Cambodia

Cambodia's Technical Working Group (TWG) on Mine Actions Meeting: Remarks by Ms. Sonali Dayaratne, Officer-in-Charge, UNDP Cambodia

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Chim riep sur! Good morning!

Your Excellency Ly Thuch, Senior Minister, First Vice-President of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA), and Chairman of the Technical Working Group on Mine Action,

Your Excellency General Sem Sovanny, Second Vice-President of CMAA,

Your Excellency Prum Sophak-monkol, CMAA Secretary-General,

Excellency Ambassadors,

Heads of agencies and organizations,

Excellencies,

Distinguished Delegates,

Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning. On behalf of UNDP Cambodia, it is my great pleasure to join today’s Technical Working Group on Mine Action in the role of Development Partner Lead Facilitator.

I would like to start by extending our appreciation to H.E. Ly Thuch and the CMAA team for their efforts in organizing today’s event and for the valuable and insightful opening remarks by the Excellency Chair. I understand during 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in this meeting being postponed, so I am very pleased we’ve been able to meet today, albeit virtually, given the significance of the Technical Working Group on Mine Action for policy dialogue and development coordination.

I was also pleased to see the theme of today’s meeting, ‘consolidating achievements and overcoming challenges’ as we, the mine action stakeholders in this platform, have a duty to have the difficult conversations and find solutions to enable safe land for the socio-economic development of Cambodia and her people.

There is no doubt that over the past 30 years, the mine action sector in Cambodia has established itself as a mature, capable sector, with the achievements shared by Your Excellency exemplifying this. The presence of relevant Royal Government institutions, operators, and development partners today reaffirms the significance of mine action in Cambodia and the national, regional, and global support to the shared goal of a mine free Cambodia by 2025.

We also agree that much work remains to achieve the Royal Government’s commitments under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. As we near the end of 2021, we are at a crucial point in time for Cambodia to overcome the challenges, to ensure international commitments are achieved and the people of Cambodia can live in peace and prosperity, unencumbered by the threat of mines.

The past 18 months have been particularly challenging for all, and the mine action sector has in no way been immune to the impacts of COVID-19. While we have seen responsive shifts in Government and development partner priorities and associated redirection of resources to meet the growing social and economic costs of the pandemic; I must express my sincere appreciation to CMAA and all mine action stakeholders for the sustained commitment to the mine action sector which has continued to see commendable results during this unprecedented period.

The pandemic has begun to impact on demining operations - through various lockdowns or colleagues across national and provincial institutions and operators facing quarantine periods. It has also seen an increase in returning migrant workers crossing the borders, in particular those returning from Thailand – some taking unofficial routes and navigating the densely landmine contaminated border area.

We know that the ongoing limited access to clearance along the Cambodian/Thai border poses dangers to civilian lives amongst retuning migrants and to the expanded population in this area, whose need for productive land has pushed them further into the contaminated region. It also presents a challenge to declaring the Kingdom of Cambodia mine free by 2025.

UNDP appreciates the efforts of the Royal Government, CMAA and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces to find a workable solution to this matter. UNDP stands with the Royal Government in these efforts and is currently focusing our clearance activities in these highly contaminated areas. However, without access, clearance cannot go ahead, and operators will face challenges in identifying minefields for clearance where it is most needed in the very near future.

We also hope that the continued and valuable contribution of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, and in particular the Royal Cambodian Army (RCA), will be intensified. We understand projections seek an additional 2,000 deminers from the Royal Army. However, to mobilize these platoons, we must first mobilize the financial resources. Even with in-kind human resource support, the cost of training, equipping, and deploying these additional RCA deminers needs to be met. We urge all development partners and importantly States Parties in a position to do so, to revise current commitments and provide the necessary funding to this effort in the spirit of cooperation and support under the Convention and Oslo Action Plan.

I am pleased to see a representative from the Ministry of Economy and Finance here today. The Royal Government’s current pledge of 10 percent cost sharing to the UNDP Clearing for Results project has been a significant indicator of the Royal Government’s commitment. We must all work together to progressively transition the mine action sector to one that is sustainably financed domestically to manage residual threats.

But before residual threats are managed, the 2025 target must be met. UNDP is working with CMAA on designing a feasibility study to guide efforts towards 2025. Specifically, to identify the operational, technical, financial and scheduling requirements for a quantifiable pathway towards the RGCs goal of a mine-free Cambodia by 2025, and to ensure limited resources are directed towards maximizing our potential to achieve the 2025 target. We hope our development partners will support this endeavor.

The other piece of work which is coming to fruition is the Mine Free Village Guideline. UNDP is testing this model in our current practice, while the Guideline is being finalized and preparations are underway for piloting and revisions with lessons learned, and eventual national implementation. We urge all development partners when able, to leverage and mobilize the resources required which can be directly targeted into villages, communes, and provinces to declare the area completely and irrevocably mine free – an investment which can catalyze socio-economic development for these highly vulnerable communities.

Given the breadth of humanitarian and development agendas mine action contributes to, mine action requires planning and coordination at national and local levels, and the involvement of national, international, commercial, NGO and military stakeholders operating under a variety of conditions. We appreciate the unwavering commitment and cooperation of all parties in this process to the fullest extent possible. By understanding our synergies, win-win interventions, possible divergences and trade-offs, this platform can better prioritize mine action as an accelerating element to advance multiple Sustainable Development Goals and the common objective to leave no one behind.

As the mechanism to support the Royal Government’s efforts to facilitate technical dialogue, and coordinate and mobilize external assistance to implement sector strategies and plans; the TWG-MA mirrors the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention’s traditional spirit of cooperation and transparency. I encourage today’s discussion to also be founded in the guiding principles of the TWG-MA: Ownership, Partnership, Alignment and Results, and Accountability.

UNDP is looking forward to today’s productive and open dialogue, to acknowledge progress achieved thus far, share key insights, capture lessons learned and discuss collective solutions to emerging challenges within the mine action sector here in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

In conclusion, permit me to reiterate UNDP’s commitment to support the Royal Government of Cambodia and CMAA in their mandate to lead and coordinate all stakeholders involved within the mine action sector.

Thank you.