28 October 2011
General Assembly
GA/SPD/494

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

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

18th Meeting (AM)


Anti-Personnel Mines ‘Perverse’— Triggered by Victims, Not Combatants, Fourth


Committee Delegate Declares, as Draft Approved to Assist Location, Removal

 


Heavily Mined War-Affected Nations Discuss Challenges, Donors Outline Solutions


Anti-personnel mines were “perverse”, as they were triggered by victims with the aim of killing or severing the victims for life, and did not distinguish between combatants and civilians, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) heard today during its consideration of mine action assistance.


On behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), Uruguay’s delegate said those weapons could remain active for a very long time and, besides their human toll, limited the ability to reconstruct conflict zones.  Action against them was “not only a legal obligation, but an ethical and moral imperative” for the entire international community, including affected countries, donor countries, and the States responsible for planting weapons.


The Fourth Committee took action today, approving a draft resolution without a vote, recommending that the General Assembly urge mine-affected States to identify all areas under their jurisdiction containing mines and other explosive remnants of war.  It further asked the Assembly to urge States to provide reliable, predictable and timely contributions for mine-action activities, as well as necessary information and technical, financial and material assistance to locate, remove, destroy and otherwise render ineffective minefields, mines, booby traps, other devices and explosive remnants of war.


Having recently emerged from the armed conflict imposed by its former dictator Muammar al-Qadhafi, the representative of that country stated that mine clearance was a top priority for the new Libyan Government.  In utter disregard of international humanitarian law, the contingents of Qadhafi had deployed hundreds of thousands of anti-personnel mines, in large areas including inside Libya, within agricultural territories and even inside the cities and areas full of houses.  Those new mines and explosive remnants were considered the most developed and most harmful, even more serious than the mines left during the Second World War, both in terms of explosive power, and in the magnitude of their harm.


Mine clearance, and assistance to its victims, was high on the agenda of the Iraqi Government as well, reported its representative.  Due to the many negative results of its former regime and the wars, there were more than 4,000 locations contaminated by mines and unexploded ordnance throughout Iraq, in an estimated area of up to 1.73 million square metres.  Not only did that threaten the lives of inhabitants and their farmland and domesticated animals, but there was also no development of the oil fields or the agricultural components in those areas, which seriously affected livelihoods.


The representative of the United Arab Emirates emphasized that the resolution of the problem of mines required that States responsible for the proliferation of those weapons must display political will and identify contaminated zones, pinpointing mines, and thereby reduce the risks stemming from those devises.  The international community must exert pressure on Israel to encourage it to provide landmine maps that detailed the location of mines and unexploded ordnance in South Lebanon so that the Lebanese Government could decontaminate and develop those zones.


Expressing similar sentiments, the representative of Sudan expressed hope that the Government of South Sudan would provide maps showing the distribution of any mines about which it was aware.  More than 8,000 anti-personnel mines and nearly 3,000 anti-tank mines had been destroyed in Sudan this year alone, but much more needed to be done.


The African continent had the greatest number of affected States, said Senegal’s delegate, calling for “collateral and multilateral” cooperation to assist victims’ reintegration into the communities.  Lao People’s Democratic Republic, said its speaker, was “the most bombed nation per capita in the world”.  Her county knew too well the pain and suffering caused by unexploded ordnance.  The impact was sobering.  Its people accounted for almost half of all confirmed cluster munition casualties globally, over one-half the country was contaminated by unexploded ordnance, which not only threatened livelihoods of rural families, but had also drastically impeded the nation’s socio-economic development.


Speaking from the donor perspective, Australia’s representative said that her country required mine-affected countries to identify and prioritize mine action.  Also, states should employ practical methods to release mine-affected areas rapidly and develop partnership with non-traditional sources such as the private sector.  She urged all donors to consider providing multi-year funding to partners to enhance the predictability and flexibility of support.


The representative of Japan noted that promoting universal adherence to the Conventions banning mines and cluster munitions had “real effects in the world”.  Japan was committed to ensuring that the Asia-Pacific did not remain the region with the lowest level of membership in such agreements.  Japan had extended assistance in mine action under its “Zero New Victims” programme, having provided about $436 million in 42 countries and regions since 1998.  It stressed a comprehensive approach, ranging from mine clearance to mine-risk education and victim assistance, including socio-economic reintegration programmes.


Also speaking were the representatives of the European Union, Mexico, Ukraine, Honduras, Colombia, Peru, Mozambique, China, Tajikistan, Thailand, Croatia, and Lithuania.


The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m., on Monday, 31 October to begin its consideration of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.


Background


The Committee had before it a report of the Secretary-General on Assistance in mine action (document A/66/292), which stresses the impact of mine action in the five major areas of United Nations work, namely peace and security; humanitarian affairs; economic development; human rights and international law, and describes the efforts of the United Nations Mine Action Team to integrate that process into all five areas.


The report begins with an update on efforts to promote the universalization and implementation of international legal instruments related to mine action, and highlights efforts to integrate mine action into United Nations peacekeeping operations and humanitarian and development programming.  It also provides an overview of the coordination and rapid response mechanisms developed to address the threats of landmines and explosive remnants of war, including obsolete and degraded ammunition stockpiles and improvised explosive devices.  In addition, the report notes that mine action is based on effective partnerships within the United Nations as well as between the Organization, its Member States and civil society, including non-governmental organizations and individuals.


The Committee also had before it a draft text on Assistance in mine action  (document A/C.4/66/L.6), by which the General Assembly would urge all States to provide assistance to countries affected by mines and explosive remnants of war and to support national programmes in that regard.  It would also urge States to provide reliable, predictable and timely contributions for mine-action activities, as well as necessary information and technical, financial and material assistance to locate, remove, destroy and otherwise render ineffective minefields, mines, booby traps, other devices and explosive remnants of war.


That text would also have the Assembly urge all mine-affected States to identify all areas under their jurisdiction or control containing mines and other explosive remnants of war.  The Assembly would stress the importance of cooperation and coordination in mine action, and emphasizes the primary responsibility of national authorities in that regard.


Statements


DMITRY TITOV, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions, Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), speaking on behalf of the United Nations Mine Action Team, noted the highlights of the progress made in the past two years as well as the remaining challenges.  There had been a noticeable reduction of death and injury due to mines; cluster munitions remnants and other explosive remnants of war in mine-affected countries.  However, casualties were on the rise in Sudan, for example, where the number of victims of landmines and unexploded remnants of war had increased by 35 per cent in 2010.


At the same time, he said, significant strides had been made towards improving the livelihoods of those who faced socio-economic impact and restriction of movement due to mines, cluster munitions and remnants of war.  In Cambodia, United Nations support to the Cambodian Mine Action Centre had enabled the release of 14 million square meters of contaminated land, benefitting an estimated 80,000 people through new access to agricultural land, sources of irrigation, roads, health centres and other infrastructure.  In Afghanistan, in order to address security concerns, there was a shift to community-based demining where Afghan mine clearance experts had trained and mentored local community members to conduct a majority of the clearance process.


The United Nations had also worked with national counterparts, he stated, to promote the integration of mine action into national development and construction plans and budgets.  The Organization also had worked with authorities in various countries to build local capacity and ensure national ownership.  In Sri Lanka, the United Nations had supported the National Mine Action Centre and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations had supported the drafting and adoption of a national mine action law.


The entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibited all use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of cluster munitions, had raised international awareness on the casualties and the humanitarian and socio-economic impact they caused.  The United Nations had also focused on further integrating mine action within peacekeeping, humanitarian, and development efforts.  Elements on mine action were increasingly included in a number of thematic reports, including on women, peace and security; children and armed conflict; and peacebuilding in the immediate aftermath of conflict.


In the previous resolution, the General Assembly had identified the need for a comprehensive and independent evaluation of the scope, organization, effectiveness and approach of the work of the United Nations in mine action, he noted.  In response, the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) began engaging stakeholders in January.  Its work had covered mine action at headquarters, in several countries, and involved representatives from all sectors.  As the evaluation was nearing completion, the United Nations Mine Action Team looked forward to the report and recommendations from the JIU on how the United Nations could better serve the needs of affected States.


ANDRAS KOS, representative of the European Union delegation, welcomed the significant progress made in the fight against the suffering and casualties caused by explosive remnants of war, in particular, by anti-personnel mines, in the last two years.  The Union was strongly aware of the humanitarian and developmental challenges that remained.  The Union was fully committed to implementing the Cartagena Action Plan 2010-2014, as an agreed basis to guide the fight against anti-personnel landmines and their effects for the next years.  The Union was resolved to cooperate with and extend assistance to those States that needed support in meeting the commitments of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Mine-Ban Convention) and would continue to actively pursue its objective of “zero victims”.


He further said that new mine victims should be prevented and that a high level sustainable assistance to victims should be provided worldwide, with fully-integrated mine action.  The Union supported the integration and streamlining of mine action into broader cooperation and development policies.  To ensure integration of mine action through bilateral cooperation, it was also necessary that countries prioritized mine action in their requests for general assistance.


The financial support provided by the European Union and its Member states for mine action had surpassed €2 billion over the past 10 years, he said.  Through inclusive partnerships between donors and affected countries, constructive ideas could be developed and concrete action carried out in support of girls, boys, women and men affected by explosive remnants of war.  As for the resolution on mine action, which was traditionally presented by the European Union, he welcomed this year’s inclusion of the Convention on Cluster Munitions as an important legal framework in responding to the humanitarian problems caused by those weapons.


MARTIN VIDAL (Uruguay), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and associated States, said that since the adoption of the Mine-Ban Convention, 45 million mines had been destroyed, which was clear proof of what the international community could do when it decided to face a major humanitarian task.  The perverse nature of anti-personnel mines was illustrated by the fact that, unlike most weapons, anti-personnel mines were triggered by victims and did not distinguish between combatants and civilians.  They could remain active for a very long time and the injuries they caused were especially serious.  Their purpose was to kill or sever the victims for life and they limited the ability to reconstruct conflict zones.


Commending the work conducted by the United Nations for mine reduction activities in 2006-2010, he stated that the focus of that work had gone beyond mine clearance and towards promoting development.  However, despite many positive indications, there was lots of work to be done.  Limitations existed often because of climatic or geographic factors, as well as lack of human or financial resources.


Highlighting the role played by technical and financial assistance when it came to increasing the capacities of States to take de-mining actions, he urged States not to tire of the efforts.  It was especially necessary to ensure that social services, health and rehabilitation programmes were undertaken.  MERCOSUR believed that action against mines was not only a legal obligation, but an ethical and moral imperative for the entire international community.


ABUZIED SHAMSELDIN AHMED MOHAMED ( Sudan) said mines still were causing destruction, death and maiming of civilians, notably women and children, in many areas of the world.  Sudan was one of the countries affected by mines, and was deeply committed to destroying them and increasing awareness of the need to assist victims.


He said that some progress had been made in Sudan, as 8,107 anti-personnel mines and 2,677 anti-tank mines had been destroyed this year.  Progress was continuing, and he underlined the cooperation of Sudan with the United Nations in that regard.  The results of that operation and its achievements had played a leading role in the projects to clear affected areas in eastern Sudan, along with the contribution of national non-governmental organizations like the Sudanese Red Crescent, which was active in assistance victims.  However, non-State actors were still planting mines in some countries.  Sudan hoped that the Government of South Sudan would provide maps showing the distribution of any mines about which it was aware.


Regarding an increase of awareness about the danger of mines, which was no less important than the process of mine clearance itself, Sudan had had success with an awareness-raising programme through organizations and schools, and through the training of teachers in the affected states.  Sudan was also tracking the implementation of voluntary return of people to areas that had been cleared.  Those areas were starting to regain their normalcy, as the processes of development and agriculture were resumed.  He said that well over 1 million individuals had been trained in the threats of mines, including nearly 400,000 women.


In April 2008, Sudan had been among six countries that had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Ministry of Social Services assisted victims of mines.


ABDOU SALAM DIALLO ( Senegal) stated that the ongoing scourge of landmines was a constant challenge to the international community.  They caused instant death of civilians and undermined security.  Africa was the continent that had the greatest number of states affected.  Citing provisions from the Mine-Ban Convention, he said that it was necessary to provide greater political and financial resources for mine clearance.  Also, collateral and multilateral cooperation were essential to address the needs of the victims, in order to enable their reintegration into communities.


Senegal was pleased to note that, with the Mine-Ban Convention, the international community had set itself the goal of eliminating all mines.  Some 106 States had signed the treaty and 45 million anti-personnel mines had been destroyed.  The viability of that instrument was tied to the political will of the States.  The Cartagena Action Plan called upon States parties to take specific actions over the next five years to strengthen implementation of and promote universal ratification of the Mine-Ban Convention.


Mine clearance had not been completed in Senegal by the 1 March 2009 deadline, he said, and therefore, a seven-year extension had been requested to postpone the deadline to March 2016.  Senegal was strongly committed to mine clearance and had validated a national anti-mine strategy for 2010-2016.  “Man was the only being who could resolve man’s problems”, and therefore, the international community must continue to provide political and financial support for de-mining.


NOORA DHAFIR JAAFAR AL-SARIAA ( Iraq) said that the irresponsible police of the former Iraqi regime and the wars experienced by Iraq had produced many negative results to both humans and the environment.  There were more than 4,000 locations contaminated by mines and unexploded ordnance throughout Iraq, in an estimated area of up to 1.73 million square metres.  That posed a serious threat to the life of the nearly 1.6 million inhabitants living in and around those areas, as well as their living resources, such as farmland and domesticated animals.  In addition to a lack of investment in those parts of the country, there was also no development of the oil fields or the agricultural components in those areas, which affected livelihoods.


She said that the Iraqi Government had set the issue of mine removal, coupled with assistance to victims, as one of its top priorities.  Among the efforts made by non-governmental organizations, including in cooperation with Iraqi institutions involved in mine removal, scanning operations had been conducted from 2004 to 2006, which covered the majority of the country’s provinces.  The remaining provinces were currently being scanned, which would lead to an integrated and comprehensive understanding of the country’s mine problem.  The Government was working hard to rid Iraq of mines, and had plans and programmes in place to help rehabilitate victims and reintegrate them into society by providing educational, heath and economic programmes.


RODRIGO PINTADO ( Mexico) stated that although the government of Mexico did not use or hoard landmines, it was well aware of the humanitarian consequences they caused.  Mexico recognized that States had the first responsibility of responding to anti-personnel mines and unexploded remnants of war, and believed that the efforts of the international community were being exerted in the right direction.  Some notable signs of progress had included the entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which had 66 States parties, with the recent ratification of Tuvalu bringing to 157 the total number of States parties to the Mine-Ban Convention.


Also noteworthy, he said, had been the adoption of the Cartagena action plan and the integration of mine activities into United Nations peacekeeping operations and humanitarian actions.  Despite that progress, there were a series of urgent challenges.  It was essential that landmines were not used again in the future.  Mexico was aware that any efforts to make progress in mine action called for universal participation.  Likewise, the international community had not set aside the challenges posed by cluster munitions, and Mexico was concerned by the reports of the presumed use of those weapons in 2011.  The international community could not ignore the intentions of countries who continued to produce and hoard them.


Further, he stated that Mexico had broad experience in the comprehensive rehabilitation of persons with disabilities and the Mexican government intended to explore the possibility of sharing its experience in order to boost efforts in mine action.  He encouraged greater activity between receiver and donor countries.


HAMAD ALAWADI ( United Arab Emirates) expressed concern over the scourge of landmines affecting the security of peoples, the lives of civilians, and which also threatened peacekeepers and humanitarian workers.  The devastation also affected the environment and was hampering economic and social development worldwide.  Resolving the challenges required the international community to stand shoulder-to-shoulder.  There needed to be genuine support for mine-action activities:  The resolution of the problem of mines required that States responsible for the proliferation of those weapons must display political will and identify contaminated zones, pinpointing mines, and thereby reducing the risks stemming from those devises.


Bearing in mind the need to address that challenge, the United Arab Emirates called for a coordinated multilateral effort, he said.  His country was contributing to mine-clearance programmes and had instituted one aimed at removing cluster munitions from the south of Libya.  It was also contributing to the building of schools and hospitals.  Further, his country had made one of the largest-ever financial contributions to the United Nations body responsible for mine action.  That humanitarian effort had helped to address the disastrous consequences of the proliferation of mines.


He regretted that there was such a great proliferation of landmine fields in the south of Lebanon, and he called on the international community to exert pressure on Israel to encourage it to provide landmine maps that detailed the location of mines and unexploded ordnance in the South Lebanon so that the Lebanese Government could decontaminate and develop those zones.


PHILIPPA KING ( Australia) said that her country was an active contributor to mine action internationally, which continued today through Australia’s $100 million Mine Action Strategy for the Australian Aid Program over the period 2010-2014.  It was necessary to take a long-term integrated and comprehensive approach to mine action, risk education and victim assistance.  There was a strong link between mine action and progress on the Millennium Development Goals.  From a donor’s perspective, Australia encouraged affected States to utilize the most appropriate method available for clearance of mines and other unexploded remnants of war, in order to improve efficiency.


Further, she said, there was a range of practical methods that could be employed to release areas suspected of containing anti-personnel mines, rapidly and with a high-level confidence.  Those included using all sources of evidence regarding contamination, undertaking evidence-based clearance, using appropriate clearance technology, and involving the local community in decisions on land release.  By providing multi-year funding to partners, Australia had been able to enhance the predictability and flexibility of support and reduce administrative burdens.  She urged all donors to consider providing that sort of flexible financing for mine action.


To ensure that Australia’s assistance was as effective as possible, Australia required mine-affected countries to identify and prioritize mine action within their national development plans, she said.  Affected countries needed to demonstrate results that extended to broader development benefits of mine action.  It was also necessary that they continued to develop new partnerships and sought support from non-traditional sources, including from new and emerging donors, the private sector, and international development banks.


TETSUYA KIMURA ( Japan) said that the role of the United Nations had become increasingly important in the concerted efforts of the international community to realize a mine-free world and zero victims of landmines.  In that respect, the delegation expected that the ongoing evaluation on the Organization’s efforts in that area would soon be concluded, and that a new United Nations Inter-Agency Mine Action Strategy for 2011-2015 would be finalized accordingly.  As a co-sponsor, Japan also supported the draft currently before the Committee.


He said that promoting universal adherence to the Mine-Ban Convention and the Convention on Cluster Munitions had “real effects in the world”.  Japan was committed to ensuring efforts to universalize those Conventions, and in particular to ensuring that the Asia-Pacific did not remain the region with the lowest level of membership to those agreements.  The country had extended assistance in mine action under its “Zero New Victims” programme, having provided about $436 million in 42 countries and regions since 1998.  A key action in that area was to follow a comprehensive approach, ranging from mine clearance to mine-risk education and victim assistance, including socio-economic reintegration programmes.  Cooperating with non-governmental organizations and promoting national ownership — including through capacity building and technology transfer — were important in that regard.


Japan had also been promoting South-South cooperation schemes, and was a strong supporter of the United Nations Mine Action Service.  In 2010, it had become the top donor to the United Nations Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action, managed by the Mine Action Service.  Additionally, Japan had established Official Development Assistance task forces, which consulted consistently with some 80 official development assistance (ODA) recipient countries and other donor organizations, and utilized the synergies of assistance provided to both the Mine-Ban Convention and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.  “Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go to end the suffering” caused by those inhumane weapons,” he said, adding that, until that day, Japan would strengthen its cooperation and assistance to that end.


ANDRIY TSYMBALIUK (Ukraine), recognizing the instrumental role of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), especially in policy-making, coordination and advocacy, said that national mine-action strategies should ensure effective decision-making for short-, medium- and long-term priorities.  Support for those efforts must be sustainable and encourage national initiatives and institutions, while the needs of the mine-affected community must determine the basic parameters for assistance.  As the number of areas requesting such assistance was growing, timely mobilization of donor resources was essential to success.


The delegate said that the ultimate goal of the international community should be the prohibition of production, use, stockpiling and transfer of antipersonnel mines, although that goal should be pursued gradually to ensure the largest possible participation of States in Protocol II of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.  Ukraine knew first-hand the problems caused by uncontrolled use of mines as, more than 50 years after the Second World War, tens of thousands of pieces of ammunition and unexploded ordnances were neutralized on its territory annually.  It had recently completed its first significant destruction project, destroying 400,000 anti-personnel mines, and was committed to destruction of the 6 million landmines in stockpiles in Ukraine.


He expressed appreciation to the countries and organizations that had helped it implement its obligations under the Mine-Ban Convention.  Acknowledging that addressing the problem rested with national authorities, he said that, where resources were lacking, the suffering caused by landmines should be addressed within a humanitarian and development framework.  He noted Ukraine’s extensive expertise in modern mine clearance technologies and said that the country was ready to provide technical support and share experience with United Nations missions in various countries, thus demonstrating its commitment to international obligations in the field.  In closing, he emphasized the obstacles to development, and lasting social and economic consequences caused by the presence of mines and other unexploded ordnance.


EZZIDIN BELKHEIR ( Libya) stressed the importance of a central role in providing assistance through the United Nations group on de-mining.  He said his delegation was keenly interested in the international cooperation in the field of mine clearance and assistance, because that country suffered from mines and explosives deployed in large parts of the territory by armies, placed there during the Second World War.  Libya had suffered for many decades from the remnants of that war and the negative implications for national development efforts.  Libya could not forget the efforts made by certain European States in the framework of the multilateral cooperation with the former Libyan Government for removal.


He said that Libya had recently emerged from the stage of armed conflict and the war imposed by the former Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qadhafi against his people.  Today, Libya was grappling with the problem in a more serious manner.  The new mines and explosive remnants deployed by Qadhafi’s army were considered the most developed and most harmful, even more serious than the mines left during the Second World War, both in terms of explosive power, and in the magnitude of their harm.  The contingents of Qadhafi, in utter disregard of international humanitarian law, had deployed hundred of thousands of anti-personnel mines in a wanton way, in large areas including inside Libya.  Those mines and explosive munitions were planted within agricultural territories and even inside the cities and areas full of houses.


That grave matter meant that mine clearance needed to be a top priority of the new Libyan Government, he said, adding that that could not be performed without the assistance of the United Nations and the neighbouring friendly countries.  He looked forward to cooperation with the United Nations, in order to gain the necessary technical assistance to build and develop national capacities in the field of mine clearance.  He urged the international community to redouble its efforts in that regard and in providing assistance to the affected countries, in order that the mines could be removed or rendered ineffective.  He called for specialized mine clearance programmes in countries that had emerged from conflict.


KARLA GARCIA LÓPEZ ( Honduras) stated that her country had showed its firm commitment to mine clearance by having been one of the first to have ratified the Mine-Ban Convention, on 24 September 1998.  Landmines remained a universal challenge.  It was not only necessary to permanently to eradicate the scourge of those cruel devices, but also to create a full strategy to rehabilitate the victims.  Thanks to various de-mining programmes, Central America was a mine-free zone and Honduras had been a mine-free country since 2003.  However, many Hondurans continued to suffer the consequences.  The Honduran government was making efforts to fully reintegrate the survivors.


Agreeing with the Secretary-General’s report, she stated that landmines continued to affect many sister countries across the world.  In 2011, the fact that landmines continued to be laid might make it seem that this was a lost cause.  Honduras reaffirmed its commitment to mine action and paid tribute to the people who had lost their lives.  If a stop was not put to that, “we will continue to pay the high price of human lives”, she declared.


MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ (Colombia), aligning his statement with that made on behalf of MERCOSUR, said that his country was one of the those affected by mines, and continued to fight for instruments to help free the population from that danger.  Colombia had eliminated its own stockpiles, but still had more than 9,000 new victims between 1990 and 2011.  Of those, 38 per cent were civilians.  He said that the sole people responsible for the laying of those weapons were illegal armed groups, and he called on the international community to put pressure on non-State actors to stop those illegal practices.


He said his country had had the honour of hosting the second Review Conference of the Mine-Ban Convention in Cartagena, where it had been able to renew the commitment to mine clearance and guarantee the right of persons disabled by mines to lead a full ad dignified life.  He categorically condemned the installation of anti-personnel mines and said that the Colombian army, in compliance with the commitments made in line with article 5 of the Mine-Ban Convention, had totally destroyed its stockpiles of anti-personnel mines.


ALEXIS AQUINO ( Peru) said that the country had made major progress in mine clearance last year.  Peru had strengthened its national centre for training in humanitarian demining and had created a larger number of de-mining teams, which included two women graduates.  Detectors, vehicles, and other tools that increased mine-clearance capacity had also been acquired.  Peru had used its own resources, as well as those supplied by international cooperation.  Using the “one man per track”-approach had increased success by 200 per cent and improved the safety of the “de-miner”.  In order to ensure timely medical care, air transport had been assigned exclusively to evacuation cases.  A total of 4,000 anti-personnel mines had been eliminated, reclaiming 29,000 square metres of territory.


Further, she stated, the Peruvian mine action centre, using international cooperation, had updated information on individuals affected by landmines through face–to-face interviews.  That had enabled Peru to improve medical assistance and physical and psychological rehabilitation efforts.  Special care was given to socio-economic integration.  Joint efforts had been undertaken by Peru and Ecuador in terms of training and sharing lessons learned.  Ecuador had invited Peru to participate in de-mining workshops in the forest regions, and logistical facilities were provided by Ecuador in the border area to respond to Peruvian de-miners.  Also, the cooperation between both countries had enabled exchange of mine detectors.  That process had been ongoing for a year, and as a result, it was possible to have better planning and programming.  That was a demonstration of the commitment of both countries to mine clearance.


KANIKA PHOMMACHANH (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said that as the most bombed nation per capita in the world, her county knew too well the pain and suffering caused by unexploded ordnance.  It had been more than 45 years since the Laos People’s Democratic Republic had been confronted by the effects of those weapons on its lands and people.  The impact on the country was sobering, as its people accounted for almost half of all confirmed cluster munitions casualties in the world.  Over one half of the country had been contaminated by unexploded ordnance, which had imposed, not only a serious threat to the livelihoods of rural families, but had also drastically impeded the nation’s socio-economic development.


She said that today, the world had begun to recognize the extensive and indiscriminate harm of cluster bombs to ordinary citizens and the environment, long after wars and conflicts were over.  She welcomed the efforts of the United Nations to integrate mine action into the United Nations peacekeeping operations, and commended the Organization’s efforts to promote gender equality in mine action by revising the gender guidelines for the Mine Action Programme.  She thanked the United Nations and numerous donors for their assistance in tackling the problem of cluster munitions, and reaffirmed her delegation’s commitment and determination to contribute to the global campaign against those indiscriminate weapons.


ANTÓNIO GUMENDE (Mozambique), associating his statement with that of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that while significant progress had been made in mine clearance, there were still challenges to achieving the “zero victims of mines” goal outlined in the Mine-Ban Convention.  In addressing them, attention should be given to developing country efforts to implement the Convention, especially in the areas of unexploded mines, provision of financial resources for mine clearance programmes, and victim rehabilitation.  Indeed, assistance to countries affected by mines and explosive remnants of war was critical for developing national mine action capacities and fulfilling international obligations.


In addition, he said, timely contributions, information and both technical and material assistance were vital to the success of mine clearance efforts, and he called on stakeholders to find appropriate solutions.  Mozambique had committed to eradicating mines and explosive remnants of war, declaring 60 of 114 districts free of those weapons, allowing people and goods to move freely and land to be used for economic activities.  It expected to clear 90 districts by year-end.  The national mine action plan targeted borders, roads, mineral resource areas, schools and hospitals, among other confirmed and suspected locations for those weapons.


Gains had been made under the programme, he said, especially in identifying and clearing large areas infested with mines and explosives and in quantifying the nature and dimension of the remaining threats around the country.  Mozambique was carrying out a survey to determine the extent of the mine threats.  Mine clearance was a cross-cutting issue that Mozambique had mainstreamed into every economic and social sector, as well as into all district planning to ensure people’s safety.  With its partners, it had adopted a district-by-district clearance strategy, as the district was “the pillar of the national development process”.


HE YI ( China), noting that the distress caused by landmines in some countries and regions had been alleviated in recent years, said that through its “people-oriented policy” China nonetheless continued to attach great importance to humanitarian concerns related to landmines.  As a State party to the Amended Protocol II of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, China actively took part in the Protocol framework’s Group of Governmental Experts, and submitted annual reports on the matter.  In the area of landmines, the delegation supported the resolution currently before the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) and attended meetings of that Convention as an observer.  In many places, landmines still seriously threatened civilian life and property, and hindered both economic development and social rehabilitation.  Thus, it was important to strengthen international national assistance and cooperation to further international mine action.


She said that cooperation in that area should take into consideration three principles:  the specific national conditions and requirements of the assistance recipients; the enhancement of capacity building in mine-affected countries; and improvement of the concrete effects of assistance and cooperation in the areas of mine and unexploded ordnance clearance.  As a former mine-affected country, China fully understood the concerns of mine-affected countries.  In 1998, it had established a long-term and systematic programme of international mine clearance assistance, providing help — including funds, equipment and de-mining training — to nearly 40 countries.  In 2011, China had held mine clearance training courses for personnel from Sri Lanka, Sudan and South Sudan.  It had also responded to the Secretary-General’s call for international de-mining assistance, and had provided mine and cluster munition victim assistance to countries, including Peru, Ethiopia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.


BAKHODUR RAHMONOV ( Tajikistan), while noting that the effects of landmines had decreased in recent years, recalled nonetheless that an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 civilians died each year from landmine explosions, and that thousands more were wounded and maimed.  The issue remained a matter of concern for the Government of Tajikistan, where mine clearance remained vitally important to national development plans.  The country reaffirmed its commitment to a full and efficient implementation of the Mine-Ban Convention, having implemented its main provisions and having submitted relevant reports to the Secretary-General since 2002.


Since 2003, he said, approximately 270 settlements in the area of 7.3 million square kilometres had been cleared of mines by the Tajik Mine Action Centre.  In line with article 4 of the Mine-Ban Convention, the country had also ensured the destruction of all stockpiled anti-personnel mines in its territory by the 31 March 2004 deadline.  However, Tajikistan had faced difficulties implementing article 5 of the Convention, and had requested States parties to support an extension of the deadline for that article’s implementation.


Thanking a host of donor countries, international organizations and other actors for their support in cooperating with the Tajikistan Mine Action Centre — in terms of capacity development, surveying, equipment, assistance to victims and other areas — he noted that, despite the assistance, some problems remained.  In that regard, in order to meet its obligation under article 6, Tajikistan encouraged States and international organizations with relevant expertise to share their experiences, where feasible.  The country firmly supported a mine-free zone in the Central Asian region, and stood for the adoption of practical measures on removing landmines and other related activities in the region.  That position had been reflected in the statement delivered by the President of Tajikistan during the General Assembly’s recent general debate.


THANAVON PAMARANON ( Thailand) said that anti-personnel mines had caused widespread and acute humanitarian problems; every year they killed or maimed 25,000 innocent civilians, many who were women and children.  Contamination or even the suspicion of contamination with landmines could deny people access to community resources, such as water sources or agricultural land, creating or worsening poverty.  Landmine survivors could face serious physical, emotional, social and economic challenges.  Thailand took note of the Report of the Secretary-General (A/66/292) on Assistance in Mine Action, and congratulated the United Nations Mine Action Team, and other relevant bodies, for key developments in the past few years.  As a State party to the Mine-Ban Convention since 1997, Thailand was pleased to witness the progress in anti-mine action undertaken by States parties to achieve the aims of the Cartagena Action Plan.


She said that Thailand, for more than 10 years, had made unwavering efforts in mine clearance, victim assistance and cooperation with mine-affected partners.  The Thailand Mine Action Centre had submitted the National Mine Action Strategy of Thailand for 2010-2014 for the Government’s approval.  At present, Thailand was reviewing its land release methodology, in consultation with Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), and revising its National Mine Action Standards (NMAS).  Thailand was seeking partners with extensive experience.  As for victim assistance, the national mine scheme for mine assistance was now in force, providing appropriate services and treatment for mine victims.


Having been affected by explosive remnants of war causing the 10 to 30 landmine casualties each year, and 24 in 2010 alone, Thailand was well aware of the humanitarian implications, and attached great importance of humanitarian action.  Victim assistance and mine-risk education were at the heart of the Mine-Ban Convention and of equal importance to mine clearance.  In terms of mine-risk education, Thailand had trained and educated more than 90,000 local people from 72 villages across the affected provinces about mine dangers.  Thailand reaffirmed its commitment to end the suffering caused by anti-personnel mines.


MATO ŠKRABALO (Croatia), aligning his statement with that made on behalf of the European Union, said that mine action was a complex, multidimensional and time-consuming process that often could not be completed in the immediate aftermath of armed conflict.  Rather, it became a part of States’ development efforts.  National ownership was key to resolving those challenges.  In order to achieve effective victim assistance and mine-risk reduction, States needed to strengthen their health and social systems, and integrate opportunities for persons affected by mines into their education and labour markets.


He said that although a mine-affected State itself, Croatia was fully aware of the necessity of sharing its knowledge and national experience with other countries facing similar challenges.  Regarding recent activities at the national level, early in 2010, Croatia had established a National Coordinating Body for Helping Mine and Unexploded Ordnance Victims.  Its main task included the creation of a national action plan for helping the victims.  Further, a law on cluster munitions was currently being drafted, which would include the imposition of sanctions to prevent and suppress any activities prohibited by the Convention on Cluster Munitions.  The forthcoming meeting of the Mine-Ban Convention in Cambodia would experts the chance to meet in a mine-affected country.  The international community must not forget that landmines were a security, development and humanitarian issue, and it was the international community’s joint responsibility to work together to do away with that scourge and create a mine-free world.


RITA KAZRAGIENĖ ( Lithuania) said her country would continue to cooperate with the mine-action community through various organizations such as the European Union, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and others.  She encouraged national ownership when it came to international instruments to deal with landmines, and said that the international community should work to strengthen national capacities in that regard.  She called on the mine-action community to further assist affected countries, especially with technical assistance, to overcome the remaining obstacles in a responsible and environmentally sound manner.  She welcomed efforts to include mine action into humanitarian projects, and expressed the strong conviction that multilateral and bilateral programmes related to security and development should take into account gender aspects.  She noted with appreciation the revised gender programme as well.


Action on Draft


The Committee then turned to the draft resolution on assistance in mine action, contained in document A/C.4/66/L.6.


Speaking before the vote, the representative of Tajikistan noted that his delegation wished to be counted among the co-sponsors of the text.


The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record