29 October 2009
General Assembly
GA/SPD/439

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

19th Meeting (AM)


Efforts Bearing Fruit to End Landmine Scourge, as 41 Million in Stockpiles


Destroyed Since 2008, Assistant Secretary-General Tells Fourth Committee


Better Risk-Reduction Tools, Methods Slash Number of Casualties,

But Injuries Emerge in Several Countries where None Were Previously Recorded


Combined efforts by the United Nations, Governments, civil society and operational implementing partners to efficiently coordinate mine action-related activities gone far to end the suffering caused by landmines and explosive remnants of war, Assistant Secretary-General for the Rule of Law and Security Institutions of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) today.


Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on mine action assistance as the Committee took up that issue, Dmitry Titov said that 2008 and 2009 had been remarkable for the mine action sector.  More than 41 million of those stockpiled weapons had been destroyed, and their production, sale and transfer had effectively stopped. Improved risk-reduction tools and methods had contributed to a global reduction in the number of casualties, and survivors and their families were increasingly recognized as having rights to social and economic integration.


However, major challenges in mine action still remained, he said.  At the Mine-Ban Convention held last November, 15 requests to extend clearance deadlines had been considered, thus illustrating that the full implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Mine-Ban Convention) remained a difficult target.  Some 14 million stockpiled anti-personnel mines globally were yet to be destroyed.


The Assistant Secretary-General said that in 2007-2008, mine-related casualties had occurred in several countries where none had ever been recorded.  In 2007, there were 5,426 mine-related casualties, and land and transport routes were still hampered by landmines in 78 countries, adversely affecting community livelihoods.


Stressing that the ongoing use of cluster munitions also had considerable humanitarian, human rights and development consequences for civilians, both during and after armed conflict, he said that the Secretary-General, therefore, continued to urge Member States to take effective steps pursuant to the new Convention on Cluster Munitions to address their impact.  So far, the treaty had been signed by 100 countries, of which 23 had ratified it. 


In the ensuing general debate, Viet Nam’s representative said that the tremendous humanitarian and development problems caused by mines were well known, and that the explosive remnants of war had serious and lasting social and economic consequences for affected populations.  Being a country that suffered from decades of war, with vast damages caused by explosive remnants and improved explosive devices, she said that Viet Nam shared the humanitarian concerns of the devastating effects of those weapons on innocent civilians.


Continuing that thread, Thailand’s representative said that the legacy of anti-personnel mines endured long after conflicts ended, impeding social development and affecting the livelihood of millions of people today.  Among thousands of new victims of landmines every year, many were women, children and innocent civilians.  Thus, he said the Mine-Ban Convention and the Nairobi Action Plan, along with other initiatives, were integral to the common agenda to secure a world free of those weapons and to provide assistance to the victims. 


However, much work remained to be done in order to translate those frameworks into reality, he said.  Nevertheless, there was steady movement towards the shared goal. Mine risk education and victim assistance, including medical and rehabilitation services, were of equal importance.


Also speaking to the rehabilitation of mined areas, Libya’s representative said that those countries that had planted the mines should be held responsible for their clearance and should cooperate with all the affected countries to get rid of that “lethal heritage”. Compensation should also be paid to victims and their families, and artificial limbs given when necessary.


He said that Libya was very grateful for the courageous step of the Italian Government, which had apologized to the Libyan people for the colonial period, and provided compensation, including artificial limbs, to those injured as a result of mines.  He called on other countries to following Italy’s example and responsibly “end the chapter of colonialism”.


Also this morning, the Committee wrapped up its general debate on peacekeeping operations, with speakers reiterating the need for clearer mandates.  In particular, India’s representative stressed that it was disturbing that questions of substantive interpretation of the mandates were often left to the judgement of mission personnel.  That could result in untenable situations, particularly for military officers, who operated best when there were unambiguous instructions and objectives.  The initiative by the Security Council to hold consultations with troop contributing countries prior to the renewal of mandates was a step in the right direction, he said.


The representatives of Cameroon and Bolivia also spoke in the general debate on peacekeeping operations.


Speakers on the topic of assistance in mine action also included Sweden (on behalf of the European Union), Peru, Cuba, Japan, Eritrea, China, Colombia, and Senegal.


A representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also spoke on that issue.


The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow, 30 October, to conclude its general debate on assistance in mine action.  It is expected to take action on a draft resolution on the topic, as well as a revised draft resolution on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to conclude its general debate on the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects. (Documents before the Committee are summarized in Press Release GA/SPD/437 of 27 October.)


The Committee also began its consideration of assistance in mine action.


On that topic, it had before it the Secretary-General’s report on assistance in mine action (document A/64/287), which outlines the achievements of the United Nations Mine Action Team since the previous report of the Secretary-General (A/62/307 and Corrs.1-3), in the areas of anti-personnel mine clearance, mine-risk education, victim assistance, stockpile destruction and advocacy pursuant to the four strategic objectives set out in the inter-agency mine action policy and Strategy.  The report also includes a proposed forward agenda for mine action.


According to the report, the road to achieving the collective goal of protecting civilians from explosive remnants of war is a long one, and even after removal of all the anti-personnel mines and other explosive remnants of war, including cluster munitions, and improvised explosive devices, a major challenge will remain:  to provide survivors with all the support they need to become and remain active and productive members of their communities.  The Secretary-General reiterates the commitment of the United Nations in supporting Member States in confronting these challenges.


On the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Mine-Ban Convention), civil society, Governments and the United Nations have come a long way to end the suffering caused by landmines, the report says.  More than 41 million landmines have been destroyed. Land has been cleared and returned to communities.  Increased numbers of at-risk populations have the knowledge and skills to reduce risks. Survivors and their families are increasingly recognized as having rights to social and economic reintegration into their communities. A total of 156 countries have acceded to the Convention.


The report also says that, in addition to the Mine-Ban Convention, other instruments and events during the reporting period have had implications for international mine action, including the United Nations response.  In 2006, the United Nations deployed a rapid response capability in Lebanon for the clearance of cluster munitions and worked with civil society and Member States for the development of a binding international instrument prohibiting their use, namely, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which was concluded in Dublin on 30 May 2008 and opened for signature in Oslo on 3 December 2008.  Improvised explosive devices pose an increasing challenge to civilians, as well as to United Nations peace operations, humanitarian and development work.  The consequences of those devices inexorably affect field operations, putting personnel at risk, necessitating greater security measures, inflicting costs and diminishing the overall efficiency of operations.


Statements on Peacekeeping


T.K.S. ELANGOVAN (India), associating his delegation with the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that with more than 100,000 peacekeepers, an $8 billion budget and expanded mandates, peacekeeping remained at the heart of United Nations activities.  India had been involved in peacekeeping since its inception in 1956, and had deployed peacekeepers to 40 United Nations operations.  However, the principle challenges facing peacekeeping was the nature of Security Council mandates, as the manner in which they were generated was of major concern. Those mandates were too broad and ambitious, and had very little correlation with the ability of the Organization to deliver.


It was disturbing, he said, that questions of substantive interpretation of the mandates, which had percussions beyond the immediate, were often left to the judgement of mission personnel.  That could result in untenable situations, particularly for military officers, who operated best when there were unambiguous instructions and objectives.  Unrealistic mandates had led to situations where mission personnel were forced to ask national contingents to undertake tasks and utilize contingent-owned equipment in a manner that was inconsistent with the legal framework under which they were deployed.  The initiative by the Security Council to hold consultations with troop contributing countries prior to the renewal of mandates was a step in the right direction.


The future effectiveness of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations lay in its ability to develop governance capacities in affected countries, he said. Countries must be engaged that had recent experience and knowledge in developing those capacities, and which had undergone successful post-colonial nation-building exercises.


MAMOUDOU MANA ( Cameroon) said his delegation was grateful for all of the information provided on peacekeeping operations by the Under-Secretaries-General and for the efforts they had made in discharging their mission.  Expressing support for the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, his delegation reasserted its commitment to the fundamental principles that should govern any peacekeeping operation, including having the consent of parties, the non-use of force except in self-defence, and adherence to the United Nations Charter.  Peacekeeping operations during the last two decades had evolved substantially, which reflected the world security context.  They had taken into account the main phases of a conflict, which included ceasefires, and also dealt with peacebuilding.  The various aspects of the management of peacekeeping personnel, training and security, among other things, were all key aspects.


He said that peacekeeping operations, because of their specificity and political, human and financial terms, were of considerable importance, however, his delegation drew attention to the existing imbalance.  The disparity between the mandates and inadequate resources resulted in a serious temptation to lose interest or motivation, given the scale of the challenges, and especially in the current global economic and financial situation.  The international community must step up its efforts, especially in regions such as Africa.  The peacekeeping doctrine, therefore, must revert more strongly to the notion of prevention, and prevent conflicts from breaking out in the first place or from getting worse.  In addition, regional agreements under the aegis of the United Nations Charter had an important role in preserving global peace and security, and there was a greater need for regional commitment.  His delegation also encouraged the operationalization of the crisis management unit in Africa, under the aegis of the African Union and other regional organizations.


JOHNNY OSCAR SANTA CRUZ ARANDIA (Bolivia), aligning his delegation with the statements made on behalf of the Rio Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that Bolivia, as a peace-loving, pacifist State, took an active part in peacekeeping operations, complying with fundamentals, such as consent of parties, impartiality, and non-use of force except in legitimate self-defence.  Bolivia was committed to contributing valuable human resources to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and to the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).  As part of those joint international endeavours, Bolivia had more than 50 observers in various operations, thus contributing substantially to peace and stability, which were the prerequisites of development in the affected States.  The current proposed reforms should be carried out in conjunction with troop contributing countries, and should be geared towards improving the organizational structure of peacekeeping, especially in the field.


Highlighting the efforts of the Security Council to improve training, he said that that might improve participation in peacekeeping operations and enhance the steps already being made in the peacekeeping operations doctrine program. Success in discharging missions required clear and appropriate guidelines and training.  With respect to the zero tolerance policy, Bolivia supported the action taken by the United Nations on that issue and commended the achievement in eliminating and preventing that misconduct.  Support must be provided for victims of those offences. Additionally, reimbursements to the troop contributing countries and some missions were still pending.  That could impair the performance of peacekeeping operations.


With that, the Committee concluded its consideration of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects, and turned its attention to the agenda item on assistance in mine action.


Introduction of Secretary-General’s Report on Assistance in Mine Action


DMITRY TITOV, Assistant-Secretary-General for the Rule of Law and Security Institutions of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on assistance in mine action (document A/64/287).  This year, the Secretary-General’s report had been submitted to the General Assembly, where it was also being considered.  There was also a draft resolution, which had been almost finalized.


He said that the years 2008 and 2009 had been remarkable for the mine action sector.  More than 41 million stockpiled anti-personnel mines had been destroyed, and their production, sale and transfer had effectively stopped.  An unprecedented amount of mined and suspect hazardous areas had been cleared or proven to show no evidence of mines or explosive remnants of war, while improved risk-reduction tools and methods had contributed to a global reduction in the number of related casualties.  The Mine-Ban Convention had commemorated the tenth anniversary of its entry into force on 1 March, and the Second Review Conference would take place later this year, in Cartagena, Colombia.  Many States that had not joined the treaty had, nonetheless, respected its basic principles.


Also during the past two years, the United Nations Mine Action Service, which was recognized by the General Assembly as the focal point for mine action within the United Nations system, had been placed within the Office for the Rule of law and Security Institutions of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  The United Nations Mine Action Service was responsible for the coordination of all mine-related activities of the Inter-Agency Coordination Group for Mine Action, which consisted of 14 departments, agencies, funds and programmes.


The United Nations, as well as Governments, civil society and operational implementing partners, had come a long way to end the suffering caused by landmines and explosive remnants of war, he said.  Highlighting recent achievements, he said that casualty levels from mines had declined in a number of affected countries.  For example, in Mozambique, casualty rates had dropped to almost zero in 2009.  Sudan was also reaching the near-zero rate, and in other countries and territories -– such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tajikistan and Uganda -– the number of reported casualties had not increased, while the movement of internally displaced persons had accelerated, owing to mine clearance and emergency education efforts. 


He added that additional land had been cleared and returned to a number of affected communities.  For example, in Lebanon, the Mine Action Coordination Centre in south Lebanon had coordinated the clearance and release of more than 43 square kilometres of land contaminated by cluster munitions.  In addition, the number of populations at risk that had the knowledge and skills to reduce their exposure had increased as a result of effective mine risk education.  Moreover, during the reporting period, survivors and their families were increasingly recognized as having rights to social and economic integration.


Another trend was that national capacity to manage and implement complex mine action programmes had grown and were being integrated into national development plans, including the United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks.  In addition, the importance of advancing gender equality and the rights of persons with disabilities were explicitly included in an increasing number of mine action programmes.  Also, the whole United Nations system was efficiently coordinating mine action-related activities, both on the ground and at Headquarters.


Nevertheless, major challenges in mine action still remained, he continued.  At the ninth meeting of States parties to the Mine-Ban Convention, held last November, 15 requests to extend clearance deadlines had been considered, thus illustrating that the full implementation of the Convention remained a difficult target.  In 2007-2008, mine-related casualties had occurred in several countries where none had ever been recorded.  In 2007, the reputable reference, the Landmine Monitor Report, had identified 5,426 casualties caused by mines, explosive remnants of war, and victim-activated improvised explosive devices.  Of those, 1,401 people had been killed and almost 4,000 injured.  In addition, the goals of clearing land and transport routes to improve the livelihoods of communities were still hampered by the threat of landmines in 78 countries.  Lastly, some 14 million stockpiled anti-personnel mines in the world still remained to be destroyed.


At the same time, the legal framework underpinning mine action had been further strengthened by the adoption, on 3 December 2008, of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, he said.  On that occasion, the Secretary-General had urged all Member States to take steps towards ratification, entry into force and implementation of that Convention.  He had also urged all Member States to take measures towards the full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which had entered into force in 2008, and Protocol V and Amended Protocol II of the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed To Be Excessively Injurious Or To Have Indiscriminate Effects (Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons).


He noted that the Secretary-General’s report before the Committee had been informed by a series of field consultations with UNMAS (United Nations Mine Action Service)–managed programmes and national programmes, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).  It also contains inputs of other members of the Inter-Agency Coordination Group.


The use of cluster munitions had considerable humanitarian, human rights and development consequences for civilians, both during and after armed conflict, he added.  The Secretary-General, therefore, continued to urge Member States to take effective steps pursuant to the Convention to address their impact.  So far, the Convention on Cluster Munitions had been signed by 100 countries, of which 23 had ratified it.  The Secretary-General had also sought General Assembly support for continued development of the United Nations capacity for rapid mine action deployment, most recently used in Gaza, which could contribute considerably to the protection of civilians and the efficient work of humanitarian operations.  He had asked Member States to acknowledge the potential role of the United Nations Mine Action Service in providing advice and assistance to peace operations in regard to improvised explosive devices and other explosive remnants of war.  In light of recent events in Mogadishu, Afghanistan, Iraq and other areas where United Nations personnel had been gravely affected, that task was particularly urgent.


The report also called on affected States, donors and mine action practitioners to take steps to ensure that women, girls, boys and men were equally benefiting from mine action programmes, and that they had an equal role in decision-making within their communities, he said.  The mine action providers were also urged to exploit the advantages of the variety of equipment designed for detection and destruction purposes.


The draft resolution on assistance in mine action (document A/C.4/64/L.9) -– on which the Committee was expected to take action during tomorrow’s meeting -– demonstrated the commitment and support of the international community for United Nations assistance in the area of mine action, he said.  It also acknowledged the primary responsibility of States to address the problem of landmines and explosive remnants of war to ensure respect for the rights of the affected individuals and communities.  The United Nations Mine Action Team appreciated the support provided in the resolution for the team’s efforts to advance gender equality in mine action programmes.  It also welcomed the recognition of the role of a wide group of multilateral, regional and national programmes and entities related to mine action, as part of the humanitarian, rehabilitation, reconstruction and development efforts, he said.


PER ÖRNÉUS ( Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the Second Review Conference of the Mine-Ban Convention was an important event, which would give the international community an opportunity to renew the strong and continuous commitments towards a world free of anti-personnel mines.  Since the last conference in Nairobi in 2004, there had been marked progress in universalizing and implementing the convention.  Today, 156 States were party to the treaty, and there was a general adherence to its norms by non-State parties. New use of anti-personnel mines was rare and international stigmatized.  Most States had successfully destroyed their stockpiles, and more had completed mine clearance.  Techniques for mine clearance had also been improved.  There was increased emphasis on victim assistance and mine risk education, which should receive prominent national and be integrated into international development plans.


However, he said, challenges remained; since 39 States were still not party to the Mine-Ban Convention, with many facing an unstable regional situation. Mines were still stockpiled and armed non-State actors used them.  Thousands of victims, most of them civilians and children, were claimed by mines and other explosive remnants of war each year.  The most daunting challenges were for States to live up to their responsibilities to the victims, in the context of broader problems of disability and human rights.  Assistance to mine victims should be integrated into State policy frameworks, given the significant numbers of those victims.


For the European Union, mine action remained a priority, he said.  The provision of financial support to its member States for mine action over many years clearly illustrated the Union’s strong and continuous commitment.  It was necessary to strengthen cooperation between the humanitarian and development sectors with regard to mine action, as it was not only a humanitarian issue, but also part of the development agenda, and mine action should be treated in that context. Stronger partnerships should be established between actors involved in mine action, such as mine-affected countries, those providing assistance, and international organizations.  All must work together to ensure more effective approaches, and maintain commitments and focus on results.  Improved global coordination was needed among countries providing assistance in mine action.  It was also crucial to enhance predictability and accountability of results.


Mindful of the harmful and destabilizing effects of unregulated transfer of conventional weapons and their diversion to the illicit market, and of the humanitarian consequences of mines and cluster munitions, the European Union was committed to improving the international and regional responses to those threats, he said.


SORAWUT NORAPOOMPIPAT ( Thailand) said that the legacy of anti-personnel mines endured long after conflicts ended.  They impeded social development and affected the livelihood of millions of people today.  Statistics showed that there were thousands of new victims of landmines every year, many of whom were women, children and innocent civilians.  The Mine-Ban Convention and the Nairobi Action Plan, along with other initiatives, were integral to the common agenda to secure a world free of those weapons and to provide assistance to the victims.  Much work remained to be done in order to translate those frameworks into reality.  Nevertheless, there was steady movement towards the shared goal.  His delegation encouraged the United Nations specialized agencies, funds and programmes to continue working closely with concerned Member States in promoting mine action, with an emphasis on capacity-building and national ownership.


He said that global awareness in mine action had extended beyond mine clearance.  Mine risk education and victim assistance, including medical and rehabilitation services, were of equal importance.  Thailand commended the United Nations in aiding its members to develop strategies for mine action and victim assistance, including plans and legal frameworks related to disability, health and development.  It also encouraged the United Nations, in close coordination with national authorities, to continue supporting victim assistance programmes in the relevant countries.  Although Thailand had yet to reach the target of zero new victims of landmines, it was close to that goal.


GONZALO GUTIERREZ ( Peru) said that his country was making efforts towards the international agenda of freeing the world of mines, and was firmly committed to the principles of the Mine-Ban Convention.  Providing assistance to victims of anti-personnel mines warranted the recognition by the international community, and a work programme should be developed, geared towards greater assistance in the care and rehabilitation of victims.  Also essential was to tackle the grave humanitarian problems caused by those weapons, to minimize their risks, curb the arms race, and preserve international peace.


He said that Peru, at the regional level, had been working actively with Ecuador on mine clearance along their common border.  The initiative had been shouldered at the highest political level, and the two countries’ leaders had been holding periodical meetings.  In October, a seed money fund had been set up for humanitarian mine clearance, so that the border could be declared a mine-free zone. Peru had also adopted a national action plan against anti-personnel mines, which include activities key in areas, such as the identification of mine fields and a plan to assure assistance to victims.  From November 2004 to December 2008, Peru had destroyed nearly 51,000 mines in the first stage of that endeavour.  The armed forces in Peru had also “taken the fight” to the Shining Path Movement, which had found a very damaging ally in drug traffickers.  That struggle was being waged in rural areas.  The armed forces and police had come into contact with those terrorists, who were using explosive devices or “booby traps” to protect drug stashes.  Those weapons had claimed 40 victims.  Those victim-activated devices were also prohibited by the Mine-Ban Convention.  He appealed for public condemnation of the use of mines by those “drug terrorists”.


REBECA HERNÁNDEZ TOLEDANO ( Cuba) said that her delegation shared the concerns regarding the legitimate humanitarian concerns associated with the indiscriminate and irresponsible use of mines.  It fully supported international efforts to assist civilian victims in the many parts of the world affected by conflict.  It was also concerned by the lack of efficiency in mine clearance efforts, following conflict.


She said that Cuba had always had a very strict policy with regard to the responsible use of anti-personnel mines exclusively for defence purposes and for its national security.  Cuba had not -– nor did it currently -- export mines.  It was also a State party to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, including to its second additional protocol, and strictly complied with the bans and restrictions established in the latter.  Cuba had also signed the amendment to article 1 of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, and was currently bound by it and committed to it.


As was well known, Cuba had been subjected to a policy of continuous hostility and aggression by a military super-Power for the last 50 years, she said.  The use of mines formed part of its concept of defence, because it even faced the possibility of armed aggression.  Her country, therefore, could not renounce the use of those weapons, owing to the need to preserve is sovereign and national integrity. 


At the same time, Cuba had not only expressed its full backing for humanitarian efforts undertaken by the international community to prevent or alleviate the effects of the indiscriminate use of mines, but it had also made practical and effective contributions to those efforts, she said.  Hundreds of Cuban doctors continued to provide assistance to affected persons all over the planet.  Cuba believed that more attention should be paid to international cooperation, not only for mine clearance, but also for victim assistance.  The United Nations had an important role to play in providing assistance to States, and should continue to contribute to national capacity building in that regard.


MAHMOD MAALOUL ( Libya) said that the remnants of war and mines in Libya had led to great losses in property and lives.  In addition to those killed or maimed, the families and children of victims were also affected.  Libya had suffered a lot, included hindered development and growth, as a result of those tragedies.  It had established a national programme for mine clearance.  Much money was spent on clearing the mines, but in the absence of knowledge about their position, it was difficult to determine the location of the remnants.  That made clearing very difficult.  However, as a result of Libya’s efforts in that respect, the numbers of those maimed and killed by mines had declined.


He urged countries to provide all relevant technical information and assistance to help with the mine clearance.  As for those countries that had planted mines, they should be held responsible for their clearance and should cooperate with the affected countries, in order to eliminate that “lethal heritage”.  Also, compensation should be paid to the affected families, and victims must be enabled to get the care they needed, and artificial limbs, when necessary.  Libya was grateful for the courageous step of the Italian Government when it apologized to the Libyan people for the colonial period, and gave compensation, including artificial limbs, to those injured as result of mines.  He called on other countries to follow suit and responsibly “end the chapter of colonialism”.


LE MINH THOA ( Viet Nam) said that the tremendous humanitarian and development problems caused by mines were well known, and that the explosive remnants of war had serious and lasting social and economic consequences for affected populations.  They were the concerns of nations with mine victims and the international community.  It was also evident that the United Nations had played an important role in conducting activities relating to mine clearance efforts and mine victim assistance.  As the United Nations Mine Action Team had come close to the completion of its current five-year strategy, her delegation encouraged the agency to consider new priorities and benchmarks for the United Nations Mine Action Strategy 2011-2015, as described in the Secretary-General’s report on assistance in mine action.


She said that Viet Nam, as a country that suffered from decades of war with vast damages caused by explosive remnants and improved explosive devices, shared the humanitarian concerns of the devastating effects of those weapons on innocent civilians.  In Viet Nam, it was estimated that the process of identification of contaminated areas, evaluation of the effects and conduct of clearance and destruction might take a very long time, owing to budgetary and human resource constraints.  With a view to eliminating the harmful effects of those weapons on social life and economic development, the Government had adopted a series of policies, guidelines and mechanisms on mine clearance and victim assistance.  Commendable efforts had been made by both Government agencies and communities in directing and conducting large-scale collection and clearance operations to free up land and facilitate safe returns.  From its experiences during the past 34 years, Viet Nam wished to underline the importance of international cooperation and assistance, not only to the victims, but also to affected countries, to recover from the damages and promote social and economic development.


TAKASHI ASHIKI ( Japan) said that the upcoming Second Review Conference in Cartagena was a good opportunity for Japan and other countries to renew their individual and collective commitment to mine action.  Japan had actively provided assistance to affected countries to meet the provisions of the Mine-Ban Convention on international cooperation and assistance, and since 1998, total assistance in that regard from Japan had reached $380 million.  Japan had also contributed to research and development activities with respect to de-mining machines.  Today, thanks to the progress made, Japanese technology was employed all over the world.


He said that accelerating de-mining remained one of the biggest challenges since the Mine-Ban Convention’s entry into force.  Indeed, 18 of 25 countries with destruction deadlines of 2009 and 2010 had requested extensions, driving home the scope of the problem.  Japan, therefore, would continue to give positive consideration to requests for assistance in the form of Japanese de-mining machines.


The issue of victim assistance also demanded attention, he said.  With a view to enhancing human security, Japan had increased assistance to the victims.  In Colombia, the country with the largest number of victims, Japan had supported a strengthened capacity of the medical rehabilitation system for persons with disabilities.  For that project, which was a five-year plan begun in 2008, Japan had provided comprehensive technical assistance, including through dispatching experts to improve the rehabilitation system and increase access to victims in need of services.  In Lebanon, Japan had provided approximately $3 million in assistance for economic recovery activities in areas affected by cluster munitions.


ARAYA DESTA (Eritrea), highlighting progress made in the 10 years since the entry into force of the Mine-Ban Convention, he welcomed the progress, as his own country was among the hardest-hit by landmines and unexploded ordnance.  Landmines remained hidden in the soil for generations, long after armed conflicts were over, causing deaths and injury to unsuspecting victims, particularly children.  Landmines were not only a security problem, but a humanitarian one.  Those “silent killers” had destroyed the lives of many innocent people.  It was sad to note that landmines and unexploded ordnance remained a major threat to millions in many conflict zones.  His delegation believed that action must be taken to ensure the return to normalcy for the people of Eritrea and the region. 


He said that mine clearance was not only a confidence-building measure, but also an essential element for long-term recovery and development.  On that basis, he believed that mine-clearance was one of the highest priorities among activities for the rehabilitation and development of Eritrea.  Much work remained to be done to clear contaminated land and in the provision of adequate assistance to survivors and communities.  In addition, much attention also should be given to the education and training of all actors involved, from mine experts themselves to ordinary people who lived in the infested areas.  Eritrea was also fully aware of the need for mine victims to be part of the decision-making process, including having access to opportunities for development.


JIANG YINGFENG ( China) said he appreciated the humanitarian spirit enshrined in the Mine-Ban Convention.  China maintained communication with State parties and had established “contexts and exchanges” with many non-governmental organizations in the field of mine action.  In many affected countries and regions, mines posed a serious treat to the lives of civilians, and hindered the economic environment and social rehabilitation.  It was necessary to advance international mine action.  Cooperation in that regard should take into full consideration the national conditions and the real needs of recipients. Capacity building must also be enhanced, so that mine actions plans could be supported locally, leading to achieve sustainable development.  International approaches should be explored to guarantee effectiveness.


He said that China fully understood the feelings of other mine-affected countries, and actively participated in international mine clearance assistance.  Since 1998, China had established long-term and systematic programmes for mine clearance, and had provided assistance to more than 20 countries through training and equipment, among other things.  Mines were also bringing major difficulty to the resettlement of Sri Lanka, and China would provide mine clearance assistance to that country at the earliest possible date.


CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said that her country had signed the Mine-Ban Convention in 2001 and, since then, tangible efforts had been made in the country towards its application.  That had included the permanent suspension of the use of anti-personnel mines; the complete destruction, in October 2004, of all stockpiled mines, and the cleaning of 12 of the 34 mined camps under the control of the armed forces.  The advances made at the national level constituted support of the Second Review Conference, which was scheduled to take place, in Cartagena, Colombia, from 29 November to 4 December.  In that event, the international community would be able to respond to the appeal of victims from different regions of the world, whose fundamental rights were being undermined and whose basic living conditions were jeopardized because of the use of mines. 


She said that the goals achieved and the challenges that still remained in the implementation of the Mine-Ban Convention prompted States to reach the lofty goal of a world free from anti-personnel mines.  The conference in Cartagena was an opportunity to strengthen it.  The action plan to be adopted there should be built on the results achieved by the implementation of the Nairobi Plan, adopted five years ago.  However, it should reflect the new realities and needs.  Several challenges still faced that legal instrument.  The efforts of the international community were a crucial juncture.


PAUL BADJI ( Senegal) said that tangible progress had been made in the strategic objectives of the United Nations mine action strategy.  Mine action was one of largest concerns of even the strongest nations, as it was one of the most widely shared and most persistent problems in the world.  The severe human and economic toll resulting from the scourge of those weapons awakened the international community’s conscience and was a constant challenge.  Apart from the physical and psychological damage, mines also killed innocent civilians, undermined security, and compromised achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.


That was a very bleak picture, he said, and unfortunately Africa once again had the largest number of affected States.  Senegal agreed that any mine action strategy should be part of the framework of the four-year Nairobi action plan and its four strategic objectives: the reduction of death and injury by at least 50 per cent; minimizing the risks to community livelihoods; expanding freedom of movement; and assisting in the development of national institutions to manage landmines and other explosive remnants of war.  That should be part of a wider perspective for peacebuilding, and the reconstruction of social and economic frameworks of the affected countries.  He recalled the aim of he Mine-Ban Convention –- to eliminate the scourge of anti-personnel landmines.


Echoing the words of the Secretary-General, he said that the road to achieving the collective goal of protecting civilians from landmines was long, and even after all explosives were removed, a major challenge would remain to provide survivors with all the support they needed to become and remain active and productive members of their communities.


MICHAEL SCHULZ, Deputy Head of Delegation, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that the Federation had remained focused on its humanitarian services for the victims of anti-personnel mines prior to, and still after, the signing of the Mine-Ban Convention in 1997.  It felt not only called upon, but mandated, to provide humanitarian services, under the Convention itself. 


He said that the Federation’s global network of national societies, professional staff and trained volunteers reached all countries and communities under the threat and scourge of anti-personnel mines.  It engaged in mine awareness, mine risk education and risk reduction, as well as first aid.  It also facilitated medical treatment and psychological support, extended socio-economic help to the families of victims, and often provided prosthetic limbs.  Additionally, it promoted the formation of self-help groups.


Next month in Nairobi, Kenya, the International Federation’s general assembly would adopt a new strategy for the decade 2010-2020, which would be the basis for its ongoing commitment –- among others -– towards mine victims.  Assisting the victims would remain a long-term process that required long-term funding, and the Federation hoped that donors who had given generously in the past would continue to live up to the expectations of mine victims and continue to fund their needs in the future.


Following that statement, Mr. TITOV remarked that the tasks associated with mine clearance were serious, urgent, and would continue to be dealt with.  Adding to the statement he had made at the start if the meeting, he acknowledged the contribution of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  That body was an important partner for the whole mine action team and worked very closely with the team through the platform of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  He warmly welcomed any other contributions in the form of personnel, uniformed or not, technology, research, training, and humanitarian support, all of which was pivotal to the success of mine clearance activities.  From that perspective, mine action required the collaboration of all Governments, the mine action team, the United Nations, non-United Nations developmental partners, non-governmental organizations, local communities, donors, and the many individuals concerned.


In closing remarks, Committee Chairman NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER ( Qatar) drew the Committee’s attention to the draft resolution submitted on assistance in mine action (document A/C.4/64/L.9).  In that connection, he said that the Committee would take action on the text during its meeting tomorrow afternoon, following the conclusion of the general debate.


He also said that the Working Group of the Whole on the International Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space had completed its work, and had submitted a revised draft resolution (document A/C.4/64/L.2/Rev.1), which had been issued and circulated to Committee members.  The Committee would also take action on that draft resolution at the end of its meeting tomorrow.


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For information media • not an official record