As Landmines Claim Over 9,000 Lives, Guterres Calls for a Global Commitment to Mine-free World

317 views | Akpan Akata | April 4, 2021

Berlin, Germany - November 04: Antonio Guterres, High Commissioner for Refugees of UNHCR, attends a press conference in german foreign office on November 04, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Michael Gottschalk/Photothek via Getty Images)

United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, is calling on the international community to recommit to the target of a mine-free world, urging efforts to “make this the last decade when we need to devote ourselves to this task.”

The Security Council in the dying days of June 2018 heard that despite international efforts, the number of people killed or injured by landmines and other explosive hazards has been rising following years of decline.

Alexander Zouev, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions, said the number of casualties has surpassed 8,500; citing information from the latest annual report by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

He said this “unfortunate trend” was the result of ongoing conflicts, as well as difficulty in accessing contaminated areas during active combat.

“That figure represents over twice as many victims as four years ago. Over 2,000 of those victims were killed; nearly a quarter of them were children,” he said.

“Considering the difficulty of gathering data during active conflicts, it is likely that the actual number of casualties is much higher.”

The Council met to take stock of developments since the adoption last year of its first stand-alone resolution on mine action.

Resolution 2365, tabled by Bolivia, highlights the importance of including mine action in the early stage planning for peacekeeping operations and humanitarian response.

Sacha Sergio Llorenty Soliz, the country’s UN ambassador, listed how it can improve the lives of people in communities emerging from conflict.

“For example: the use of land for farming, the return of girls and boys to school, re-establishing water and electric supply, is only possible after an exhaustive clean-up,” he said.

As Zouev explained, mine action is vital not only for saving lives but as a precursor for peacebuilding, stabilization and sustainable development.

And with nearly 60 peacekeepers killed last year in incidents involving explosive devices, it is also critical to the safety of UN personnel on the ground.

“Moreover, mine action helps prevent explosive material from being harvested for use by armed groups”, he said.

“This makes mine action a vital element of the nexus between peace and security and development, and a cornerstone in preventing any relapse into future conflicts.”

In a message commemorating the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, marked annually this April 4, Guterres called on all nations that have not yet acceded to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention “to do so without delay”.

Having opened for signature in 1997, over 160 states are now parties to the treaty, formally known as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction.

“We sometimes make progress on clearing mines only to see it rolled back”, Mr. Guterres said, stressing that “we cannot be content simply with advocacy and campaigning to create awareness of the dangers posed by landmines.”

“The United Nations Charter calls us to complete the work: to survey, clear and destroy these deadly devices”, the UN chief highlighted.

In addition to indiscriminately killing and maiming thousands globally, landmines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) hamper social and economic developments, keep farmers from their fields, close schools, hinder reconstruction, and block safe delivery of humanitarian aid.

Children are at a higher risk of severe injury and death, as they often mistake the deadly explosives for toys.

‘One landmine can wreck a community’ 

James Bond actor Daniel Craig, who is the UN Global Advocate for the Elimination of Mines and Explosive Hazards, also highlighted the dangers.

“One landmine can wreck a community: kill a father, a mother, and all too often a child”, he said.

Craig went on to note that in addition to new explosive contamination due to ongoing conflicts, there is old contamination in places where fighting stopped decades ago.

For instance, landmines and explosive contamination still pollute wide swaths of Viet Nam, where the war officially ended more than 45 years ago, while in Syria the decade-long conflict not only killed thousands and displaced millions, but also resulted in thousands of tons of new contamination.

“The fighting needs to stop. The clearance needs to begin in earnest and at scale”, Mr. Craig urged.

The UN Global Advocate also called on everyone to “do whatever you can, in whatever position you hold”, to achieve the vision of a world where individuals and communities “live in safe homes, on safe ground, in safe environments”.

“Let’s stay focused”, he urged, calling on nations “to keep their eye on the end-goal of ridding the world of landmines and explosive remnants of war”.

Craig also praised those working around the world, during the COVID-19 pandemic to clear and destroy hundreds of thousands of explosives in 2020, from landmines, to unexploded bombs and improvised explosive devices.



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