Vientiane

07 September 2016

Remarks at launch of SDG 18 for the Lao PDR

Ban Ki-moon

Your Excellency, Mr. Tongloun Sisoulith, Prime Minister of the Lao PDR,
Your Excellency, Mr. Saleumxay Kommasith, Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Your Excellency, Dr. Khampheng Saysompheng, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare,
Your Excellency, Mr. Souphanh Keomixay, Minister of Planning and Investment,
Your Excellency, Mr. Sommad Pholsena, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here with you to launch this unique initiative.

Almost a year ago, the world community met in New York to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: our plan for people, planet, prosperity, partnership and peace.

The 2030 Agenda is based on 17 Sustainable Development Goals which cover issues from eradicating hunger to building inclusive societies. They aim to give this generation the means to end extreme poverty, injustice and inequality.

Here in the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos, the Government has added one more goal – the 18th Sustainable Development Goal.

SDG 18 is about removing the unexploded ordnance that affects millions of people across this country.

I am proud to be part of this initiative which holds great promise for the people and future of Laos.

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

More ordnance was dropped on Laos between 1964 and 1973 than the combined total of bombs used during the Second World War. Around one-third of those munitions did not explode and still pose a deadly danger.

Many of them are so-called “bombies” small ball-shaped explosives contained in cluster bombs. A bombie explodes with lethal force if a farmer knocks it with his spade, or a child picks it up to play.

These unexploded weapons affect 15 out of 18 provinces in Laos and kill or injure dozens of people every year, the majority of them children.

SDG18 aims to end casualties from unexploded ordnance to clear known contamination in priority areas to meet the health needs of people injured by unexploded ordnance and to support those survivors in finding jobs and living productive lives.

I commend the Government and people of Laos for taking ownership of the entire 2030 Agenda, and for your creativity and commitment in setting SDG18. This is the first national Sustainable Development Goal that we are aware of, in any country.

The United Nations is a close partner of Laos in the urgent work of clearing unexploded ordnance. I am glad to report great progress. In the last decade the number of casualties from unexploded ordnance has been reduced by 85 per cent, thanks to mine clearance work and better education.&ampampnbsp

I commend everyone involved, including the brave demining teams in the field, the civil society partners who have played such an important part, and the donors who fund this lifesaving work.

Let us all pledge to continue our efforts until unexploded ordnance is a thing of the past for Laos.

I congratulate the Government of Lao PDR on developing this national SDG18. You have set an inspiring example for other Governments, by listening to the aspirations of your people and making sure your leadership is improving and transforming lives.

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to add my congratulations to the Government for ratifying the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and depositing its instrument of ratification with me today.

Laos is the first ASEAN country to join the agreement. This is a significant step towards bringing this historic agreement into effect this year.

I hope other ASEAN countries will join me and other leaders to deposit their instruments of ratification at the High-Level Event I will be convening in New York on 21 September.

Thank you.