Regional Workshop on Ammunition Management, Surveys and Clearance

Sep 13, 2015

Speech of UNDP Country Director Ignacio Artaza

Sep 12 – 18, 2015, El Galaa Tulip Hotel, Cairo, Egypt

Excellency, Ambassadors, Distinguished Participants and Representatives, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here amongst you today to attend the launch of the ‘Regional Workshop on Ammunition Management, Surveys and Clearance’, and I am particularly honoured to welcome representatives of Algeria, Chad, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia and Western Sahara, as well as our partners in the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining.

In his message during the Tenth Anniversary of the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stated that “civilians and communities are exposed to an increasingly wide range of explosive hazards, from mines to cluster munitions, unsafe and unsecured weapons and ammunition, and improvised explosive devices.”

In our region, with the increase of conflict and un-conventional warfare, we are extremely concerned by the extensive use of improvised explosive devices by armed groups which pose a major threat to civilians.

It is estimated that, “landmines and other explosive remnants of war kill almost 4,000 people per year worldwide,” while the “global economic cost of unexploded ordnance is estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars a year, often affecting the poorest countries” (Source: UNDP).

And this why we are here today, to support the Arabic-speaking national mine action authorities in eradicating such a threat that has long endangered innocent civilians in the Arab region and worldwide.

This workshop is yet another example of our longstanding successful partnership with Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, especially as it harbors a platform to exchange knowledge and experiences amongst Arab-speaking countries, serving as an excellent model of South-South Cooperation.

The United Nations Development Programme hopes that through this workshop, all participating entities and representatives from the National Mine Action Centers of Arab countries will exchange experiences and expertise, and most importantly enhance their very own knowledge and on safe ammunition management, survey and clearance.

As per the United Nation’s vision in this area, it is important to remind ourselves that we are in dire need of “a world free of the threat of landmines and explosive remnants of war, where individuals and communities live in a safe environment conducive to development and where the needs of victims are met”.

Currently, the United Nations plays a role in mine-action programs in 30 countries and three territories.

In 2014, the United Nations demolished over 400,000 landmines and Explosive Remnant of War and around 2,000 tons of obsolete ammunition.

In so doing, it also cleared more than 1,500 kilometers of roadways, while providing mine risk education to millions of people, and training thousands of military and police officers to handle and safely dispose of explosive hazards. (Source: Secretary-General's Message for 2015)

I wish to highlight the role of national governments and national mine action authorities in these efforts, as fundamental in developing local expertise, mobilizing communities and providing the right support to victims.

As part of the United Nations Mine Action Community, UNDP works closely with governments in post-conflict countries to ensure that mine action efforts are included as an important part of recovery and development.

Clearance activities often occur in tandem with livelihoods support, including small business loans, vocational training and technical help with transport, food storage and livestock handling.

In the Arab World, UNDP has long supported mine clearance in Chad, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, and in Egypt where it has been providing technical assistance to the Executive Secretariat for Mine Clearance and the Development of the North West Coast at the Ministry of International Cooperation (MOIC) since 2007.

I should use this opportunity to thank the European Union and the Governments of New Zealand, Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom for their generous financial assistance without which we would not be able to do our work.

Through the Support to the North West Coast Development and Mine Action Plan project, more than 382 square kilometers out of the estimated 2,395 square kilometers of contaminated land in the North West Coast of Egypt have been cleared, amounting to 16% of contaminated areas.

And thus we hope that through our combined efforts, that we keep on progressing towards effective responses and solutions that can contribute in return towards substantial reduction in mines and ERW, including cluster munitions, casualties and in the production, use and sales of mines and associated weapons, not just in Egypt or the Arab World, but also worldwide.

In conclusion, I would like thank all of you, both co-organizers and participants, for taking part in this event and wish you productive and fruitful discussions.

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