United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday called for a world free of the threat of mines and explosive remnants of war, stressing that those hazards prevent aid from reaching those in need, and endanger the lives of the displaced persons returning home and children going to school.
“Mine action is critical for an effective humanitarian response in conflict and post-conflict situations,” the UN chief said in his message on the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. Mine action is “an investment in humanity,” as it provides the safe space to undertake development and reconstruction activities, and lay the foundations of sustainable peace, he added.
Yet in far too many places around the world, new or re-emerging conflicts are creating yet another legacy of explosive hazards, such as landmines, cluster munitions and improvised explosive devices, he said, expressing concern particularly about the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
The UN is working to alleviate the suffering of affected communities in high-risk environments.
In South Sudan, 14 million square meters of contaminated land have been cleared; 3,000 kilometres of road made safe; and 30,000 mines and explosive remnants of war destroyed. And more than half a million people have received risk education over the last 12 months.
“This has enabled the delivery of food and water and the safe movement of those fleeing fighting,” he said.
Even in Syria, mine action actors are achieving some important life-saving results. Since August 2015, 14 tonnes of unexploded ordnance have been destroyed, and last year, more than 2 million Syrians received risk education in schools and communities, and more than 5,400 people received physical rehabilitation services.
But millions of Syrian people continue to face this deadly threat every day. There is an urgent need for increased support as well as full, sustained and unhindered access for all mine action activities.
Mr. Ban said that his report, in advance of the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit to be held next month in Istanbul, highlighted the unacceptable impact of mines and explosive remnants of war on civilians. It also stressed the need for States to become parties to, and implement and comply with, relevant international humanitarian instruments.
In December 2015, the General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution underlining the need for mine action to remain at the top of the international agenda, especially in humanitarian crises, he noted.
Daniel Craig, who was appointed last year by Mr. Ban as UN Global Advocate for the Elimination of Mines and Explosive Hazards, said that the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) plays a critical role in improving the immediate chances of survival of civilians and aid workers caught up in armed violence.
“UNMAS provides a long-term solution to the biggest problem facing the victims of war. How to return to a normal life,” he said in his message on the Day.
Best known for his role as 007 in the James Bond films, Mr. Craig said he is in awe of the men and women at UNMAS as well as their energy and courage.
“I am asking you to join me to promote their work and fund their programmes, so that you, too, can make a difference in eliminating the dangers of mines and explosive hazards,” he said.
On 8 December 2005, the General Assembly declared that 4 April of each year should be observed as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. This year’s theme is ‘Mine Action is Humanitarian Action.’