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Assistance in mine action - Report of the Secretary-General (A/76/283) [EN/AR/RU/ZH]

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I. Introduction

1. The present report, covering the period from August 2019 to July 2021, is submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 74/80 on assistance in mine action. The report covers the implementation of the Strategy of the United Nations on Mine Action 2019–2023 and highlights the perseverance of United Nations mine action in the face of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, which had led to restricted rotations of personnel and the suspension of many in-person training sessions and community-based explosive ordnance risk education initiatives, had exacerbated the vulnerabilities of communities affected by explosive ordnance contamination and had worsened access challenges for persons with disabilities. The pandemic also created financial uncertainty, which persists to the present day.

2. While data provided by United Nations programmes in 2019 indicated that 15,764 casualties had been caused by landmines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices, data reported in 2020 showed a decrease of 35 per cent in such casualties, to 10,102. The change was likely attributable to movement restrictions imposed by the pandemic, limiting both casualties and data collection, as well as to budgetary cuts, which may have also stymied data collection. In some instances, the reduction appears to correlate with positive developments, for example, in Somalia, where the liberation by the Somali armed forces of areas controlled by Al-Shabaab in the Shabelle Hoose region led to a decrease in large-scale improvised explosive device attacks, which historically caused significant casualties. Although Iraq recorded the highest number of casualties, followed by the Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia, all except Yemen showed reduced casualties in 2020 as compared with 2019.

3. Improvised explosive devices accounted for 57 per cent of casualties caused by explosive ordnance and recorded by United Nations mine action actors and entities in 2019, and 56 per cent in 2020,2 with non-State armed groups employing those devices in a variety of ways to cause maximum harm. Magnetic improvised explosive devices, which are quick and easy to emplace, were used increasingly in Afghanistan, while improvised explosive devices placed in empty homes in Libya targeted returning civilians. Indications of the transfer of components and methodologies for th e usage of improvised explosive devices across borders and regions, as seen, for example, between Burkina Faso and Mali, Somalia and Yemen, and Cameroon and Nigeria, underscored the need for a regional and multidisciplinary response.

4. While much progress was made in the clearance of legacy contamination, including in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Viet Nam, new or worsened contamination was recorded in areas that suffered ongoing or escalating hostilities, for example, in and around Nagorno-Karabakh in the South Caucasus subregion, in Myanmar and in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. In the Central African Republic, an asymmetric attack on peacekeepers using explosives signalled the emergence of a new explosive threat requiring a mine action response. The urbanization of conflict and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas continued to cause suffering among civilians. When explosive weapons were used in populated areas in 2020, 88 per cent of those killed and injured were civilians, compared with 16 per cent when used in other areas (S/2021/423). The use of explosive weapons in populated areas also generated complex contamination, negatively affecting the work of first responders and of humanitarian and development agencies. Explosive ordnance also fuelled humanitarian emergencies and displacement. Of the 82.4 million people who had been forcibly displaced worldwide at the end of 2020 as a result of conflict- and climate related emergencies, many faced threats from explosive ordnance on their migration routes and in their efforts to return home. In particular, reports from Cameroon in 2021 indicated that suicide attacks and raids using explosive devices had been key factors in the displacement of more than 400,000 people and had led to rapidly escalating humanitarian needs, with more than 1.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

5. The need for mine action support continued to grow in humanitarian settings, as shown by the increase in mechanisms established for the mine action area of responsibility, under the auspices of the Global Protection Cluster, from 12 in 2018 to 15 in 2019 and 16 in 2020,5 with demand continuing to grow in 2021. The incorporation of mine action into humanitarian response plans also increased, from 12 in 2018 to 17 in 2019 and 18 in 2020. As explosive ordnance constrained development and economic growth across most affected countries and territories – whether through the contamination of land that could otherwise be used for socioeconomic activities or infrastructure development or by preventing the establishment of an environment conducive to development by fuelling violence and conflict – efforts were made to leverage the role of mine action as an enabler for sustainable development.