Statement to the UN General Assembly regarding assistance with land mines
- Sri Lanka
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY: FOURTH COMMITTEE
Assistance in Mine Action
Statement by H.E. Ms Philippa King, Chargé d'Affaires and Deputy Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Australia's commitment to mine action is long standing and we recognise the significant impact that unexploded ordnance –landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war – has on communities for years after hostilities have ceased.
Australia is committed to addressing these humanitarian impacts within the framework of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and the Convention on Cluster Munitions. We continue to support efforts to universalise these important humanitarian legal instruments.
We welcome the Secretary-General's report on mine action, including the update of progress internationally on mine action over the past two years and the analysis of the UN Inter-Agency Mine Action Strategy 2006-2010. Australia looks forward to working with the UN mine action agencies in the implementation of the new 2011-2015 UN Inter-Agency Mine Action Strategy.
Australia has been an active contributor to mine action internationally and I am pleased to note today that this continues through our $100 million Mine Action Strategy for the Australian Aid Program over the period 2010-2014. Our current program of assistance under this Strategy will bring Australia's support to mine action to $275 million since we signed the Mine Ban Convention in December 1997.
Australia is a long term development partner of some of the most heavily mine affected countries in South East Asia. Across Laos and Cambodia, we have supported removal of landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war from nearly 12 million square metres of land. This land is now used for schools, roads and productive fields. And in Sri Lanka, Australia's contribution to demining has facilitated the return of 18,500 internally displaced persons to their homes.
This year, we have also committed $20 million over four years to support mine action in Afghanistan. This support will assist not only mine clearance but also to build national capacity, increase awareness of mines and explosive remnants of war in local communities, and improve services for mine victims in Afghanistan.
Our experience through these activities has shown that certain approaches to mine action delivery make a difference in maximising the impact of our collective assistance.
First, taking a long-term, integrated and comprehensive approach to mine action, risk education and victim assistance removes the impediments to development that landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war inflict on communities. There is a strong link between effective mine action and progress on the Millennium Development Goals.
Second, supporting countries to develop their own well coordinated and managed national mine action programs improves the effectiveness and sustainability of the assistance. Indeed, supporting mine action initiatives within national development programs helps to broaden the developmental impact of this mine action.
Third, from a donor's perspective, we encourage affected States to utilise the most appropriate method available for clearance of mines and other Explosive Remnants of War. There is a range of practical methods that can be employed to release areas suspected of containing mines, rapidly and with a high level of confidence. This includes using all sources of evidence regarding contamination, undertaking evidence-based clearance, using appropriate clearance technology and involving the local community in decisions on land release.
Fourth, through providing multi-year funding to partners, Australia has been able to enhance the predictability and flexibility of our support, and reduce administrative costs. We urge all donors to consider providing multi-year and flexible financing in this way.
Finally, we have also learnt that a mine action approach which takes into account age and gender considerations, the views of people with disability and those affected by mines, improves the outcomes for all affected community members.
To ensure Australia's assistance is as effective as it can be, we encourage mine affected countries to identify and prioritise mine action within their national development plans. This involves providing national leadership and coordination, demonstrating ownership of national mine action priorities, making national contributions to mine action including ratifying relevant conventions and matching mine action needs with available resources. This is particularly difficult within a constrained and uncertain global economic climate.
To be successful in attracting resources for mine action, affected countries and the mine action community need to demonstrate results that extend to broader development benefits of mine action. Due to the nature of mine action work, it is relatively straight forward to demonstrate results in clearance but it is more challenging to demonstrate benefits to broader development of communities, such as how cleared land has contributed to improved livelihoods and poverty reduction. We would encourage the new UN Inter-Agency Mine Action Strategy to address how these links can be strengthened and articulated, in particular through results-based reporting.
We would also encourage affected countries to continue to develop new partnerships and seek support from non-traditional sources including from new and emerging donors, the private sector and international development banks.
The effective mobilisation and coordination of international assistance is an ongoing challenge for the mine action community. Many benefits flow from better coordinated activities, including more effective matching and channelling of resources; on the ground cooperation between stakeholders on the ground; and analysis and development of innovative approaches to mine action.
We have found that coordination efforts are most effective at the country level, and so Australia will continue to support nationally owned and coordinated mine action programs.
At the global level, we consider there is an opportunity for more strategic partnerships amongst the donor community which would better assist states to achieve or advance their mine action priorities including clearance obligations. So we would welcome future opportunities to explore how assistance efforts can be better coordinated.
Australia is supportive of the efforts to achieve better coordination among the United Nations mine action agencies. We strongly support the role of UNMAS in this regard, and we look forward to the outcomes of the Evaluation of the Joint Inspection Unit.
Australia is undertaking nationally over the coming months a mid-term review of our 2010-2014 Mine Action Strategy. This review will assist in ensuring that Australia's own activities over the next few years continue to be effective, efficient and of maximum benefit to target communities.
Unfortunately threats from mines continue. Not only from those mines that still remain from previous hostilities in 70 countries, but unfortunate recent uses of these destructive munitions. Of particular concern are the new uses of anti-personnel landmines in Libya, Somalia and Sudan during the course of this year.
Australia commends those who have shown great courage in removing land mines and Explosive Remnants of War, often at great personal risk to themselves.
Internationally we must all do more to eliminate the civilian suffering and
impacts of these munitions, and Australia remains committed to working with
others to achieve that objective.