Magazine article UN Chronicle

Achieving Zero New Victims of Landmines

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Achieving Zero New Victims of Landmines

Article excerpt

As we think about how to reduce and eliminate new victims of landmines, we are reminded of the remarkable advances during the evolution of mine action work which began with the Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan in 1989. Our determination to live in a world free from the threat of landmines and explosive remnants of war is fortified, as we remember those lost and those affected. It is my fervent hope that a world with zero new victims of landmines will become a reality in my lifetime.

Mine action activities make a considerable strategic contribution to lasting peace in post-conflict situations. The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), was established in 1997 as the United Nations focal point for mine-related actions through an amalgamation of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) Demining Unit and the Mine Clearance and Policy Unit (MCPU) of the Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA). UNMAS is now located in DPKO'S Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions. Last year, over 200,000 landmines were cleared around the world. In Afghanistan alone, over 82,000 anti-personnel mines were removed during 2008 by over 8,000 national staff. Meanwhile, to date in the Sudan, collective efforts have cleared over 28,000 kilometres of road, thereby increasing freedom of movement, reclaiming productive land and reviving trade.

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However, there are still formidable challenges: landmines continue to kill and injure every day, hinder social and economic development, and represent a serious obstacle for delivering humanitarian aid in critical areas of the world. UNMAS will continue to work with agility and determination, until we put our operations out of business. Until this happens the mine action sector will continue to navigate new terrain, adjust to new ideas and remain vigilant to face the challenge of ever-changing methods of warfare.

To achieve our goal of zero new victims of landmines, two key areas must be targeted: local communities and national Governments. The ownership of mine action operations by national Governments and the strength of the partnerships they build with donors, non-governmental organizations (NGOS), humanitarian agencies and local communities is crucial. The United Nations plays an immediate catalytic role in the coordination of global mine action efforts. I am convinced that mine action operations, particularly those which are nationally managed and run, build confidence among the population and Government in the context of peacekeeping, and foster additional programmes to ensure the successful rebuilding of post-conflict States.

NATIONAL OWNERSHIP

Mine action is ultimately the responsibility of individual national governmental authorities. It must therefore be integrated into national reconstruction and development plans at the earliest opportunity. In countries affected by explosive remnants of war, landmine removal is a necessary precursor to post-conflict reconstruction and development. This is also why transitioning UN-led operations into sustainable national operations is a critical element of our work.

Fostering local ownership of mine action operations is a continuing challenge, which is why the transition to national ownership is a key component of the United Nations interagency mine action strategy for 2006-2010. Having had success in Croatia and Afghanistan, UNMAS is currently in the process of transition in the Sudan.

STRENGTH OF PARTNERSHIPS

Mine Action Coordination Centres are frequently cultivated under the direct auspices of local authorities. Our role at the United Nations is to provide assistance at the local levels and to support international cooperation. Strengthening local capacity will ensure the sustainability of the operations at the national level. Local NGOs have proven time and again how vital they are to mine action efforts in countries such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sudan. …

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