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Australia is renewing its efforts to address the horrific effects of anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) by committing $75 million for mine action over the next five years. This is in addition to the $100 million that Australia has spent on mine action over the past ten years.
Landmines and ERW are serious obstacles to sustainable development in many of the world's poorest countries. Most of the 82 countries affected by anti-personnel mines and ERW continue to report new casualties, many of them children.
Australia was one of the original signatories of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, also known as the Ottawa Convention. In keeping with Australia's obligations under the Convention, the Australian Defence Force destroyed Australia's stockpile of antipersonnel landmines in 1999, years ahead of the deadline.
Australia is a leading contributor to international mine clearance, mine awareness and victim assistance. This renewed pledge will enable Australia to broaden its mine action efforts over the next five years to include more advocacy work in countries that are not signatories to the Convention. It will also allow increased support for victim assistance, mine risk education, and the funding of partnerships with Australian and multilateral agencies and the broader community to combat the continuing threat posed by anti-personnel mines and ERW.
The $100 million expended over the past decade by Australia has been directed largely to our region, particularly Cambodia and Laos. Laos is the most heavily bombed country in the world on a per capita basis. During the Indochina conflict some 2 million tonnes of bombs were dropped on the country leaving a deadly legacy of ERW.
Between 1996 and 2005, Australia will have provided around $9 million to combat the ERW problem in Laos. Australia will increase its support by contributing up to $1.5 million annually, commencing this financial year. Assistance is likely to include integrated support for clearance, mine action information and victim assistance. Australia has recently committed $480,000 to Swiss NGO Fondation Suisse de Deminage (FSD) for clearance of ERW in heavily contaminated districts of the country.
Other significant recipients of Australian aid for mine action include Afghanistan, Burma, Iraq, Mozambique, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
Australia's Special Representative for Mine Action, the Hon. Bruce Billson MP, will continue playing an important role in this regard.
For further information on Mine Action, please visit http://www.ausaid.gov.au/human/landmines.cfm
Media inquiries: Chris Kenny (Mr
Downer's office) 0419 206 890
AusAID (Public Affairs) 0417 680 590