International Day for Mine Awareness
Speech of Robert Watkins
UNDP Resident Representative
On the occasion of
International Day for Mine Awareness
and Assistance in Mine Action
Excellency, Mr. Nabih Berri, Speaker of the Parliament
B. General Mr. Imad Odeimi
Members of the Mine Risk Education National Committee
Members of the Mine Victims Assistance National Committee
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Most of us know all too well that land mines, cluster munitions and other forms of Unexploded Ordinance continue to cause enormous human cost in countries across the world through indiscriminate injury and death, mostly affecting civilians. Many are less aware of the additional destructive effects wrought in post-conflict zones, from extensive damages to the environment, to considerable delays in reconstruction and socioeconomic recovery where it is needed most. And whether in the form of a mine victim facing a lifetime of new challenges, a farmer unable to plow his lands, or communities separated by roads that must go unused, these impacts are often felt many years after the original conflict is over.
Lebanon, of course, is no exception. For this reason, I am honored to be with you here today to help mark the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, calling attention both to the challenges that lay ahead and the courageous individuals and institutions taking action to overcome them. UXO, particularly cluster munitions from the 2006 conflict, remains a challenge in Lebanon. This is especially so in the South, where 54 civilians have lost their lives and 363 more have faced trauma and disability since the conflict. And we must not forget those who literally put their lives on the line each day, paying tribute to the 8 courageous de-miners who have been killed and 36 who have suffered injuries during mine clearance operations.
Fortunately, through the concerted efforts of national authorities, NGOs, civil society, the UN and bilateral donors, there have been many successes worldwide since the Anti-Personnel Mine-Ban Convention came into force 14 years ago followed by the Convention on Cluster Munitions 2 years ago, including a steady decline in casualty rates, the return of areas formerly contaminated to productive civilian use, and the destruction of tens of millions of deadly UXO.
In Lebanon, the United Nations Development Programme along with other UN organizations and NGOs have worked hand-in-hand with the Government to support the effective implementation of the Lebanon Mine Action Strategy for a nation free of this indiscriminate threat. After more than a decade of cooperation, thousands of landmines and cluster munitions have been destroyed, more than 37 million square meters cleared, and the recovery of rural livelihoods and infrastructure supported in hundreds of the most affected communities.
To maintain this momentum and achieve the Lebanon Mine Action Center’s goal of another 17 million square meters of land cleared by 2016, the Government and UNDP renewed their collaboration at the beginning of this year with the signing of a 3-year third phase of the joint “Support to the Mine Action Progamme”, made possible through generous support from the European Union. I would also like to thank the governments of Norway, Austria and Korea for their support to the UNDP programme.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is indeed remarkable that Lebanon has been able to turn the terrible story of a heavily mine-affected country into the narrative of a leader, assisting other nations that are suffering from similar experiences. From demining and mine risk education to victim assistance, Lebanon’s leadership in this area has been acknowledged by delegations from the many countries that have come here to learn in recent years.
Yet there remain three major instruments that carry great significance and relevance to mine action that remain unaddressed: the Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons; the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and the Anti-Personnel Mine-Ban Convention. UNDP reaffirms its continued support to the universalization of all of these instruments and encourages Lebanon to embrace each, especially the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that Lebanon signed in 2007 but has not yet ratified.
I would like to conclude by thanking our partner countries whose generous support of the mine action programme in Lebanon has been critical to the fulfillment of the LMAC mandate.
And I applaud the leadership of the Ministry of Defense, especially the Lebanon Mine Action Center, for such determined leadership and professionalism in making the country safer. On behalf of the UN, we look forward to working together closely with you in this noble cause.
Finally, I wish to conclude with a special word of appreciation and admiration for all of the mine action personnel working in Lebanon, national and international, Government and non-government, especially the de-miners who perform their daily duties with courage, professionalism and the knowledge that they are risking their lives for a safer Lebanon. In you, we can all take pride.