Global efforts are key to saving lives from the “terrifying legacy’” of unexploded ordnance, which wreaks daily havoc in war torn and post-conflict communities, UN officials said when Mine Action Week kicked off.
“For millions living in the chaos of armed conflicts every step can put them in the path of danger,” part of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, observed today (Tuesday, 4 April) read.
The international day’s theme – Mine Action Cannot Wait – highlights decades of contamination in Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos) and Viet Nam, while drawing attention to recent explosive ordnance contamination.
“Even after fighting stops, conflict leaves a terrifying legacy in the form of landmines and explosive ordnance that litter communities.
“Peace brings no assurance of safety when roads and fields are mined, when unexploded ordnance threatens the return of displaced populations and when children find and play with shiny objects that explode,” he said.
The UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) brings together partners to remove these deadly weapons, support national authorities and ensure safe access to homes, schools, hospitals and farmlands. Currently 164 nations have signed the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, known as the Ottawa Treaty.
UNMAS supports the Black Sea Grain Initiative which offers ships safe passage through mined seaways during wartime, ensuring safe export of grain and fertiliser from Ukrainian ports.
While millions of mines have been destroyed and thousands of square kilometres of land cleared, millions remain in Colombia, Laos, Libya and other countries plagued by remnants of war.
“Broader global efforts are needed to safeguard people from mines,” Guterres said, urging UN member states to ratify and fully implement the Ottawa Treaty as well as the conventions on Cluster Munitions and on Certain Conventional Weapons.
“On this international day, take action to end the threat of these devices, support communities and help people return and rebuild their lives” Guterres said.
“Mine action is needed more than ever in the face of global challenges,” according to Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations. “Threats posed by explosive hazards perpetuate humanitarian crises, hinder response and effective peace operations”.
Launched by the UN Secretary-General in 2019, “Safe Ground” is a global campaign centred on “turning minefields into playing fields”, cementing the concept of clearing Earth of landmines and other explosive hazards to make it safe for development.
Focusing on the international day’s theme, UNMAS is holding a symposium at UN Headquarters in New York to raise awareness and seek assistance for continued mine action work with a multi-media exhibit in the UN Visitors’ Lobby.