I thank the Vietnamese presidency for convening this open debate and the briefers for their contributions. In recent years, important successes have been achieved in mine action. Many countries formerly contaminated are now free of anti-personnel mines, cluster munition remnants and other explosive remnants of war. Large swaths of land were cleared, stockpiled devices were destroyed, victims received the assistance they require and lives were saved. In this regard, the UN Mine Action Service plays an important coordination role on the ground. Yet, four years after the first Security Council resolution on mine action, challenges persist. The continued use of anti-personnel mines, including those of an improvised nature, as well as of cluster munitions, has led to a disturbing increase in the number of casualties.
Allow me to highlight four areas for improvement:
First, access to contaminated areas is key to carry out mine action. However, access for demining is increasingly under pressure in today’s armed conflicts. This in turn represents a barrier to the delivery of humanitarian aid. Switzerland urges the Security Council to remind all parties to armed conflicts of their obligation to allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access.
Second, to increase the impact of mine action, we encourage the adoption of an integrated approach combining clearance, mine risk education and victim assistance. Switzerland supports mine action projects in 11 contexts, including in Kosovo, Myanmar, Syria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in partnership with UNMAS, and organisations such as the HALO Trust, the Danish Demining Group, and the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining. We commend in this regard the collaboration of the GICHD with the ASEAN Regional Mine Action Center to strengthen the risk management capacities of affected states. In the sense of an integrated approach, we call on the Security Council to include mine action in the mandates of relevant peacekeeping operations and special political missions, enabling them to clear contaminated areas and raise awareness about the risks posed by these devices. The Security Council must also continue to recognise the importance of including mine action in ceasefire and peace agreements.
Third, due to the increasing urbanisation of conflicts, mine action actors must operate in collapsed infrastructure and address a wide range of explosive devices with varying levels of complexity. This requires an adaptation of standards and methodologies, in order to guarantee safety during operations and remain technically relevant. For this reason, we supported the GICHD in developing the Improvised Explosive Device Clearance Good Practice Guide. We encourage those operating in such settings to use this guide to update their standards, processes and procedures, and to continue carrying out their operations in line with the International Mine Action Standards. We also invite mine-affected states to show ownership and engage in mine action, in collaboration with the international community.
Finally, we call on all member states to ratify the relevant international instruments, in particular the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Amended Protocol II and Protocol V of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, and to ensure their full implementation. Their respect contributes to protecting civilians, generating access to housing and agricultural land, hence enabling sustainable development and peace.
Mines maim and kill indiscriminately during armed conflict, but also long after conflicts have ended. In 2020, Switzerland supported the assistance of more than 15’000 victims, the mine risk education of 100’000 people, the return of 20 square kilometres of land to local populations, and assumed the presidency of the Cluster Munitions Convention. In line with our humanitarian tradition, we will continue to pursue the vision of a world without new victims.
I thank you.