Removing deadly mines means ‘new horizons and hope’, clears a path to SDGs, says UN chief

UNMAS/Juan Arredondo Through the 2016 peace agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Colombian mine action sector has expanded significantly providing new employment opportunities for both men and women.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.

The path towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development must be “clear of landmines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices (IEDs)”, the United Nations Secretary-General said on Thursday, International Mine Awareness Day.

“All people have the right to live in security, and not fear their next step”, António Guterres spelled out in his message, lauding mine action, which “clears paths and creates safe ground on which homes can be built or rebuilt” and “changes mindsets so that people know how to protect themselves”.

Moreover, the UN chief described it as “giving people and communities new horizons and hope”.

For more than 20 years, the United Nations has helped States free themselves from the threat of mines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices.

This year, the Organization has launched “Safe Ground”, a new strategy and campaign to “ensure that no one, no State, and no war zone is left behind”.

The campaign links mine action, sport and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by showing how clearing minefields, brings communities together and raises awareness about mine victims, and survivors of armed conflict.

“With this global campaign, our aim is to turn minefields into playing fields, and to raise resources for victims and survivors of armed conflict”, Mr. Guterres asserted.

The Secretary-General called on all States to “provide political and financial support for mine action” and urged all that have not yet acceded to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and associated Protocols, and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, to “do so without delay”.

“For prevention, protection, and lasting peace, universalization of these treaties is essential and strict compliance with International Humanitarian Law is a must”, he stated.

He paid tribute to the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and to the “women and men who show extraordinary bravery in advancing this vital work, literally step-by-step”.

“On this International Day for Mine Awareness, let us reaffirm our commitment to eradicating the horrendous damage caused by landmines and assisting those who have been harmed by their use”, concluded the Secretary-General.

In the field

Painfully aware of the mine risks in Syria, the UN office there said in a statement that “providing explosive hazard risk education, clearance, and victim assistance is one of the main humanitarian priorities in the country”.

They do this through awareness raising, survey and clearance, and by addressing the needs of survivors and those affected.

The Senior UNMAS Programme Manager in South Sudan, another key nation for their work, said this week that demining “is doable” in that country.

“We are into the endgame now, and we need support to see this one through”, Richard Boulter elaborated. “It is a three to five-year problem, and then this goes away.”

He continued, saying that “if the powers that be don’t want to see a particular area cleared of dangers, there are still other places where we can go to work…when peace comes to town – when sanity comes to town – we can go back and do our job there.”

Seeing is believing

In marking the Day, “Safe Ground” events have been held around the world, such as a football tournament in Gaza and road races in Iraq, Lebanon and Colombia.

In New York, a hands-on workshop allowed ordinary people to participate in mock-demining activities.

One of the “guys in the bomb suits”, UNMAS Threat Mitigation Advisor Will Meurer. walked UN News through a de-mining demonstration, explaining that “mine awareness is a very large component in improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which so many people now have to deal with”.

He exhibited IEDs that, once used by “the good guys”, have been repurposed with explosives and attached to drones for targeting; others that are “victim operated”, which buried in the ground, are set off when stepped on or driven over; and those on a timer or detonated on command, suicide vests fell into this category.

Mr. Meurer underscored that IEDs are increasingly impacting the UN across all its mission areas – from humanitarian responses to development.

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