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UN marks International Day with commitment to world free of mines

Posted on April, 4 2013

4 April 2013, UNITED NATIONS News Service (English), Xinhua: The United Nations on Thursday opened an exhibition in its headquarters in New York and Geneva respectively to reiterate the importance of eliminating the threat of mines and explosive remnants of war as a crucial endeavor that advances peace, enables development, supports nations in transition and saves lives.

At UN Headquarters in New York and in parallel in Geneva, a multi-media exhibition, entitled "For a Mine-Free World," opened to mark the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action and highlight 20 years of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

The exhibits include a miniature mine field and UN partner, Handicap International, will provide demining demonstrations throughout the day in New York.

The event is organized by Handicap International, Medico International, Solidarity Service International, the Federal Foreign Ministry of Germany, and the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) .

This year also marks 40 years since bombing stopped in the Lao countryside. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Permanent Mission of Laos to the UN marked the date on Thursday with the launch here of a new campaign that includes national speakers.

"Voices from Laos: Clearing Bombs, Protecting Lives" will travel to some of the major U.S. cities after leaving New York. According to its website, the campaign creates a space for dialogue on how individuals and communities are affected by Viet Nam War-era unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Laos, how the problem is being addressed in the country, and ways in which people in the United States can help to clear Laos of bombs, support survivors of accidents, and help to create a safer future.

On Dec. 8, 2005, the UN General Assembly declared that April 4 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.

Between May 2011 and May 2012, at least 4,286 people were killed or injured in incidents related to mines and explosive remnants of war, according to the UNMAS.

"United Nations mine action programmes continue to create space for humanitarian relief efforts, peace operations and development initiatives, allowing UN staff to deploy and refugees and internally displaced persons to return voluntarily to their homes, " he said in a message to mark the International Day.

As highlighted by the secretary-general in his message, the United Nations continues to provide wide-ranging assistance to millions of people in 59 States and six other areas contaminated by landmines, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Colombia, Laos, Lebanon and South Sudan.

Ban said he was "encouraged" by the 161 States that have agreed to the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention, which bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines. States who are parties to the Convention also agree to destroy anti-personnel mines and assist landmine victims.

He also noted the importance of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and called for universal adherence to these treaties.

Governments of mine-affected countries which receive UN assistance have the primary responsibility for mine action, UNMAS noted.

There are 14 UN departments, programmes, funds and agencies that provide various types of services, according to the UN agency. Some of these UN bodies target their services to a particular group of people, such as refugees, or to a special circumstance, such as a humanitarian crisis.

At the end of 2012, these entities agreed on a new strategy to guide UN mine action work through 2018. The new strategy includes for the first time a specific monitoring and evaluation framework to track and measure the relevant work by the world body.

At a press conference in New York on Thursday, the UN assistant secretary-general of the Office of the Rule of Law and Security Institutions (OROLSI), Dmitry Titov, stressed that "mine action is about action" that includes humanitarian action and the removal of mines.

Also speaking to reporters here, the chief of UNMAS, Paul Heslop, said that "the battle against mines has been won", but needs sustained funding and international support to sustain it.

He noted the emerging threat caused by abandoned or poorly managed ammunition depots which UNMAS teams are increasingly encountering.

Heslop also spoke about the difficulties of identifying the origins of a landmine or unexploded ordinance, particularly in areas such as Syria where the insecurity prevents demining teams from working, and determining whether it is a new explosive or a legacy from earlier conflicts.

If explosive materials had a stamp which read "produced in 2010 in x location, it would be easy, but they don't," he added.