Full text of Ambassador Løchen's address at the Session.
Good morning everybody!
It is a pleasure and honour to be invited to make a presentation on the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) from the perspective of international cooperation and assistance. I would like to start by thanking the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for organising this important seminar. We think it is important to discuss what it means to be a state party to Conventions such as the CCM, and what the requirements are related to reporting and to clearance.
The CCM celebrates the 10th anniversary of its entry into force this year (1 August). Since its adoption, we have seen the establishment of a strong norm against use of cluster munitions that is widely respected.
Vietnam has suffered several conflicts and wars and is one of the most heavily contaminated countries in the world from cluster munition remnants (CMR), while contamination also remains from aircraft bombs and other types of explosive remnants of war (ERW). The whole country is affected. These hidden killers have killed and injured more than 140,000 people since 1975 and they continue to be a serious threat against the people of Vietnam and socio-economic development, even after peace was achieved.
Last year, I visited Quang Tri Province, one of the most affected provinces by cluster munition remnants. I met an all-female Vietnamese clearance team and saw the importance of a coordinated and holistic approach to mine action in terms of survey, clearance, mine risk education and a transparent information management system accessible to all stakeholders involved. I was very much impressed.
With Vietnam’s ambitious international role as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and the Presidency of ASEAN, with your intentions to contribute to more UN peacekeeping forces and having mine action as one of your top international priorities, this seminar is both timely and very important also in terms of providing credibility to Vietnam’s ambitions of being seen as a responsible international partner.
It is a priority for Norway and other friends of the CCM to increase the number of State Parties and to promote and strengthen the norm against any use of cluster munitions. Our point of departure is the need to protect people from the effects of these weapons.
The use of cluster munitions has generally been very limited since the adoption and entry into force of the Convention 10 years ago. As a result of the Convention, stockpiles of these weapon are being destroyed in record numbers, and vast areas of land have been cleared of unexploded remnants. However, we continue to be deeply concerned about reports of the use of cluster munitions in Syria, in Eastern Ukraine, Libya and Yemen.
We, therefore, hope Vietnam will seriously consider joining the majority of other states in prioritizing an end to the civilian suffering caused by these weapons, and join the other 108 States as a State Party to the CCM. You are the best to know and experiencing the human suffering of these weapons. Norway supports Switzerland in their current role as presidency of the Convention and look forward to adopting in Lausanne in November a new action plan for implementation of all aspects of the Convention for the next five years.
We encourage participation from State non-Parties to the Convention such as Vietnam at the Review Conference in Lausanne later this year. Such participation is one way to learn more about the Convention and for states like Vietnam to inform the State Parties to the CCM about which measures you are taking to support the norm established by the Convention, including clearance and risk education – and which challenges you experience.
The Convention requires all state parties to assist contaminated states in this endeavor. Norway has taken this obligation seriously. Norway has been supporting mine action for 25 years, and we are currently funding mine action in 20 countries and areas. I am also pleased to confirm that we have increased funding for clearance in Vietnam this year through NPA (Norwegian People’s Aid). We are closely following the actions taken by the Vietnamese authorities and its increased willingness to work with all stakeholders in the sector, also internationally.
Each donor is different. Norway works through direct partnerships with humanitarian demining organization such as NPA, Halo Trust and Mines Advisory Group (MAG). Between them, they have vast experience from all parts of the world, and have been at the forefront of developing international standards for survey and clearance for the whole sector. I have been posted to many conflict ridden countries through my diplomatic career and I have met these organizations in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and now Lao PDR and Vietnam. I know their professionalism and their dedication. An important task is to train and increase national capacities and to ensure national ownership. It is all about joint efforts and coordination.
As an example, - Norway has a longtime partnership with neighboring Lao PDR, which is a state party to the CCM from its beginning in 2008. We support them in achieving their clearance obligations by the deadlines set by the Convention. Laos has realised that it will not be able to clear contaminated areas by the current deadline of 2021, and has asked for an extension which is likely to be agreed at the Review Conference later this year.
As a donor, we focus on effective use of resources and on the greatest possible impact on the ground. In many affected states clearance of contaminated areas progresses slowly. It is necessary to identify the real extent of the problem in order to address it effectively. This is one example of an area where international assistance and cooperation is available and useful through showcasing methods to increase survey and clearance efficiency. Vietnam would benefit from updating its current national plan with clear targets for survey and clearance. Another area where assistance is available is risk education efforts for affected communities and groups of people who are particularly vulnerable, such as women and children. Ensuring a gender perspective in all aspects of mine action is key.
I would like to add that the Mine Ban Convention (1998) was the first international disarmament treaty to recognize the rights of victims and survivors. This recognition has served as an inspiration for how other conventions seek to meet the needs and ensure the rights of victims. The CCM has developed this aspect even further. These conventions have served to highlight the rights of persons living with disabilities in general. Survivors will need access to rehabilitation, to psychosocial support, to education and to employment opportunities for the rest of their lives.
We know that clearance of contaminated areas is essential to alleviating poverty and to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. Some of the most contaminated areas are also the most remote and the least developed. Cleared land can be released to local communities for agriculture, infrastructure and tourism and as such paves the way for social and economic development. Clearance of cluster munitions is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. The importance of the COVID-19 economic recovery underscores this fact.
A recent UNDP study from Lebanon shows that each dollar spent on mine action returns a benefit of more than four dollars in development.
Norway thinks that the establishment of a forum for dialogue between all interested parties in the capital of each affected country is helpful to increasing interest in mine action and in improving progress. National authorities, donors, operators and UN agencies benefit from meeting regularly and addressing challenges and opportunities. It builds trust and effectiveness through transparent information sharing. Important that all stakeholders are represented. I commend Vietnam for having such a forum. I attended one in Hanoi last December when I reported back from the Oslo Review Conference on the Mine Ban Treaty last November.
Once again thank you for letting me share Norway’s views and experiences. One last point, by signing the CCM, Vietnam will have all signatory countries’ support and international recognition, and then Vietnam could use its great experience of removing these munitions from its land to assist and help other countries affected.
Xin cam on! Thank you!