9 November 2010
Deputy Secretary-General

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

Deputy Secretary-General, at Ceremony for States Parties to Cluster Munitions


Treaty, Praises Lao People’s Democratic Republic for Key Role on Issue


This is the text of remarks by UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro today at the opening ceremony of the First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, in Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic:

I am honoured to be here for the First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

I thank the Government and people of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic for their impressive leadership on this important issue.

Partnership has been a hallmark of this Convention.  I therefore thank all the delegates, Government representatives, United Nations agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and civil society organizations for the work you have done throughout the process — and for your support to the Lao Government in preparing for this meeting.

The people of this country know only too well the destructive impact of cluster munitions.  There is a clear correlation between the widespread presence of unexploded ordnance and the prevalence of poverty here.

Laos showed bold leadership by being one of the first countries to ratify the Convention.  Its leaders and citizens alike saw the implications of trying to solve the vast challenges posed by these weapons and meeting the needs of victims.

You saw something else as well: the opportunity afforded by the Convention to advance the disarmament agenda, strike a blow against a terrible weapon and work with other countries in building a safer, more prosperous nation.  And you have followed through — by hosting this meeting, by presiding over the Convention and now, calling for a ninth Millennium Development Goal for Laos: the elimination of all unexploded ordnance from priority agricultural land over the next 10 years.  This is what this treaty is about: safeguarding lives and generating opportunities for children, families and communities here in Laos and across the world.

We have learned this the hard way, through the stories of people like Thoummy and other survivors who are with us this week.  Thank you for making us wiser and helping us to realize that our discussions are not only about weapons, national security, military doctrines and disarmament talks — they are about peoples lives; about how we protect young people tending cattle, working in rice paddies or otherwise going about their daily business.

It is about parents’ right to safely earn an income for their family, send their children to school and walk without fear to the market or their place of worship.  We should not impose on them a responsibility to be more careful; rather, it is our collective responsibility to clear their environment of unexploded ordnance.  That is what this Convention will help make possible — thanks in large part to this country’s own pioneering efforts.

Yet much work remains.  A quarter of Laos’ villages are still contaminated.  The number of victims has averaged 300 people a year over the past decade.  The Convention calls on States to support victim assistance, mine clearance and risk education.  Let us ensure that affected countries such as Laos get the assistance they need and deserve.

This Convention has great potential, not just in removing the physical threats posed by these weapons, but in supporting economic and social development.  The United Nations is a proud partner in this noble cause, and stands with the people of Laos, and others whose lives and well-being are threatened by unexploded remnants of war.

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For information media • not an official record