On 12 October 2017, the Permanent Missions to the United Nations of¬¬ Italy, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) and Switzerland partnered with the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to host a panel discussion entitled “From Vision to Measurable Change on the Ground: Mine Action and Sustainable Development Goals” as part of the First Committee side event series for the 72nd Session General Assembly. Mr. Olivier Zehnder, Deputy Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations and moderator of the panel, began by noting the profusion of mines and other explosive devices in many countries around the world. He prefaced the panelists’ discussion by drawing attention to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that have shaped global development efforts since January 2016. Strengthening ties between mine action and SDG implementation, according to Mr. Zehnder, has become increasingly relevant as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has become an accepted long-term framework to pursue development, peace and international security worldwide.
Mr. Stefano Toscano, Director of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, in conjunction with a representative of Mr. Inigo Lambertini, Deputy Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations and Chair of the Mine Action Support Group, provided a presentation about a joint GICHD-UNDP study on mine action and the 2030 Agenda. The study—titled “Leaving No-One Behind: Mine Action and the Sustainable Development Goals”—seeks to reflect the current understanding of the contribution and impact of mine action on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in countries affected by landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war. Mr. Toscano pointed out four key findings of the study: SDG 16 (to promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies) provides the most direct entry point for mine action initiatives to improve livelihoods and productivity in all mine-affected nations; policy coherence is imperative for integrative support throughout sectors and institutions; mine action needs to be incorporated into relevant goals, targets and indicators of national SDG frameworks; and the 2030 Agenda provides a new impetus for inclusiveness and participation.
The second panelist, Mr. Maythong Thammavongsa, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Lao PDR to the United Nations, discussed linking mine action and sustainable development in the Lao PDR. He gave a detailed overview of unexploded ordinance (UXO) contamination in the Lao PDR and the obstacles it poses for development in reference to agriculture, infrastructure, cost and time. The Lao PDR attaches great importance to UXO clearance to achieve the SDGs, and the Government launched “SDG 18” as its own initiative to catalyze these efforts. This plan aims by 2030 to ensure the removal of all known UXO contamination in high-priority areas and all villages defined as “poor”, as well as to satisfy all health, livelihood and employment needs of identified UXO survivors and victims. Mr. Thammavongsa concluded his statement by saying that the main challenges regarding mine action and SDGs include a lack of funding from the international community and the need for a comprehensive survey to identify the exact location of contaminated areas.
The final panelist, Mr. Nik Sekhran, Director and Chief of Profession for the UNDP Sustainable Development Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, discussed multi-stakeholder coordination for sustainable development from the UNDP mine action perspective. His presentation focused on the pledge by Member States to “leave no one behind” in implementing the 2030 Agenda, and he referenced the challenges of meeting this commitment in mine areas that prevent economic growth, development and environmental protection. Mr. Sekhran stated that less than $500 million is annually spent on mine action, an issue “we all need to tackle collectively” to achieve the SDGs. All countries should prioritize seeking economic donors and adhering to environmental precautions when engaging in “de-mining” areas, he said.
This side event aimed to promote discussion about strengthening conceptual and operational ties between mine action activities and SDG implementation, in particular at the national level, and it utilized the recent study by the GICHD and UNDP to exemplify this objective. The participants explored how progress in mine action contributes to a strategic role in national SDG implementation, and they considered how to translate this vision into measurable change.
Text and photos by Gillian Linden