Fourth Committee Unanimously Approves Draft Resolution Urging States to Identify Areas Containing Mines, Other Explosive Remnants of War

16 OCTOBER 2015

As many as 7.9 million people still lived in close proximity to areas affected by landmines, with the use of explosive devices in populated areas gaining more prominence as a feature of modern
warfare, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) heard today as it unanimously adopted a resolution on the matter.

 By other terms of the text, titled “Assistance in Mine Action” (document A/C.4/70/L.8), the Assembly would request that all States support mine-affected countries by providing reliable, predictable and timely contributions for mine action activities, as well as assistance for victims and mine-risk education, especially at the local level.

Introducing the draft resolution on behalf of the European Union, Poland’s representative said his delegation had done its best to ensure that the drafting process was transparent, inclusive and open to all countries wishing to make a contribution. The text reflected changes on the ground and would hopefully contribute to facilitating the work of the “everyday heroes” who put their lives at risk to eliminate the threat posed by mines and other explosive hazards.

Presenting the latest report of the Secretary-General on Assistance in Mine Action, Dmitry Titov, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, said that improvised explosive devices were increasingly being used, adding that, in addition to killing many non-combatants, those that failed to detonate added to the hazards that threatened civilians, impeding peacebuilding and recovery.

Agnès Marcaillou, Director of Mine Action Services, said that, when UNMAS was invited by an affected country, it provided support in a technical way, advising on equipment, training deminers and providing the right expertise to local volunteers. However, the agency must remain selective in its activities because it had neither the staff nor the funding to keep up with demand.
Ancillary activities — including surveying affected areas, conducting risk education and coordinating victim assistance – also fell under the purview of UNMAS. Member States needed to strengthen their partnerships with UNMAS, which also required those in a position to fund it to do so, she said.

Afghanistan’s representative said his country had been struggling with the problem of landmines, explosive remnants of war — including improvised explosive devices — and their devastating consequences, for more than three decades. It remained one of the world’s most heavily mined countries, with an average of 33 Afghan civilians killed or injured by mines each month so far
in 2015. The use of improvised explosive devices, a common tactic used by the Taliban and other terrorist groups, was another threat to civilian life.

Iraq’s representative said that, with 25 million mines, his country was one of the most heavily mined in the world, which undermined sustainable development and threatened lives and livelihoods. Entire villages were populated by amputees, he said, urging the international community to help Iraq demine its territory, carry out civilian awareness programmes and rehabilitate landmine victims.

Egypt’s representative emphasized that countries or entities that planted mines had a legal obligation to remove them, because the prohibitive cost of removing mines and other explosive devices went well beyond the capacity of many countries. With more than 22 million landmines that had caused more than 7,000 causalities, including 3,200 fatalities, and the loss of about
10 per cent of cultivated farmland for development, Egypt remained at the top of the list of affected countries.

Lebanon’s representative said that her country’s armed forces, in collaboration with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), had cleared approximately 4.8 square kilometres of mine-affected land and destroyed more than 35,000 unexploded mines and other ordnance. The Lebanon Mine Action Center was ready to share its success story and technical expertise in demining through partnerships with regional and international actors, in particular the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining and the French army.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Iran, Thailand, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, China, Ukraine, Mali, Colombia, Japan, Libya, Croatia, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Monday, 19 October, to hold a general debate and take action on a proposal relating to the University for Peace, and to begin its general debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

Introduction of Report
DMITRY TITOV, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, presented the report of the Secretary-General on assistance in mine action (document A/70/207), saying it warned of the still significant, and in some cases increasing, use of mines and other explosive devices. Worldwide, as many as
7.9 million people still lived in close proximity to areas affected by mines and other explosive remnants of war. One of the most concerning features of modern conflicts was the use of conventional explosive weapons in populated areas, he said. Furthermore, improvised explosive devices were increasingly being used. In addition to killing many non-combatants, explosives that did not detonate added to the hazards that threatened civilians, impeding peacebuilding and recovery. In countries such as Afghanistan, improvised explosive devices resulted in higher numbers of casualties than landmines.

Mine action remained at the core of the United Nations post-conflict humanitarian response, he continued. The number of requests for the Organization’s emergency humanitarian mine action assistance continued to grow, with the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) as the focal point for mine action. In that role, UNMAS led, coordinated and implemented a coherent, multi-agency response, which reflected the changing realities on the ground. He reported that the international community worked closely with the United Nations system to achieve greater compliance on international legal instruments relating to mine action, whereby 162 countries had acceded to, or ratified, the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty; 93 States had joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions; and 121 States had ratified the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. However, “the rubber truly hit the road” only when those commitments were implemented, he said.

Emphasizing that the world body could and must do more, he said it should continue to secure Government-owned ammunition storage areas, which not only improved security, but also significantly reduced the risk of accidental explosions and, therefore, the killing or maiming of civilians. Secondly, Member States must implement targeted risk education, which provided people with life-saving information and reduced their risk of getting killed by explosive remnants of war, including improvised explosive devices. Thirdly, the United Nations should mainstream assistance to victims and disabilities legislation. Finally, the Organization must accelerate the transfer of mine action functions to national actors and ensure that it was integrated into multilateral instruments, national plans and legislation. It was possible to bring an end to the devastation caused by landmines, he stressed. “Investing in mine action politically and financially yields immediate and long-term returns.”