Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lao PDR and ICRC for organizing this very important regional seminar on landmines, cluster munitions and explosive Remnants of War. On a personal note, I’m very honoured to speak to you tonight. I have been posted to several countries such as Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and now Vietnam and Lao PDR - countries which are all seriously affected by UXOs due to past and recent conflicts. I have seen the devastating consequences of these explosive munitions on the civilians, especially women and children and how they prevent sustainable socioeconomic development.
I am therefore pleased to speak on behalf of Norway as the Presidency of the Mine Ban Convention. This Convention was the result of a partnership between states, civil society, UN and other international organizations based on a shared goal: to protect people from weapons that continue to kill and injure long after a conflict has ended. Much has been achieved since it was signed in Oslo in September 1997. This year, the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention is celebrating 20 years since it entered into force. 164 states have joined the Convention, which is perhaps the most successful multilateral disarmament treaty in recent times.
The Convention requires States Parties to clear mined areas on their territory. It also requires all states parties to assist contaminated states in this endeavor. In fact, vast areas of land have successfully been cleared from the danger of landmines and been released back to local communities all over the world. Thirty one countries have completed clearing their land from the dangers of landmines. These 31 states can now call themselves mine-free! This is a major victory. All but two are states parties to the Mine Ban Convention.
States Parties have also destroyed nearly 52 million stockpiled mines. Each of these 52 million mines destroyed has potentially saved a limb or a life.
Today, 58 states, among them 32 States Parties are still affected by landmines. In many of these states, landmine contamination is low or modest, and with the right approach and commitment, clearance could be completed within a few years. Out of the 10 ASEAN Member States, six are considered affected by landmines, cluster munitions and ERWs to varying degrees, with the main affected areas being in Cambodia, Myanmar, Lao PDR and Vietnam.
We know that mine action is essential to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. A recent UNDP study from Lebanon shows that each dollar spent on mine action returns a benefit of more than four dollars in development. We commend Lao PDR and Cambodia for establishing their own national mine action development goal (SDG) and demonstrating national ownership of this issue.
As presidency, Norway wants to bring renewed political attention to the Mine Ban Convention. The Maputo goal of a mine free world by 2025 remains our objective and rallying cry. The objectives of the Convention - to save lives, protect civilians, assist victims and to enable sustainable development in affected areas - are as relevant as ever. It is a particular responsibility of the president to promote universalization of the Convention and its norm. Regional meetings such as this one are important contributions to sharing best practice and national experiences among affected states, donor countries and civil society. We urge all countries who have not yet done so to accede to this Convention.
The Mine Ban Convention 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. Indeed, it has served to highlight the rights of persons living with disabilities in general. This is important. Even if we are successful in clearing all mines, destroying all stockpiles, survivors will have to live with the legacy of landmines for the rest of their lives. They need access to rehabilitation, to psychosocial support, to education and employment opportunities.
Unfortunately, landmines are not yet a problem of the past. In recent years, we have witnessed new and widespread use of improvised landmines and improvised explosive devices. Most of these are used by non-state armed groups. We have seen a sharp increase in the number of casualties from new use of landmines over the past two years. More than 7000 persons were registered killed or injured by landmines or other explosive ordnance in 2017, 87% of them were civilians and almost half of all casualties were children. Improvised landmines are not a new concept, but the scope and magnitude of the problem is.
As presidency, we have set the following priorities:
Firstly, getting as many affected countries across the finishing line as possible, so that they can declare themselves landmine-free. Secondly, increasing the volume and coordination of risk education efforts for affected communities and groups of people who are particularly vulnerable, including refugees and IDPs, to prevent new casualties from landmines. Thirdly, ensuring a gender perspective in all aspects of mine action. We are in close dialogue with UN agencies, international organisations and humanitarian demining organisations on how to promote policy development and results in these areas.
In November, Norway will be hosting the fourth Review Conference where all States Parties and other stakeholders, including observer countries come together to agree on an action plan for the next five-years. The Oslo Action Plan should help States Parties to fulfil the obligations in the Convention and to get closer to the goal of a mine free world.