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UN officials see progress in eliminating landmines but urge further action

17 September 2007 On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Anti-Personnel Mine-Ban Treaty, over a dozen United Nations officials have joined their voices to hail progress in reducing these weapons while urging greater action to eliminate them.

In a joint statement issued by the heads of UN departments, agencies, funds and programmes that are members of the UN Mine Action Team, 14 officials said the steady decline in casualty rates, the return of formerly mined areas to productive civilian use and the destruction of tens of millions of these indiscriminate weapons are “encouraging” developments.

“The Anti-Personnel Mine-Ban Treaty is a testament to what can be achieved when the international community works collectively to tackle a grave humanitarian and development challenge,” the officials said.

The UN Mine Action Team of organizations collectively pledged to exert all possible efforts to assist mine-affected countries in meeting their obligations to clear mined areas, assist victims, destroy stockpiled mines, and educate all people about the dangers of mines and explosive remnants of war.

“Mine-affected countries themselves should also do everything in their power to meet their obligations. We call on those in a position to do so to support all aspects of mine action for as long as it takes to finish the job,” the officials said.

Tomorrow’s anniversary coincides with the opening of the General Assembly’s sixty-second session, and the statement urges participants to “rise to the challenge of protecting the rights of the estimated 400,000 people who have survived mine and explosive remnant of war accidents.”

They also called on all States to ratify the new Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to develop a legally binding instrument prohibiting cluster munitions “that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.”

The statement was endorsed by Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO); Kemal Dervis, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP); Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); High Representative Sergio de Queiroz Duarte of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs; Under-Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guéhenno of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations; António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); John Holmes, Emergency Relief Coordinator; Jan Mattsson, Executive Director of the Office for Project Services; Rachel N. Mayanja, Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women; Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP); Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF); and Robert B. Zoellick, President of the World Bank.

“As the world reflects on the progress made by mine-affected countries in the past 10 years, we also look forward to the next decade, envisioning a world free from the suffering caused by anti-personnel mines,” they said.

At a press conference earlier this year, Mr. Guéhenno estimated that up to 20,000 people each year are killed by landmines, some dating from conflicts that have long ended.

Officially known as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, the pact is also known as the Ottawa treaty for the city where it was signed on 18 September 1997.

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