Gaza school children attending interactive theater production featuring ERW Risk Education, International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, April 2016.
Gaza school children attending interactive theater production featuring ERW Risk Education, International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, April 2016.
Photo:UNMAS Palestine

Today, on the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, we reflect on how far we have come in raising awareness of the dangers posed by landmines, and recommit to our target of a mine-free world.  

UN Secretary-General António Guterres

Perseverance, Partnership, Progress

Last year, the United Nations mine action community stepped-up to the challenges faced during the Covid-19 pandemic. The sector continued to deliver results, fulfilling obligations, surveying, clearing, training, and eradicating the threat of landmines and explosive ordnance.

The United Nations system advanced its work to mitigate the threat of improvised explosive devices and strengthened and built new partnerships.

In 2021 the COVID-19 challenges will require perseverance. Work will continue, landmines and explosive ordnance will be cleared, exit strategies and capacity development of national partners will carry on. The mine action community will continue to adapt.

The United Nations will ensure to carry forward progress towards a world free from the threat of landmines and unexploded ordnance.

Background

On 8 December 2005, the General Assembly declared that 4 April of each year shall be observed as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.

It called for continued efforts by States, with the assistance of the United Nations and relevant organizations, to foster the establishment and development of national mine-action capacities in countries where mines and explosive remnants of war constitute a serious threat to the safety, health and lives of the civilian population, or an impediment to social and economic development at the national and local levels.

For over 20 years, the work of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) has been driven by the needs of affected people and tailored to the threat of explosive hazards faced by civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarians.

UNMAS works to save lives, to facilitate deployment of UN missions and the delivery of humanitarian assistance, to protect civilians, to support the voluntary return of the internally displaced and refugees, to enable humanitarian and recovery activities and to advocate for international humanitarian and human rights law.

History

The United Nations advocates for the universalization of existing legal frameworks and encourages Member States to expand those regimes and develop new international instruments to protect civilians from the scourges of landmines and explosive remnants of war. It undertakes this work in collaboration with interested states, civil society, mine action and international organizations.

Since the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, commonly known as the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention opened for signature in 1997, 164 countries have ratified or acceded to it.

In addition to anti-personnel mines, challenges remain with respect to all other explosive remnants of war. On 12 November 2006, the Secretary-General welcomed the entry into force of Protocol V on explosive remnants of war from the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and reiterated his call for its universalization and implementation. In December 2008, the Secretary-General welcomed the opening for signature of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which was joined by 108 states.

Guided by its inter-agency policy, the United Nations Inter-Agency Coordination Group on Mine Action (IACG-MA), consisting of 12 departments, agencies, funds and programmes, and with observer entities, such as the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research and World Bank continue to ensure system-wide coherence in all mine action pillars and activities.

In 2018 UNMAS convened, coordinated and led the drafting of the United Nations Mine Action Strategy 2019-2023. Two of the most significant aspects of the Strategy are that it represents an accountability framework for the United Nations system and introduces a Theory of Change for the United Nations engagement in mine action.

Two UNMAS team members at work during the quality assurance mission in South Sudan.

The UN aims for a world free of landmines and explosive remnants of war, where individuals and communities live in a safe environment conducive to development and where the needs of victims are met. Twelve UN Departments and Offices of the Secretariat, specialized agencies, funds and programmes play a role in mine-action programs in 30 countries and three territories. Mine action makes it possible for peacekeepers to carry out patrols, for humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance, and for ordinary citizens to live without the fear that a single misstep could cost them their lives.

 

two deminers

Established in 1997, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) works to eliminate the threat posed by mines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices by coordinating United Nations mine action, leading operational responses at the country level, and supporting the development of standards, policies and norms. As a specialized service of the United Nations located within the Department of Peace Operations, UNMAS operates under UN legislative mandates of both the General Assembly and the Security Council. UNMAS also responds to specific requests for support from the UN Secretary-General or designated official.

 

illustration of people with clock, calendar, to-do list and decorations

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.