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Anti-Landmine Drive To Get Boost At Nairobi Summit

Anti-Landmine Drive To Gain Boost At Upcoming Nairobi Summit - UN Officials

This year's Nairobi Summit for a Mine Free World should generate international momentum towards eradicating the indiscriminate weapons, experts attending a panel at United Nations Headquarters in New York said today.

The Summit, set to take place in the Kenyan capital from 29 November through 3 December, will be "the most important event since the Oslo treaty negotiations and the signing in Ottawa" of the anti-personnel mine ban treaty, said Susan Walker of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a driving force behind that achievement.

The Ottawa Convention, negotiated outside the UN after international talks at the world body failed to produce consensus, mandates a global ban on antipersonnel landmines, the destruction of stockpiles, the clearance of antipersonnel mines, and assistance for victims of those weapons in some 20 countries.

Since the pact entered into force five years ago, 143 countries have ratified or acceded to it - making it law in their territories - while more than 37 million stockpiled landmines have been destroyed.

But at today's event, optimism was tempered with reminders of the ongoing threat posed by these weapons. While major progress has been made since the treaty entered into force, the panelists noted that landmines were still being laid in conflicts in Chechnya, Colombia, Myanmar and Nepal. In addition, 10 million stockpiled mines have yet to be destroyed by States parties.

Canadian Ambassador for Mine Action Ross Hynes warned against complacency. In remarks made on behalf of Ambassador Wolfgang Petrich of Austria, the president-designate of the Nairobi Summit, Mr. Hynes stressed that "the challenge for Nairobi is to make sure people know it hasn't been solved and it has to be."

UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno emphasized the importance of clearing landmines for those missions to succeed. He also voiced hope that the Nairobi Summit would bring the "strong burst of energy and commitment needed to finish the job" set out in the Ottawa treaty.

Kenya's Ambassador to the UN, Judith Mbulua Bahemuka, said that Nairobi was prepared to "provide a major forum for the participants to discuss the problem of landmines…affecting most of us in the third world countries where there have been conflicts."

Reflecting international concern over security, she said that the Kenyan Government had set money aside to fund the Summit and guaranteed that measures were in place to provide maximum protection to those travelling to Nairobi.

The importance of landmine clearance for the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - a set of internationally agreed targets aimed at raising living standards - was stressed by Julia Taft of the UN Development Programme (UNDP). She described how the agency is working to assist countries in setting up mine action centres in a bid to achieve compliance with the Ottawa treaty.

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