Statement by, Mr. M. Wali Naeemi, Minister Counsellor
Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations
On Agenda item 28: Assistance in Mine Action
Delivered before the 4th Committee
At the outset, my delegation would like to commend you and your team for the excellent manner in which you have led the Fourth Committee during this 64th session of the General Assembly.
My delegation would also like to thank the Secretary-General for his comprehensive evaluation of the current international presence, status, and threat of land mines, as well as progress towards their eradication. Land mines and the use of IEDs have systematically contributed to an environment of international insecurity, and have dramatically hindered U.N. peacekeeping operations. They present an undeniable threat to the world community, and especially to certain post-conflict nations such as Afghanistan. All member-states must continue to support the United Nations and its bodies engaged in the crucial effort to eliminate these dangers.
Afghanistan is pleased to co-sponsor this draft resolution, and warmly thanks the delegation of Sweden for all of their work on this document. We further welcome Colombia’s initiative to host the second conference review on the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. The Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World is an excellent step towards the eradication of mines and IEDs from developing nations, and to once and for all end the suffering and casualties caused by mines.
March 2009 marked the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, of which Afghanistan is a strong supporter. Work in accordance with this Convention has successfully destroyed over 41 million stockpiled mines, and Afghanistan alone has already cleared over 323,000 land mines. However, there is still much work to be done before citizens around the world will be truly protected from this threat. In particular, humanitarian and development assistance to mine-affected countries should also prioritize victim assistance, ranging from physical rehabilitation to psychological support and social and economic reintegration. Currently, there are more than 100,000 survivors of landmine accidents, and most of these people are seriously disabled.
Today’s situation in Afghanistan is dire. Afghanistan has been battling the problem of land mines for more than three decades. However, despite concerted international efforts, and the introduction of new technologies, casualties in Afghanistan from mines and IEDs have not substantively decreased in the last years. These devices remain a serious and pervasive threat to the lives of Afghans, as well as to the nation’s stability and development.
Since 1979, it has been estimated that over 640,000 mines have been laid in Afghanistan; and that as recently as 2008, 4,924 hazardous mine areas remained in the country. These areas comprise an estimated 720 kilometers of land, threatening over 2,220 communities and 4 million Afghans. Further, 75% of these impacted communities are found in 12 of the country’s 34 provinces. Many Afghan farmers have also lost their farms and so their livelihoods, as 75.6% of this mine territory is used for agriculture. Afghanistan remains one of the most heavily contaminated countries in the world, and there are still over 700 kilometers of land contaminated by an estimated 56 different types of land mines.
Afghanistan continues to experience daily reminders of the mines’ lethality: from January to July 2008, in a mere six months, 1445 victims of mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) were reported, and 50% of these were children. 2.7% of Afghanistan’s population has been labeled as “severely disabled” and 9% of these disabilities have been attributed to landmines.
Afghanistan is now doing more for land mine eradication than at any other time in our history. The United Nations Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan, in conjunction with the Mine Action Coordination Center of Afghanistan, employs 8,000 individuals, and has successfully cleared over 12,000 hazard areas throughout Afghanistan to date, with more than 126 million square meters of land – which is more than 17% of Afghanistan’s minefields – cleared between January and November of 2006 alone. The government of Afghanistan will continue this effort over the coming years, and is doing everything in its power to ensure that the over 4.3 million Afghan refugees that have returned to Afghanistan, as well as the large number of IDPs returning to their villages, do not come home to minefields. However, without the continuing technical and financial support of the international community, Afghanistan will not be able to emancipate itself from the threat of landmines.
Lastly, and most importantly, I would like to join the Secretary-General in expressing my appreciation for all those who have lost their lives or have been injured by mines or explosive war remnants. I extend my sympathies and sincerest condolences to their families.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.