Managua - 20 September 2001
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Just over a week ago, the world was rocked by the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, with an appalling level of death, destruction, and injury. All of us in the UN were deeply touched by the events - we suffered the losses, felt the enormous pain, and experienced the sense of anger, bewilderment, and vulnerability that was felt by all New Yorkers.
Like terrorism, landmines are indiscriminate in their aim - and extreme in their impact. In addition to killing, maiming, and mutilating innocent people, mines hamper humanitarian activities such as the distribution of food, water, fuel, and shelter materials. They also prevent the return of refugees; the resettlement of displaced populations; the reconstruction of roads, bridges, essential services, economic infrastructure, and shelter. They stop people from growing food, grazing livestock, or collecting fuel and water.
Then there is the psychological impact: mines take away of freedom of movement, rob children of their right to play and, at a more subtle level, prevent any return to normality in a post-conflict environment. In a very real sense, if people are not free of the fear of violent death or injury, they exist in a state of war.
Landmines, from UNICEF's perspective, are a development issue, a humanitarian issue, a public health issue, a child rights issue. Landmines violate nearly all of the articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child - the right to life, the right to a safe environment in which to play, the right to clean water, to adequate education, or the right to access to health care.
The day after last week's attacks in New York, the UN Security Council and the General Assembly passed resolutions condemning terrorism in a demonstration of international solidarity. As with terrorism, landmines demand an international response that encompasses courageous leadership to mobilise political will and action; solidarity with victims; and unyielding determination to uphold both the spirit and the letter of international law.
Today, as part of that international response, you meet to review the progress made since the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines, and on Their Destruction, came into force on 1 March 1999. I believe the progress has been great, both in terms of the number of ratifications and accessions, and the work being done to address current problems though mine awareness and risk reduction education, mine clearance, and victim assistance, and to prevent future problems through ceasing production, and destroying stockpiles.
UNICEF has been working for over half a decade on the issues of mines and unexploded ordnance. We are now involved in mine action in some 30 countries, across all of its seven regions. Let me, Mr. Chairperson, take a moment to highlight just a few of the main activities that make up our mine action work.
Firstly, we continue to advocate for universal ratification and implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty. We also intend to support the growing campaign for the addition of an Optional Protocol to the Convention on Certain Weapons on Explosive Remnants of War. Data increasingly indicates that unexploded ordnance causes as many or more injuries than do landmines, particularly among children. It is high time that this issue is addressed. I appeal to all member states to support this proposed Optional Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War.
Secondly, UNICEF will continue working to ensure that the needs, rights, and welfare of mine affected countries, communities, and individuals, and especially mine/UXO survivors, are recognised and addressed. In particular, as UN lead agency for mine awareness education, UNICEF will work to ensure mine awareness and risk reduction activities take place wherever the need exists.
To this end, we are currently working with UNMAS and other UN mine action agencies, and ICRC, ICBL, and the Geneva Centre for Humanitarian Demining to develop a 5 year strategy for UN mine action, and - in line with our Core Corporate Commitments in Emergencies - with UNMAS to develop a UN mine action emergency preparedness and response plan. In tandem, we are developing our own mine action strategy, to ensure that we play our part in making the UN plans a reality, and that we make humanitarian mine action a part of our everyday work.
We are now working, with the assistance of the governments of Japan and the United States to develop Mine and UXO Awareness/Risk Reduction standards for all implementing agencies. Through these Standards, it will be possible to apply international quality assurance to mine awareness programmes by setting agreed baseline requirements for the planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. We have also started to develop the mine awareness/risk reduction components of the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA), and will ensure these, and IMAS, are mutually reinforcing.
At a field level, UNICEF has developed a "flying team" to assist in building mine action capacity, and to add emergency "surge capacity," and is working with the US Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta to deliver a purpose-designed mine action epidemiology course in the first half of 2002. These two initiatives address, in different ways, the need to respond to mine and UXO problems until such time as the threat is eliminate - and, as we state in the UN Mine Action Strategy, there exists "a world free of the threat of landmines and unexploded ordnance where individuals s and communities live in safety, where economic and social development proceed unhindered and where mine survivors are fully integrated into their societies."
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen: Today, the whole world should have been celebrating with us the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children. It was to have been a unique event with the active participation of hundreds of children - something never seen before at the UN. The terrible events of last week forced us to postpone the Special Session to a later date. However, our fight to protect the rights of the child has not stopped - indeed it will intensify. Part of that struggle - and one that requires your leadership and vision - is to make children a zone of peace. That is, to ensure that - regardless of the political, military, economic or other interests at stake - the rights of children are recognised to be above and beyond any other consideration in a conflict zone. This includes freeing children from the scourge of landmines and other explosive remnants of war.
This horrific act of terror has galvanised an international will and resolve. Let us together face and fight an indiscriminate and destructive force that is akin to terrorism: landmines. We have come a long way. But we still need to enter what the UN Secretary- General, in referring to children and armed conflict, called the "era of application." UNICEF looks to you to make the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty a reality. We are proud to be your partners in this process.