(KPL) The 1st of August is a significant day for the Lao PDR – the most bombarded country per capita in the world – as it marks the anniversary of the Entry into Force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and this year commemorates its ninth anniversary.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions is an international treaty that prohibits the production, use, transfer and storage of any form of cluster munitions.
To commemorate the anniversary, the Government of the Lao PDR, UNDP, development partners and other Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) sector stakeholders came together at an event organised at the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare in Vientiane.
The ceremony not only marked the convention’s anniversary but also recalled the Lao PDR’s painful history with UXO.
Much progress has been made with only 24 people injured or killed last year (down from over 300 in 2008) by unexploded ordinance in the country, from a war that ended over 40 years ago. Up to 30% of the total 270 million of cluster munitions dropped on Laos during the Indochina War failed to detonate, leaving around 80 million bomblets (bombies) scattered and buried nationwide affecting nearly every province.
With the Lao PDR being the second signatory after Norway, the Convention on Cluster Munitions has made a vast contribution to supporting the country and UXO Lao, the national UXO clearance operator, in their efforts to address the remnants of this violent chapter in the history of the Lao PDR.
In total, during the past 20 years of its existence, UXO Lao has cleared more than 375 sq km of land for safe use, destroying more than 1.6 million pieces of different types of UXO.
This clearance has been complimented by other humanitarian operators in the UXO sector such as Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), Mines Advisory Group (MAG), Halo Trust, Humanity and Inclusion and Lao People’s Army Humanitarian Teams.
A UXO Lao expert uses a speaker to warn the community that the mine clearance begins. Photo: UNDP Lao PDR
In addition, the national UXO operator has conducted over 12,000 mine risk education village visits in nine of the most contaminated provinces, thus, educating those on the dangers associated with UXO items.
In line with the organization’s objectives, the convention provided a framework for the Lao PDR to collaborate with other countries and partners to understand and address its land contamination issue, and recent years have shown the fruits of this cooperation.
The Lao PDR has also made important contributions in advocating for the convention to be ratified by other countries.
“In 2020, the Lao PDR will focus on developing legislation on the implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions for being a reference for UXO effective clearance,” Dr Khampheng Saysompheng, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare and Chair of the National Regulatory Authority for the UXO/Mine Action Sector in the Lao PDR (NRA) Board stated at the event.
“We will also review the National Strategic Plan “The Safe Path Forward II”, 2011 – 2020; five-year plan (2016-2020) and develop next five-year plan (2021-2025,” said the minister.
The NRA is mandated to coordinate and regulate the UXO sector, ensuring that international treaty obligations are being met and develops policies and national standards to ensure high quality of survey and clearance activities.
It played a crucial role in introducing a new, evidence-based survey methodology, which has quadrupled the success rate, and is constantly providing oversight and guidance to all survey operators including UXO Lao.
“It is widely acknowledged that the international community has to thank the Lao PDR for the birth of the CCM – congratulations to the government of Laos for this work of global importance,” said Ms. Ricarda Rieger, UNDP Resident Representative.
“The determination of the Lao government to work for the total prohibition of production, use, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions, was instrumental to the successfully negotiated legally binding instrument now known as the Convention on Cluster Munitions. We feel privileged to be Laos’ trusted partner and a part of a broad coalition in the Lao PDR working toward these aims, with a wide range of international and national stakeholders in addressing the UXO issue and achievement of SDG 18,” added the UNDP Resident Representative.