convention)]


Since a 1999 discussion in the Council on the topic, United Nations mine action had made remarkable progress, he said, in which UNMAS, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) were the lead actors.  The UNDP supported national mine-action authorities in more than 20 countries.  The UNICEF had undertaken responsibility for mine-risk education in 28 countries.  The UNMAS supported initiatives in Cyprus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Eritrea, south Lebanon, as well as in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Sudan.


Today, the Council was going one step further, and acknowledged the contribution of mine action to peacekeeping operations and to efforts to maintain international peace and security.  Mine action could help to build confidence during peace processes and engaged parties to a conflict in humanitarian initiatives.  The United Nations was supporting mine action in Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Croatia, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Tajikistan.


Mine action was a dynamic component of peacekeeping operations, requiring early planning involving mine-action specialists.  Staff of UNMAS recently participated in an early assessment mission to Liberia.  It also provides information on the scope and humanitarian impact of the problems of landmines, unexploded ordnance and explosive remnants of war which is included in reports of the Secretary-General to the Security Council.  Multidimensional peacekeeping operations now included child-protection advisers, gender focal points and often mine-action coordination centres.


He said, although there was a strong normative framework on landmines, an instrument addressing unexploded ordnance would greatly facilitate post-conflict clearance efforts.  Also, parties to conflict should be aware of the important confidence-building role that mine action could play.  The Council should urge parties to conflicts to incorporate mine action into their discussions.


Further, he continued, peacekeeping troops could play an important role in mine clearance.  The Council should consider calling upon troop-contributing countries to train troops to demine in accordance with International Mine-Action Standards (IMAS).  Mine action could also be an important part of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, as demobilized soldiers could conduct mine action.  Moreover, mine clearance was an expensive undertaking, and Member States should be encouraged to provide adequate and sustained financial assistance for mine action.


MARTIN DAHINDEN, Director of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, said his organization supported the implementation of the anti-personnel mine-ban Convention and provided a wide range of services, such as advisory missions, training, evaluation and technical support to mine-affected countries and the international community.


He said information management and mine-action standards were particularly important to peacekeeping.  For timely and accurate information, it was important to enable different actors to collect and exchange information on the threat of mines in a standardized way, across the various phases of crisis management and reconstruction.  Until recently, that had rarely been done satisfactorily.  For that reason, the Geneva Centre had developed a computer-based Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA).  The IMSMA has already been used by many peacekeeping operations.  The Geneva Centre provided deployment and post-deployment support for the system, largely funded by the Swiss Government.


The IMAS had been prepared by the Geneva Centre under a mandate from the United Nations, in order to improve mine-action quality and facilitate cooperation, he said.  Peacekeepers mainly clear mines in support of their mission.  However, it was important that the work be performed according to agreed standards and then recorded in a common format, since demining operations might then be passed on to national mine-action programmes.  He described the Geneva Centre’s activities in support of IMAS.


At the request of UNMAS, he said, the Geneva Centre had also completed a study of the role of the military in mine action.  It found that military expertise in breaching minefields was not easily transposed to humanitarian demining, where nothing less than 100 per cent clearance was acceptable if land was to be returned safely to civilian populations.  The success of an overall operation, therefore, depended largely on the capability to manage a smooth transition to the post-conflict phase, as the international military presence was dismantled.


Statements


ALPHA IBRAHIMA SOW (Guinea) said mine action was a priority for the maintenance of international peace and security.  The General Assembly had assumed a political role in that regard, but the operational role was incumbent on the Council.  Adoption in 1997 of the Convention on anti-personnel mines and its signing by more than 130 States indicated significant progress and reaffirmed the international community’s commitment to elimination of all mines.


He said there was a need for internal coordination among the United Nations bodies, as well as between those bodies and other actors.  Mine-action operations should be consolidated and experience gained should be disseminated.  There was a need to consider mine-action requirements at the very beginning of peacekeeping operation planning, and mine-action training should be included in training of peacekeeping troops.  A gender perspective should be included in mine-clearance programmes, as well. The question of anti-personnel and unexploded ordnance was closely related to conflict prevention and peace-building.  Success in mine action also depended on mainstreaming mine action into national and regional disarmament, demobilization and reintegration projects.


FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said that the process of removing mines had both humanitarian and disarmament dimensions.  The importance of the subject stemmed from its link to the humanitarian damage by mines.  Taking into account the difficulties created when mine maps were not provided by factions and other post-conflict issues, the two dimensions were interlinked, however.


His country, along with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and other neighbouring countries, had provided assistance to Lebanon to help remove mines planted by the Israeli occupation forces, and prevent further catastrophic consequences to the population.  As that experience had shown, collective effort achieved the best results.


MICHEL DUCLOS (France) said that the topic was of vital importance to areas under the Council’s competence.  It was clear from the briefings that the United Nations had taken stock of the problem and that mine action was being mainstreamed into the Organization’s culture, included in peacekeeping operations.  The General Assembly had been taking an important role in the area, and he welcomed that body’s activities.


Further progress was needed, however, he said, agreeing with Mr. Guéhenno on such subjects as the need to train troops in mine-action awareness.  The mine-ban Convention could be used as a mobilization tool for mine action at all levels, including financing.  He hoped that all the countries that had a major role in peacekeeping acceded to the Convention as soon as possible.


France was making contributions to mine action through various organizations, as well as bilaterally, and actively supported work done by non-governmental organizations for assistance to victims.  All such action should be done in coordination with the United Nations.  Finally, he said the political geography of mine action had to developed, and the prevention of mass mining had to be prioritized.


HERALDO MUÑOZ (Chile) said mine action was an essential element in peace-building and mine-clearance operations preserved the life of personnel of peacekeeping operations and humanitarian workers, as well as of the civilian population.  His country, complying with instruments it had committed to, had eliminated its stockpiles of anti-personnel mines, and taken a number of other measures.


He said it was imperative that the Council include mine action, as well as action on other explosive remnants of war, in mandates of its peacekeeping operations.  The Council, through its resolutions, should also promote respect for the norms of international law on the subject and urge parties to conflicts to refrain from using or stockpiling the material.  The courage and dedication of the experts who risked their lives in demining should be recognized.  On behalf of the Human Security Network, a group of countries of which Chile was a member, he said mine action should be included in peacekeeping operation mandates.


MARTIN BELINGA EBOUTOU (Cameroon) said anti-personnel mines were “disgusting and inhuman” weapons, which killed both in time of war and peace without discrimination.  They ravaged civilian populations, in particular, women and children.  Anti-personnel mines continued to kill and wound people many years after the end of conflict, jeopardized peace-building efforts, and had a negative impact on economic development.  They hampered resumption of agriculture and prevented the return of refugees.


He said over the years mine action had been mainstreamed into Council mandates, such as in UNIFIL, the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), and the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).  Mine action included demining, raising awareness, assistance to victims, advocacy for a ban on anti-personnel mines and destruction of stockpiles.  Within the framework of peacekeeping operations, mine action gave a greater chance for peace.  If implemented early enough, mine action could be effective.  It was essential that donors be sensitized to the need for funding, and he appealed to donors to provide sufficient and increased support for mine action in various African countries emerging from conflict.


EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) welcomed the decision to convene the meeting and underscored the relevance of mine action to peacekeeping.  With nearly 20,000 victims each year, there was a collective responsibility to take action and achieve results.  There had been much progress since the Council first took up the issue in 1996.


He welcomed the mainstreaming of mine action into peacekeeping missions, citing specific examples.  Mine action in the context of peacekeeping organizations improved the safety of peacekeepers, the environment for the safe return of refugees, employment possibilities and income opportunities, along with many other benefits, such as a psychological gain for the population.  The United Kingdom supported the coordinating role of IMAS and had provided funding for much United Nations mine action.  It also supported the Geneva Centre and was committed to working on the serious mine-related problems that remained.


RAYKO RAYTCHEV (Bulgaria) said his country fully recognized the consequence of anti-personnel mines on the population and the possibilities for long-term development.  Bulgaria was one of the first countries to accept the principles of the Ottawa Convention.  The incorporation of mine action in peacekeeping was essential for the fulfilment of peacekeeping operations.  The leading role of the United Nations in the area should serve to coordinate all other actors in all the activities involved.


He supported Mr. Guéhenno’s view that peacekeepers should provide mine-clearing and mine-risk training to local populations.  The inclusion of mine action in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration activities was also important, and sufficient financing was also essential -- donors should contribute to the voluntary trust fund in mine action.  In addition, mine action in Kosovo could be used as a model for other operations, bearing in mind that all situations were different.  Finally, he emphasized the importance of victim assistance.


ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER (Mexico) recognized the fundamental role of the United Nations in mainstreaming mine action as a priority in the search for international peace and security and in its reconstruction efforts.  Recently, the Council mission to Afghanistan had been able to assess the enormous social and human cost resulting from anti-personnel mines.  The most effective means of avoiding the effects of mines was to bring about their total elimination.  Some 142 countries had acceded to the Ottawa Convention, but important members of the international community still had not done so.  He urged those States that had not yet signed or ratified the instrument to do so.


He said the main victims of the weapons were innocents.  There might still be millions of mines in place that prevented development and caused over 50,000 victims a year.  His country welcomed the fact that Kenya would host the first review conference of the Convention, as African countries had been severely affected by the scourge of landmines.  It was necessary to include specific references in the mandates of peacekeeping operations to make demining activities possible.  Those activities were essential in all peace-building efforts.  His country was working towards establishment of a mine-free zone in its hemisphere.


GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany) said mines were killing people everyday and made life unbearable for those who had to live with the constant fear of falling victim to them.  Laying mines was very easy and cheap, as a mine cost $3 in production.  But removing them was a Herculean task requiring enormous resources, close to $3,000 per mine.  Mine action was a new concept, going beyond the mere military and disarmament aspects, and consisted of a broad-based approach, including humanitarian aspects.


Addressing the distribution of roles between the Council and the Assembly regarding mine action, he said the Council’s role was to ensure that mine action was considered for and, if necessary, included in peacekeeping mandates.  The Assembly dealt with mine action in all its aspects, based on the Secretary-General’s report.  His country had, from the outset, supported the concept of mine action.  It was member of the Mine-Action Support Group.  As the current Chair of that Group, he appealed to all Member States that had the means to do so to lend generous support to mine action.


INOCENCIO ARIAS (Spain) agreed that mine action must remain a priority on the international agenda.  The Council’s recent mission to Afghanistan showed the vital importance of mine action in peace-building and reconstruction.  All elements, from mine destruction to advocacy for prohibition of mines, were important, and funding should be provided for all those activities.


He said that Spain had contributed 1.5 million euros for both victim-assistance and training programmes, and also had demining units in various countries.  Politically, Spain was committed to the mine-ban Convention, and continued to support binding international instruments that covered explosive dangers other than anti-personnel mines.  He supported a global approach coordinated by UNMAS and said that the topic should regularly be included in reports on peacekeeping activities.


ALEXANDER KONUZIN (Russian Federation) supported the efforts of the United Nations that sought to mobilize the international community against landmines.  On its own territory, Russia continued to deactivate thousands of mines decades after they were planted, and the country was providing much mine-action assistance internationally, including for humanitarian demining.  The Government had adopted legal instruments to allow it to pursue such efforts.


Discussions on the topic in the Security Council, he said, should focus on the tasks that should be undertaken for mine action within peacekeeping operations, as well as the avoidance of duplication in efforts among the many actors involved.  Various kinds of assistance to mine-affected countries, however, were under the purview of the General Assembly.


ZHANG YISHAN (China) said, in addition to victimizing the civilian population in post-conflict situations, landmines impeded social and economic progress.  Properly addressing the problems of landmines had received great attention at the United Nations.  In recent years, various United Nations bodies had coordinated their efforts and mine action had been an important part of the mandate of many peacekeeping operations.


He said China had consistently supported countries in addressing the social and economic problems of landmines.  Although it was not party to the Ottowa Convention, his country had been active in many activities, including contributing money to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund, hosting seminars on demining techniques, and sending expert groups to Eritrea to assist in training and mine clearance.  China had also joined the Mine-Action Support Group.


MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said he was alarmed to see there were still 200 million landmines stockpiled all over the world, half of them completely unattended.  Seventy per cent of the casualties from landmines and unexploded ordnance were civilian, largely women and children.  Unexploded mines and ordnance placed also a heavy burden on social and economic reconstruction and prevented the return of refugees.


He said there was one principle that required universal acceptance and implementation, and that was the principle of the responsibility of States that placed landmines in conflict situations, or left unexploded ordnance.  Until that principle was acknowledged and countries undertook the responsibility to clear up landmines, action would continue to be slow and inadequate at the global level.  In the context of the situations of which the Council was seized, mine prevention and mine clearance must be included in its considerations.


Afghanistan presented a stark illustration of the tragedy posed by landmines, he said.  Landmines or unexploded ordnance, killing or maiming 300 people a month, were an obstacle to resettlement of millions of refugees and internally displaced persons.  Afghanistan could be cleared of landmines, but only after 10 years and at a cost of $500 million.  He encouraged donors to accelerate their contributions in order to shorten that period.  His country had contributed to demining operations in Kuwait, Angola, Western Sahara, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and other countries.  His country remained committed to ensuring that mines in its possession would never cause civilian fatalities in Pakistan or elsewhere.


JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) said that his country recognized the devastating consequences of landmines on affected populations.  Mine action should play a vital role in the furtherance of peace, security and development.  Mine action also encouraged hope.


Since 1993, the United States had provided some $700 million towards mine-action programmes, and would continue to provide more, he said.  Humanitarian mine assistance by the United States had been provided to more than 40 countries.  He described the prevalence of landmines in Iraq, along with the resources being dedicated to mine action in that country.  Around the world, most United States assistance had been provided bilaterally, but he supported a strong United Nations role in the efforts.


The future of mine action and efforts to protect civilians should be dynamic and fruitful, because much had been learned in the past decades, and a network of mine-action organizations had been created.  He hoped those factors would create a world where children could walk without fear.


Council President ISMAEL ABRAAO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola), speaking in his national capacity, fully supported United Nations mine-action initiatives, along with the work of the Geneva Centre.  Mines were a heavy burden on countries emerging from conflict.  He acknowledged that the primary responsibility for mine action rested on national authorities, but due to their limited resources the United Nations should play a crucial role based on humanitarian assistance and development strategies.


Angola had experienced all too well the challenges posed by landmines.  The end of the war revealed that Angola was one of the most affected countries in the world.  In 2002-2003, more than 5,000 mines and 13,000 unexploded devices were destroyed.  The international community had increased its mine-action funds greatly after the end of the war; it was a welcome peace dividend and partly a result of Angola’s accession to the mine-ban Convention.  His country was grateful for such assistance.  He stressed, however, that it was itself devoting a large share of its budget to mine action.


He appealed to the international community to continue its support for sustainable development and long-term security.  He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations in relation to mine action, supporting, as well, the United Nations role in coordinating mine action and the need to mainstream mine action into other activities of the Organization.


Closing Statements


Mr. GUÉHENNO,Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said he was gratified for the support expressed for UNMAS and its partners in the United Nations system and welcomed recognition by Council members that mine action should be included in peacekeeping mandates, as well as recognition of the role demobilization, disarmament and reintegration programmes could play in mine action.  He said conducting demining operations according to international standards, and rigorously recording them in a standardized way over time, in order to prevent duplication, meant that resources would be used in the most effective way.  He assured that his Department would make every effort to improve mine-action operations in the field to ensure the most efficient use of resources.


Mr. DAHINDEN, Director of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, thanked speakers for their positive comments regarding the work of the Geneva Centre and expressed satisfaction that the International Mine Action Standards had been found useful and were being applied.


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