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Cambodia hosts Asian countries to discuss landmines in the region

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Phnom Penh – Representatives from 11 Asian States including Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are gathered in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to address the human costs of anti-personnel mines.

The meeting, hosted by the Cambodia Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), is one of the main events in the build-up to the Eleventh Meeting of the States Parties (11MSP) to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention or Ottawa Convention which will be held in Cambodia at the end of the year.

“This week’s Asian regional seminar seeks to enhance international dialogue in the region regardless of whether States are part of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention,” said His Excellency PRAK Sokhonn, Vice-President of the CMAA and President-Designate of the upcoming 11MSP. “Taking this approach, we can ensure that all States remain engaged in the work of the Convention, one way or another.”

His Excellency PRAK Sokhonn has been leading efforts to intensify the participation in the Convention by South East Asian states. In addition, in August His Excellency PRAK Sokhonn led a high-level mission to engage Vietnamese leaders; in October he plans to visit Singapore.

At this week’s gathering, mine affected countries and those in a position to assist them are expected to share experiences and challenges in implementing the Convention.

“Lack of resources, in particular to meet clearance and victim assistance obligations, is a real issue that cannot be lightly dismissed. Diminishing resources do affect States’ ability to fulfill their obligations under the Mine Ban Convention,” said Mr. Nicolas OLIVIER, Head of the ICRC in Cambodia. “It is therefore critical to strengthen the partnership between mine-affected States Parties and donors, and to match identified needs with available resources, even if international support must always complement national efforts,” added.

Mr. Douglas BRODERICK, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, emphasized the negative impact landmines have on development. “They prevent access to farm land and slow down the construction of critical infrastructure such as schools, health centres and roads. They create fear and leave people with a feeling of insecurity many years after conflicts have ended. Those that survive a landmine accident will require medical and social welfare support for their entire lives. In summary, landmines are a burden that weighs heavily on a country’s social and economic development.”

Also this week in Siem Reap, Cambodia is playing host to over 100 technical specialists from around the world who are gathering to discuss enhanced mine clearance techniques and innovative approaches to releasing suspected hazardous areas.

Landmines in Cambodia

Landmines in Cambodia are a result of 30 years of armed conflict. As one of the most mine-affected countries in the world, Cambodia sparked the international movement to ban these weapons, and is currently at the forefront of the promotion of a universal ban on anti-personnel landmines.

Financial support from development partners has helped remove and destroy 902,913 landmines between 1992 and January 2011. It is estimated that some 650 million square metres of land are still contaminated by landmines; one-third of landmine survivors are children.

The Eleventh Meeting of the States Parties (11MSP)

The 11MSP will be the first time Cambodia hosts and presides over a Meeting of the States Parties. It will take place at the Peace Palace, in Phnom Penh from 27 November to 2 December 2011. It is the single largest international meeting ever held in the Kingdom of Cambodia and particularly significant because the Convention is returning to a place where it all started two decades ago.

The Eleventh Meeting of the States Parties is a formal, diplomatic meeting of the 156 States which have accepted the Convention. They include most of the States that at one time used, stockpiled, produced or transferred AP mines and the vast majority of States that are or have been affected by AP mines. Several States that are not part of the Convention are expected to attend as Observers.

Over 1,000 diplomats representing over 100 States and delegates from dozens of international and non-governmental organisations are expected to attend. It is expected that South East Asian countries will be represented at a high political level.

20 September 2011

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