On 4 April, we observed the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, and I was privileged to speak at an event at the United Nations, organized by the Permanent Mission of Germany to the UN and the UN Mine Action Services.
Why does UNDP work in this area? Why does it matter? Did you know that UNDP has been supporting mine action initiatives for 25 years now — in over 40 countries, since launching our first programme in Cambodia in 1993? Working with a range of partners, our focus has been on the link between mine action and sustainable development, linked centrally to our core mandate of poverty reduction. We support mine action so that local communities can (re)build after conflict and put their communities back onto the road to development. Without the safe spaces created in mine-affected communities, launching emergency job programmes, local area development initiatives, reconstruction of damaged infrastructure, implementation of repatriation plans, and rebuilding trust and the social contract would not be possible.
It’s worth reading a blog post by my colleague Olaf Juergenson who reflects beautifully on the linkage between mine action and the consequences of continuing and escalating conflicts for many other areas of humanitarian and development action. What awaits refugees and IDPs who dream of returning to their homes? “The ‘choice’ to return will be fraught with the danger in the very landscapes they cherish most. To put this in perspective, in the case of Syria, the level of explosive hazardous contamination posed by landmines and unexploded ordnances is staggering. In 2018 OCHA reported that there was an explosive incident inside the borders of Syria every 10 minutes and over 8 million Syrians are at risk. In Ukraine, there has been an uptick in incidents as displacees informally return to farm in the 50-km wide zone-of-conflict separating the two-warring sides. As we are reminded in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the legacy of conflict can take decades to over-come and despite the on-going efforts of UNDP and the international community, over 2 percent of its territory remains blocked from full productive use.”
UNDP’s thinking is articulated in the 2016 Development and Mine Action Support Framework, which focuses on:
Translating mine action into sustainable development dividends, particularly jobs, livelihoods, food security, and water and sanitation. For instance, in Laos, UNDP supported the Government to put cleared land into productive use and enhance the efficiency of clearance actions, through new survey methodologies for clearing Unexploded Ordinance (UXO), which are aligned with international standards. (In 2016, Lao PDR was the first country in the world to adopt a national SDG-18 on Mine Action.)
Strengthening national institutions that accelerate development benefits for the countries and people affected by landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW). For example, in Tajikistan, UNDP has supported the capacity development of the National Mine Action Centre. The Tajikistan national experts now support neighbouring countries (including Russian-speaking) as part of South-South exchanges.
Supporting international normative frameworks on mine action, advocating for and supporting the universalization and implementation of a number of normative frameworks such as the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC), the Convention of Cluster Munitions (CCM). This has contributed to landmine-free countries such as Albania, Guinea-Bissau, Jordan, Mozambique and Uganda, which declared themselves free of known mine fields, meeting demining obligations under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty. There’s also need to link urgently with others such as the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD).
These aspects are critical to our efforts to answer the call of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as articulated in our 2017 study (jointly with the Geneva Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) on Leaving No One Behind: Mine Action and the Sustainable Development Goals, which show the direct links between mine action and a range of SDGs. For example, releasing land not only has direct impacts on reducing violence and fear (Goal 16), it is also seen as an indirect accelerator for several other SDGs, including SDG 1 (Poverty), SDG 2 (Hunger), SDG 3 (Health), and SDG 8 (Inclusive growth). Add to that SDG 5 (Gender), SDG 10 (Inequality) and almost all of the others! We are now using the study to design mine action policy and programmes within the context of SDG implementation.
The UN is working well together in this area, guided by the Strategy on Mine Action (2013–2018). But, looking ahead, there is still much more to do to reduce the risks and build better development futures for mine-affected communities:
Raise awareness at the international and national level on the role that mine action can play in achieving the SDGs, including by capturing country-level evidence that brings a broader voice to the work and impact of mine action.
Mobilize financing and new partnerships to accelerate the efforts made so far.
Third, working closely with the UN Interagency Coordination Group to help ensure that the new UN Strategy on Mine Action (2019–2023) is linked closely to SDG implementation.
Most of us in the development community have never had to think about, let alone, deal with the impacts of landmines. Mine Action Day is a good reminder that others — a distressingly increasing number of women, men and children — are not so fortunate.
And for an infinitely more compelling messenger listen to Daniel Craig on this issue, in his role as UN Global Advocate for the Elimination of Mines and Explosive Hazards.