4 April 2007 Hailing the positive steps made toward curbing landmines, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on Member States to continue efforts to eliminate the weapons and provide assistance to victims on the occasion of the International Day dedicated to combating the scourge.
The International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action “is a reminder that millions of people in nearly 80 countries still live in fear of landmines and explosive remnants of war,” Mr. Ban said.
But thanks to the work of Member States, the UN, non-Governmental organizations (NGOs) and countries affected by mines, “we have made real gains in our mine actions,” he said.
Mr. Ban urged States which have not yet done so to accede to treaties – the anti-personnel mine-ban treaty known as the Ottawa Convention, a Protocol to the Certain Conventional Weapons Convention and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – that promote the elimination of landmines, address the humanitarian hazards posed by explosive remnants of war and ensure the human rights of all persons, regardless of their disabilities.
He also called on the international community to act immediately to address the horrendous humanitarian effects of cluster bombs, which scatter hundreds of smaller bombs, intended to detonate on impact, but of which a significant portion do not.
“These indiscriminately kill and maim civilians, just as easily and frequently as landmines do,” Mr. Ban noted, lauding the drive by a group of countries to create an international agreement to ban these weapons.
Iraq has one of the greatest concentrations of landmines and other explosive remnants of war in the world, due to decades of war and conflict.
This poses a “huge threat to the daily lives of the people of Iraq as well as a major hindrance to the implementation of much needed humanitarian relief and development efforts,” said Jean-Marie Fakhouri, the Secretary-General's Deputy Special Representative for Iraq.
Nearly 1.9 million Iraqis are internally displaced, and the risk of injury due to these weapons is even higher now, he said.
“We are particularly concerned about children, as well as farmers, desperate to make a living, using contaminated land,” he added.
The UN is supporting Iraq's national institutions, including the National Mine Authority Action Authority, to establish and implement a sustainable mine clearing programme.
The UN Mine Action team for Iraq – comprising the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) – is active across the country in surveying contaminated areas, educating the population about mine risk, destroying stockpiles and aiding victims.
Currently, 14 UN agencies, programmes, departments and funds are active in mine action services – including finding and destroying landmines and explosive remnants of war; assisting victims; teaching people methods to remain safe in mine-affected areas; and destroying stockpiles; and encouraging universal participation in international agreements – in dozens of countries.
Events will be held throughout the world to commemorate the International Day. Exhibitions will be held in places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Eritrea and Switzerland, while a festival in which children will participate will be held in Chechnya.
At UN Headquarters, a special photo exhibition on the issue will be unveiled and a mock minefield will be installed to show how the de-mining process works. UNICEF will conduct mine-risk education workshops to the public.