Takeaways from the Report of the United Nations Secretary General on Assistance in Mine Action

Recently, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, issued his bi-annual report on the United Nations’ mine action work in the period August 1, 2013 to July 31, 2015. The report consolidates activities of an alphabet soup of UN agencies including UNMAS, UNDP, UNICEF and the UNOHCHR which are coordinated through the Inter-Agency Coordination Group on Mine Action.  This Group is one of the largest and most important actors in mine action so the report from the Secretary General covers a lot of ground and all of the pillars of mine action.

The UN estimates that 7.9 million people live in areas polluted by landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW).  Another 4.7 million pass through mine affected areas as a result of seasonal or annual migration.  That’s a total of 12.6 million people affected by mines, or more than the population of London, Paris or Rio de Janeiro. The UN does not estimate the number of refugees or internally displaced persons who, by the nature of their displacement, are threatened by mines as they seek safety.  The dangers from mines and ERW are changing with landmines becoming, generally, less of a threat and ERW presenting more risk, but several conflicts, including those in Libya and Somalia are resulting in additional affected areas and populations.

During the reporting period 6 million people in 18 countries or territories received mine risk education messages from UN agencies.  Mine risk education is incorporated into school curricula in many mine-affected countries, but research is also showing that poverty and conflict are driving persons to knowingly take risks including passing through minefields or tampering with devices for scrap-metal. In the disputed regions of Abyei and Western Sahara, UN agencies and partners have engaged in clearance and survey to increase the known safe areas for cultivation and water access.

UN agencies are also active in war zones, providing emergency clearance and risk education to South Sudan enabling the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Victim assistance is an evolving area of support for the United Nations. The UN is in the final stages of developing and releasing its policy on victim assistance to best reflect recent developments including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.  As the policy is being developed, the UN has continued to provide victim assistance support through the creation of a mine victims database in Egypt, provision of prosthetic and assistive devices to survivors in Mali and economic reintegration programs in Sudan and South Sudan.

Lastly, the UN works to strengthen the capacity of national mine action authorities to address their own mine action problems.  In Somalia, the UN fostered the creation of the Somali Explosives Management Agency, and in Mali and South Sudan the UN helped the national governments to draft the annual transparency reports required by conventions related landmines.

The full report is here: Assistance in Mine Action

Michael P. Moore

September 24, 2015

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

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