International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action: Statement by Ambassador Berger

Apr 5, 2013

(Statement as delivered by Ambassador Berger at the opening of the exhibition "For a Mine-Free World")

"Under-Secretary-General Ladsous, Excellencies, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

20 years ago, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines was kicked off. As we celebrate the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action today, it is worthwhile to commemorate the ICBL’s success story which paved the way for two Conventions of global importance.

While many of us tend to be frustrated by a series of setbacks in the field of disarmament, the conventions on anti-personnel mines (Ottawa Convention, 1997) and cluster munitions (Oslo Convention, 2008) have proved that progress in this area is possible. In both cases, the strong determination of nations to act was a major factor. And this week, with the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty, another significant decision in the area of arms control was made. You will certainly agree with me, however, that these agreements would not have seen the light of day, if it were not for the persevering commitment of civil society and its representatives.

With 160 States Parties, today the Ottawa Convention is closer than ever to universality. During the last 20 years, the number of victims has fallen to a quarter. But every victim is a victim too many.

The German Government has from the very beginning been very active in working to see these milestones of international humanitarian law drafted, implemented and universalized. We will not lessen our efforts in pursuit of a worldwide ban on anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions.

The exhibition on 20 years of the ICBL (Int. Campaign to ban landmines) is intended as a call to work towards this goal. Created by the Federal Foreign Office in collaboration with NGOs (Handicap International, ICBL, Medico International and SODI, Int. Solidarity Aid) and UNMAS, it was put on display in the Foreign Office in Berlin and was shown at the UN in Geneva in the Palais des Nations early 2013.

Harrowing images bear witness to the inhumanity, brutality and suffering so many innocent people have had to endure. Nobody who sees these images can be unmoved. Although we can’t undo the suffering inflicted on innocent people by landmines and cluster munitions by imposing a ban, we can help to prevent future human suffering, and we can help the victims.

The German Government has assisted more than 40 countries around the world with mine and ordnance clearance, mine awareness and victim assistance - UNMAS being a main partner. Since 2011, we’ve again increased funding for this by about 30 per cent to around 20 million euros.

To give only a few concrete examples: We support humanitarian demining and risk awareness with such partners as Handicap International in Libya. Currently, in Mali we help develop Malian units of army engineers and ordnance disposal specialists. Moreover, we provide funds for risk-awareness training of Syrians in refugee camps.

I am grateful to the organizers, the curator Markus Haake and the photographers of this exhibition. The exhibits show not only human suffering, but also the tireless dedication of minesweepers, volunteers and humanitarian organizations working to lessen that suffering. In this regard, let me thank Handicap International and Elizabeth MacNairn, Executive Director of HI USA, who will speak for all the organisations, their personnel and the many volunteers all over the world.

Finally, I would like to extend my special gratitude to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, USG Hervé Ladsous and UNMAS for the excellent cooperation and the opportunity to exhibit this collection for two months in the lobby hall of the General Assembly Hall.

I hope that your wander round the exhibition will give you pause for thought."

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