The International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action
Long after wars are waged some weapons remain a lurking threat to civilians in the peacetime that follows. Landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) are indiscriminate weapons that wait for years and sometimes decades maiming and killing children, farmers and everyday citizens.
On April 4th, the United Nations commemorates the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action all over the world to bring awareness to this man-made crisis. This Day raises awareness about the threat caused by landmines and ERW to the safety, health and lives of civilian populations, and encourages Governments to eradicate this danger. Humanitarian mine action was, and still is, about people. Several activities to mark the day are taking place all over Lebanon to help renew public and media interest in mine action and to maintain the momentum achieved toward a world free from landmines and explosive remnants of war.
Lebanon’s vital mine clearance work is not only preventing accidents from happening, but it is also opening up roads and enabling rural communities to put their farmland back into productive use. Thousands of explosive remnants of war have been secured or cleared from schools, roads or residential areas, tens of thousands of people have received mine risk education, and many have benefited from mine victim assistance. These achievements, in addition to the ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions by the Lebanese Government, have enabled Lebanon to steadily progress in its recovery journey towards a safer, more sustainable country. Lebanon successfully turned its suffering caused by these vicious and indiscriminate weapons into a source of strength, resilience and leadership while the Lebanon Mine Action Center (LMAC) is now recognized as a center of reference sharing generously its expertise with the affected countries.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) remains committed to working closely with national authorities and non-governmental organizations to foster the legislative, social, and economic conditions that enable mine victim survivors to realize their rights as full, productive members of society. It urges Lebanon to ratify the “Access and Rights of People with Disability” law in order to shift from a more charity based approach to one where persons with disabilities are accorded their full rights with dignity.
The excellent cooperation between the LMAC, UNDP, EU and mine clearance organizations, has yielded the impressive clearance of 70.50% of cluster bomb strikes areas, 34% of the dangerous areas (booby traps and nuisance mines) and 48% of the minefields (excluding the Blue line). At the same time, the LMAC noted with great concern during the recently concluded Meeting of the State Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Zambia that Lebanon at present will be unable to meet its 2016 timeline due to the combined impact of shortages in funding for clearance operations and the identification of new areas contaminated by landmines dating back to the civil war period. This delay in achieving a Lebanon free of cluster munitions and other ERW means that these weapons will continue to restrict people’s freedom of movement, hinder socio-economic development, and sadly result in more loss of life and limb that could be prevented. The need for strong partnerships and continued support from the international community is as important as ever.