Mine Action Must Extend Beyond Removing Remnants of War to Helping Communities Rebuild, Pursue Sustainable Peace, Speakers Tell Security Council

SC/12866
13 June 2017
7966th Meeting (AM)

Mine Action Must Extend Beyond Removing Remnants of War to Helping Communities Rebuild, Pursue Sustainable Peace, Speakers Tell Security Council

Mine action must extend beyond only removing those remnants of war to become a part of an effective toolkit for helping communities and countries recover and pursue sustainable peace, speakers told the Security Council today during a briefing on a comprehensive approach to mine action and explosive hazard threat mitigation.

Showcasing ways demining efforts had advanced peace, Nathalie Ochoa Nina of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in Colombia, said tackling the reality of the remnants of war centred on rebuilding communities.  In Colombia, humanitarian demining efforts had already produced results, serving as an essential component in initiating the socioeconomic reconstruction of communities and overcoming an impasse during negotiations for a peace accord between the Government of Colombia and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia‑Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP).  For more than one year, that demining initiative was the only concrete action that had been jointly implemented by negotiating parties, she stressed.

The peace agreement had defined specific roles for mine action, she said.  Humanitarian demining was recognized as essential for the implementation of other policies, including the collective return of internally displaced persons and a prerequisite for the execution of national rural plans.  The inclusion of ex‑combatants was significant and mine action was a source of employment.  “Colombia has a monumental challenge ahead of it — to consolidate peace after the signing of the peace accords,” she said, adding that:  “The Security Council plays a vital role in ensuring that mine action improves the lives of many more people in conflict-affected areas, as it has so clearly done in my country.”

Alexander Zuev, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, provided a snapshot of United Nations efforts, including UNMAS activities in Somalia and South Sudan.  UNMAS had played its coordinating role in many places, including in Iraq, by drafting guidelines, providing instructions for consistent response for missions and setting standards for mine action.  It was also using its expertise to draft standards for mine removal and disposal, and was working on threat-mitigation methods.

When the floor opened to delegates, speakers shared their countries’ contributions, with many encouraging Member States that had not yet done so to sign and ratify the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, known as the Ottawa Convention.  Bolivia’s representative, whose delegation holds the Council presidency for the month, said negotiations were under way on a draft Council resolution that would, if adopted, set a precedent while emphasizing the importance of mine action for peacekeeping, peace and security.

Council members from mine-affected countries offered their perspectives.  Ethiopia’s representative said the proposed draft resolution would send a strong signal about the need to mitigate the threat posed by landmines and other explosive devices while enhancing cooperation between Member States, including through the sharing of experiences and lessons learned.  Echoing a concern raised by other speakers, he said that as a major troop-contributing country, Ethiopia was greatly concerned about the use of improvised explosive devices in recent years against peacekeepers by armed groups in asymmetrical conflict.

Some speakers highlighted other emerging threats, including the growing use of new types of explosive devices.  Nowhere was the threat so great in that regard than in the fight to combat Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), said the delegate from the United States, pointing out that her country was the highest mine-action contributor to the United Nations.  However, Italy’s delegate said that, while the number of victims was growing, mine-action funding, in general, was dropping.  The representative of France said the current situation must be addressed with tailored, complementary measures and stakeholders on the ground must have the tools to do their job, with new technologies to foresee and mitigate threats.

Many countries remained affected, speakers said.  The United Kingdom’s representative said that a total of 60 countries were still contaminated and called on all States to bolster action to address that challenge.  “If we don’t tackle the global scourge, we are putting those who have emerged from conflict further behind,” he warned, highlighting past efforts to address persistent challenges.  “Now is time to finish the job.”

At the start of the meeting, the Council observed a moment of silence for Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the sixty-third session of the General Assembly, who died on 8 June.

Also delivering statements were representative of Uruguay, Senegal, Japan, China, Russian Federation, Sweden, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Egypt.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 11:58 a.m.

Briefings

ALEXANDER ZUEV, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions, Department of Peacekeeping Operations, said that mine action was an integrated component of peacekeeping and special political missions.  Such activities were critical to safety, security and mobility of mission personnel and to the effective and efficient implementation of mission mandates, especially for protecting civilian populations.  Providing examples, he said progress had been made with peacekeeper training in Mali, clearing explosive remnants of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and using explosive detection dogs in South Sudan.  In Colombia, mine action was one of the first items that parties negotiating peace agreed and acted upon.

Turning to peace processes, he said mine action was a central activity in crafting peace as was the case in Colombia.  The coordinating role of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) was essential in many places, including in Iraq.  Among its work in the field, a UNMAS doctrine included guiding principles, provided instructions for consistent response for missions and set standards for mine action.  UNMAS was also using its expertise to draft standards for mine removal and disposal and was working on methods for mitigating threat.

NATHALIE OCHOA NINA, United Nations Mine Action Service in Colombia, said it had played an essential role as a technical adviser to the National Mine Action Authority.  It had also played a significant role during the negotiation, design and implementation of a peace accord between the Government of Colombia and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia–Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP).  Colombia had once ranked second worldwide in landmine victims, with 9,296.  It was still among the world’s top five countries with the most mine-related victims; more than half of its territory was contaminated by landmines.  Indigenous communities in the south had been trapped due to the presence of landmines.

Indeed, demining, she said, was the key to initiating the socioeconomic reconstruction of communities.  Such activities had, in 2014, helped parties to overcome a three-year-long impasse during peace negotiations.  Noting that she had trained the first 50 civilian deminers and other groups of victims, ex-military and ex-combatants, she emphasized that humanitarian demining had been chosen as part of a gesture of peace initiative during peace negotiations, which had led to cooperation among Colombia’s armed forces and FARC-EP to work towards a common goal.  In fact, for more than one year, that initiative was the only concrete action that had been jointly implemented by negotiating parties.

Sharing personal reflections, she said tackling the reality of the remnants of war that continued to hamper socioeconomic progress went beyond removing the mines; it centred on rebuilding communities to help them recover.  The peace agreement in Colombia had defined specific roles for mine action.  For instance, humanitarian demining had been recognized as essential for the implementation of other policies, including the collective return of internally displaced persons and a prerequisite for the execution of national rural plans.  The inclusion of ex-combatants was significant, she said, adding that mine action was a source of employment.  The United Nations had an opportunity to partner with Colombians on mine action initiatives as they pursued sustainable peace.  “Colombia has a monumental challenge ahead of it — to consolidate peace after the signing of the peace accords,” she said.  “The Security Council plays a vital role in ensuring that mine action improves the lives of many more people in conflict-affected areas, as it has so clearly done in my country.”

Statements

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity, recounting the stories of two landmine victims — one a 12‑year‑old boy, another a 27‑year‑old university student.  Quoting research by Monitor, he said there was an average of 25 such victims a day, or about one per hour.  Many were children; humanitarian personnel were often victims, as well.  Noting that Bolivia did not manufacture, stock or use landmines, he called on States that had not yet done so to sign and ratify the Ottawa Convention.  He added that negotiations were under way on a draft Council resolution, tabled by Bolivia, that would, if adopted, set a precedent and emphasize the importance of mine action for peacekeeping, peace and security.

VICENZO AMENDOLA, Under-Secretary of State for International and Foreign Affairs of Italy, called landmines and explosive remnants a matter of great concern, with ongoing events generating new contaminations and non-State armed groups using new kinds of explosive devices.  While the number of victims was growing, funding for mine action was going down, he said.  Commending the work of UNMAS, he said Italy would maintain its commitment to mine action in all its aspects, and strongly encouraged all States to adhere to the Ottawa Convention and other mine action-related instruments.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said his country had suffered for decades from the impact of landmines and other explosive devices, and therefore attached great importance to mitigating their effects.  The Council had long recognized the need for a comprehensive approach, he said, recalling its presidential statement of 2003.  The draft resolution now under negotiation would send a strong signal on the need to mitigate the threat posed by landmines and other explosive devices while enhancing cooperation between Member States, including through the sharing of experiences and lessons learned.  As a major troop-contributing country, Ethiopia was greatly concerned about the use of improvised explosive devices in recent years against peacekeepers by armed groups in asymmetrical conflict.

CRISTINA CARRIÓN (Uruguay), emphasizing that greater multilateral action was needed, urged States that had not yet done so to sign and ratify the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, known as the Ottawa Convention.  She also urged States to uphold their disarmament and non-proliferation obligations.  Civilian protection was essential, she said, commending the United Nations for its mine action work.  Efforts must now be bolstered to remove and eliminate those weapons permanently.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said the ongoing use of landmines and cluster munitions and improvised explosive devices was a serious concern to civilians and armed forces, highlighting a moral duty to protect troops and communities.  That complex situation must be addressed with tailored, complementary measures.  Stakeholders on the ground must have the tools to do their job, with new technologies to foresee and mitigate threats.  Commending UNMAS efforts, he said training and awareness-raising efforts must be supported alongside education initiatives that reached local communities.  For its part, France supported partner States and non-governmental organizations with specialized training and demining programmes.  Drawing attention to the Ottawa Convention, which was a benchmark in combating anti-personnel mines, and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, known as the Oslo Convention, he encouraged States to join those instruments.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) expressed support for an anti-personnel-mine-free world, saying gains that had been made over the past two decades had been reversed with the increasing use of improvised explosive devices.  Landmines still threatened lives and security, he said, noting the United Kingdom’s commitments to demining action which would free more than 800,000 people from living in contaminated areas in States including Somalia and South Sudan.  A total of 60 countries were still contaminated, he said, calling on all speakers to take action.  “If we don’t tackle the global scourge, we are putting those who have emerged from conflict further behind,” he said, highlighting past efforts to address persistent challenges.  “Now is time to finish the job.”

FODÉ SECK (Senegal) said landmines and other explosive devices remained a genuine threat to international peace and security.  Landmines were cheap and easy to produce, but expensive to remove, with devastating effects on development.  Senegal had totally destroyed its stockpile of anti-personnel mines and called on producing countries to follow suit.  Discussing the situation in the south of his country, he said, an area equal to 40 towns had been cleared of mines, and while the Government set aside funds for mine action in its annual budget, it counted on support from its partners in order to achieve full demining by 2021.  Turning to cluster munitions, he said Senegal — which had no such weapons — would work with others towards making the Convention on Cluster Munitions universal.  As a troop‑contributing country, Senegal welcomed the attention paid to landmines and other explosive devices in the drafting of Council peacekeeping mandates, as their use by non-State actors posed an additional threat to peacekeepers.

YASUHISA KAWAMURA (Japan) said priority should be given to strengthening the national capacities of affected countries.  Victim assistance and risk reduction education were, alongside demining, critical for sustainable peace and stability.  Sharing his country’s lessons in supporting mine action, he said triangular cooperation deserved to be promoted, as well as a wide range of partnerships, including with private companies and civil society.  He also emphasized gender mainstreaming, saying women’s participation enhanced the quality of mine action activities.

MICHELE SISON (United States) said her country was the world’s largest financial supporter of conventional weapons destruction, including mine action, having provided more than $2.8 million since 1993 to more than 99 countries, including Colombia.  Urging other Member States to join the United States in a robust international partnership to reduce the humanitarian impact of land mines and unexploded ordinance and improvised explosive devices, she underscored the vital role being played by public and private organizations in clearing explosive devices, often before conflict had ceased.  Nowhere was the challenge more prevalent than in ongoing efforts to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), she said, emphasizing that many areas liberated from that group were severely contaminated by landmines and improvised explosive devices, some of which operated as booby traps meant to spread terror after ISIL fighters had departed.  She went on to underscore the potential of confusion about the role of humanitarian mine action workers and military and security personnel.  To best protect mine action personnel, it was important that Member States not conflate mine clearance with military efforts to counter improvised explosive devices.

WU HAITAO (China) said there should be strengthened international assistance and cooperation for mine action and to reduce the threat posed by landmines and other explosive devices.  To effectively address humanitarian concerns, the international community should adhere to principle of ownership by Member States and take into account the national conditions and needs of mine-affected countries while respecting differences in security environments and military capabilities.  Demining efforts and capacity-building should strive to bring about change from external assistance to self-reliance.  He recalled an announcement by China’s President at the General Assembly that it would launch 10 mine-clearing assistance programmes, adding that it attached great importance to the humanitarian concerns of the abuse of improvised explosive devices by non-State actors.

PETR ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) highlighted a growing number of conflicts that reflected a need to address issues such as rebuilding infrastructure and communities.  Peacekeepers were also affected by explosive devices.  UNMAS had a coordinating role in the United Nations, he said, expressing support for its efforts in drafting strategies and noting that UNAMS should also help States with their demining efforts.  For its part, the Russian Federation had established an international anti-personnel mining centre, with specialized training as a component.  International efforts must be scaled up in Syria, he said, emphasizing his country’s proposal to create a global coalition to address that challenge.  His delegation pledged to support discussions on the proposed draft resolution on mine action.

CARL SKAU (Sweden) said that the terrible legacy of the use of landmines could not be overstated, despite impressive progress in the fight to end their use.  Children continued to be particularly vulnerable, he said, calling on the United Nations to keep their needs at the forefront of awareness campaigns and rehabilitation programmes.  Despite its often dangerous and painstakingly slow nature, the task of clearing explosive remnants of war also had the potential to transform communities for the better.  That would require sufficient funding and technical assistance.  Sweden was a State party to conventions banning or regulating the use of non-controllable mines and cluster munitions; and believed that continued universalization of those agreements was the best way to reduce risk.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said that, since 2014, the issue of mine action and mitigating the threat of explosive hazards had gained a whole new meaning in Ukraine as a direct result of foreign armed aggression and offensive actions carried out by hybrid Russian-terrorist forces in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.  Mines and explosive devices were scattered throughout the conflict area, posing a severe threat to civilians, he said, adding that, on 23 April, a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission had fallen victim to one such device near Luhansk.  A Council statement condemning that incident was unfortunately blocked by the Russian Federation, which was very telling as to the perpetrators of that crime and their Kremlin patrons.  The State Emergency Service of Ukraine, in cooperation with UNMAS and others, was carrying out demining work in liberated areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, but humanitarian demining would only be possible after hostilities end.

BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan) said mine action was at the core of post-conflict humanitarian recovery and development, and that help should be given to affected countries to build their national capacities.  Noting a growing number of requests for United Nations mine action assistance, he urged the international community to support that effort through predictable earmarked funding for UNMAS.  He went on to describe his country’s own mine action efforts, which included the neutralization of 4.5 million devices in Iraq between 2003 and 2009 and the training of Iraqi national forces.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said neglected landmines and explosive remnants of war were a source of materials for building improvised explosive devices for use by armed groups and terrorists in attacks that killed thousands around the world.  Egypt was among the countries most affected by landmines, he said, with more than 22.7 million mines and explosive devices from the Second World War on its territory, amounting to 20 per cent of the total number of mines laid around the world.  Identifying their locations and clearing those mines therefore required significant financial resources.  Noting that his country had long halted production of landmines, he said it was important to strike a balance between humanitarian considerations and their legitimate use of self-defence and for securing borders.  Any legal frameworks or instruments should respond to the legitimate concerns of mine-affected countries, while States that laid mines should bear their moral and legal responsibilities and share the burden of disposing those devices

Mr. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) took the floor a second time, saying Ukraine’s statement sought to distract attention away from Kyiv’s lack of desire to implement the Minsk agreements.

Mr. YELCHENKO (Ukraine), also taking the floor a second time, said it was appalling that the Russian Federation, which supplied separatists, had the nerve to make lectures on demining.

For information media. Not an official record.