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Goff: Launch of the 2006 Landmine Monitor Report

Launch of the 2006 Landmine Monitor Report


Disarmament Minister Phil Goff paid tribute to the work of those dedicated to the eradication of landmines at the launch in Wellington tonight of the 2006 Landmine Monitor Report, produced by the Campaign Against Landmines. Mr Goff spoke of the scope and nature of the problem of unexploded landmines and detailed the New Zealand contribution to the fight against all unexploded munitions.


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I am pleased to be here to launch this year’s edition of the Landmine Monitor.

This is the eighth edition of the report, which monitors the global ban on landmines, and tracks whether countries are implementing and complying with the Ottawa Convention.

It is a significant undertaking. A network of 71 researchers from 62 countries gathered information to produce this year’s version.

It is a valuable effort by civil society to hold governments accountable to their obligations under the Ottawa Convention. This is critical if we are to eliminate landmines and reduce, and end, the awful impact these weapons continue to have on civilian populations in many parts of the world.

Landmines are weapons that do not discriminate between soldiers and civilians, or adults and children.

We are all aware of the humanitarian consequences arising out of their use including death, amputation of limbs, long-term disability and poverty.

The 2006 Landmine Monitor estimates that there are still an appalling 15,000 to 20,000 new casualties from landmines and explosive remnants of war each year.

The Ottawa Convention

But there is, at least, a positive side.

De-mining progress under the Ottawa Convention has been impressive.

Over 740 square kilometres of land was de-mined by mine action programmes in 2005, more than in any previous year.

State parties to the Convention collectively have destroyed nearly 40 million anti-personnel mines since it came into effect in 1997, and around 700,000 in the last year alone.

The Ottawa Convention is a leading model for how disarmament and humanitarian objectives can be pursued together, and can be achieved through partnerships between states and civil society.

In an otherwise bleak period for the international disarmament agenda, the Convention stands out as one of the few bright lights.

Over 150 States are now party to the Convention, representing around 80% of the world’s nations.

New Zealand has consistently called on the 40 states outside the Ottawa Convention to join this treaty.

The Asia-Pacific could be doing better in this regard. Asia stands out as one of the most mine-affected regions in the world. Yet it also has one of the lowest rates of accession to the Convention.

In the Pacific, I am pleased to learn that the Cook Islands ratified the Convention in March of this year though we are still encouraging others of our neighbours to do so.

New Zealand Position

New Zealand ratified the Ottawa Convention in 1999 and is a strong supporter of the Ottawa process.

New Zealand’s main contribution to global mine action has been through assistance from NZAID, to mine clearance operations as well as the UN’s Mine Action Service (UNMAS).

Mine action assistance is an integral component in peacekeeping and peace building, if long-term sustainable development is to be achieved.

De-mining reduces the loss of life and limb and opens up land for economic production.

New Zealand has a strong reputation for its expertise in de-mining.

Through the work of our mine clearance experts, we have helped mine-affected communities re-build and restore their local economies.

We have supported mine clearance operations in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Iraq, and Mozambique through the provision of technical personnel.

Some 117 New Zealand Defence Force personnel, for example, were involved in mine clearing support in Cambodia.

New Zealand has also provided funding support for non-government organisations involved in mine clearance and mine awareness programmes in Cambodia, Laos and Sri Lanka.

Last year, for example, we gave over NZ$340,000 to the Cambodian Trust School of Prosthetics and Orthotics, to train people to make and fit artificial limbs for mine victims.

Our annual contribution to mine clearance and related development activity in 2005/2006 was NZ$1.3 million, down on the previous year as a number of de-mining operations came to an end.

However, NZAID will increase New Zealand’s funding to the UN Mine Action Service to $500,000 per annum from January 2007.

The New Zealand Defence Force contributes an officer to the UN Mine Action Service based in New York. Another officer is serving as an Instructor to the US Department of Defense Humanitarian De-mining Training Centre.

Our New York-based officer is currently serving in Beirut, coordinating action to clear landmines and explosive materials. This is critical for the prevention of further loss of human life and for facilitating delivery of humanitarian aid in Southern Lebanon.

Most of you will be aware of the serious humanitarian created by the use of cluster munitions in Lebanon.

One hundred thousand cluster bomblets are estimated to be lying on the ground in Lebanon. These need to be cleared before people can safely return to normal life.

We are currently considering what further assistance the New Zealand Defence Force can provide in this area.

New Zealand is also taking the lead, in concert with like-minded countries such as Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Ireland, Mexico and Jordan, in calling for strong and legally binding controls on the design and use of cluster munitions.

I would like to acknowledge the work of CALM in raising awareness of this issue.

Looking to the Future

The next few years are going to be particularly challenging for the international mine ban agenda. Mine-affected States Parties will be approaching their ten-year deadline for the destruction of anti-personnel mines in mined areas, as required under Article 5 of the Convention, and a number will not meet their deadline.

Despite all the good work done, vast amounts of land remain to be cleared.

We are urging mine-affected States to put in place comprehensive and realistic plans, continue to train de-miners and to make use of all available resources.

Conclusion

There is now largely an established international norm against the use of landmines, even amongst those states that have not formally subscribed to the Convention.

Since the Convention came into force, major strides have been made in clearing mined areas, destroying stockpiled mines, reducing the number of new victims and assisting more victims.

We are inching closer to creating a world free of anti-personnel mines.

But there is still much more work to do. The information provided by the Landmine Monitor provides both a sobering reminder of this, and an important gauge, and record, of the progress made so far.

In closing, I would like to pay tribute to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, the International Committee of the Red Cross and New Zealand’s Campaign Against Landmines.

Their, and your, work has already helped strengthen the Ottawa Convention. Their dedication to projects such as Landmine Monitor will ensure that the profile of the landmine issue remains at the forefront of political and public consciousness, and it will play a central role in moving to the ultimate goal of a mine-free world.

ENDS

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