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Statement by SRSG Hanna Tetteh on International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action

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Theme: “Perseverance, Partnership and Progress”

Each year, the 4th of April marks the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. This day highlights the important work being done to rid the world of Landmines, Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) and the increasing use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

In 2019 alone, about 30,000 deaths and injuries globally resulted from the use of explosive weapons, with 66% of all casualties being civilians. Of these civilian casualties, 90% were in urban areas. In Somalia alone, there were 498 IED incidents in 2020, resulting in 1,244 casualties, including 206 Somali National Army members, 35 Somali Police and 14 AMISOM troops.

During 2021, the United Nations is promoting the efforts of the mine action sector under the theme “Perseverance, Partnership, Progress”. The United Nations perseverance, in close partnership with the African Union and key mine action partners, is enabling progress to reduce the threat posed by explosive weapons. This work is being accomplished notwithstanding the ongoing challenges of conflict, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, we are reflecting on how far we have come, and recommit to reach the target of an Africa free from the threat of landmines, Early Remnants of War and IEDs.

The dire threat mines pose to the African Continent and its people cannot be dealt with in isolation, but necessitates collaboration between all stakeholders, including the United Nations, African Union, RECs/RMs and Member States. Through strengthened partnership and perseverance, we will be able to continue to make progress. Comprehensive progress entails a multi-faceted approach, including the need for: risk reduction; demining; victim assistance; stockpile destruction; and advocacy against the use of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions.

In this regard, we have registered some distinct progress made through the UN-AU partnership. For example, the United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU) collaborated with the AUC in drafting its Counter-IED and Mine Action strategies. The UNOAU and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), in close coordination with the AU and mine action partners, supported the establishment of a mine action programme in support of the Government of Ethiopia. Furthermore, the United Nations, through the UNOAU, UNDP and UNMAS, initiated a non-technical survey in war-torn areas of Somalia.

I commend these efforts, particularly the progress being made in clearance of Explosive Remnants of War, surveying, risk education and IED mitigation activities, as well as assistance to survivors, capacity development and pre-deployment training for African Union and UN peacekeeping personnel.

I also would like to recognize, and pay tribute to, the brave women and men who on a daily basis put their lives at risk; often working in dangerous and arduous conditions in demining areas to save the lives of others. Their efforts allow the most vulnerable in the society to continue their daily lives, and assist in creating the conditions for reconstruction, sustainable peace and development.

While these women and men are willing to put their lives on the line, it remains the responsibility of political leaders to display commensurate political will and commitment to take all action to prevent armed conflict. Countering the production and use of weapons of war is a fundamental precondition for human security and human development, particularly in emerging post-conflict societies.

The United Nations “Safe ground” campaign is our effort to eliminate to rid the world of land mines and explosive remnants of war, but our collective efforts have to be strengthened to achieve the end goal we seek. I therefore call upon leaders of AU/UN member states on the continent to support the joint efforts of the African Union and the United Nations to work together in preventing conflict, and the availability and presence of these destructive weapons of war. In this context, I would also like to underscore the importance of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention in addressing this global scourge. We can only “silence the guns” through collective political will and taking collaborative action.

I commend the vital work of the African Union, and reaffirm the United Nation’s commitment to continue collaboration with, and support to, the African Union in counter-IED and Mine Action endeavours