Walk marks the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action
Vientiane, 6th April 2013 – The Government of Lao PDR and the International Community affirmed their commitment to a world free from the threat of mines and other remnants of war on Saturday morning in Patuxai Park, Vientiane.
Hundreds of people gathered to witness the special ceremony and take part in a “fun walk” in an event organized by the UXO Sector in Lao PDR to commemorate the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. The participants of the event included H.E. Mr Alounkeo Kittikoun, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mr. Minh Pham, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative as well as representatives from many Government organizations, UN agencies, Embassies, International Organisations. Many members of the general public also joined in to show their support for the UXO and Mine Sector as well as to the many brave UXO survivors in the country.
“Lao PDR is the most heavily UXO affected country in the world,” stated Mr Alounkeo Kittikoun in his opening remarks. “Even though the war ended more than 40 years ago, UXO continue to cause harm to the People of Lao PDR and hinder development.”
The Government of Lao PDR is prioritizing UXO clearance in the National Socio Economic Development Plan, placing high importance on UXO action. In 2012, a new Millennium Development Goal 9 specific to reducing the impact of UXO in Lao PDR was adopted in the country.
“This is a day to reaffirm our commitment to a world free from the threat of mines and other remnants of war”, said Mr. Pham as he confirmed the United Nations’ strong commitment to mine awareness and mine action. Acknowledging the work of the humanitarian mine- and UXO workers, the UN Resident Coordinator also urged everyone not to forget the UXO survivors. “Whether as a State or as an international development organization, we have a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable people and ensure that their access to a life of dignity and security is met. The presence of UXO diminishes those opportunities for millions of people in Lao PDR. It is our moral obligation to ensure that UXO are gone once and for all.”
After the speeches the event participants marched together from Patuxay to the Presidential Palace and back, reflecting on the special meaning of the Day.
Mine action includes all steps taken by the international community to eliminate the threat of landmines as well as explosive remnants of war, including cluster munitions. In December 2005, the General Assembly declared April 4 the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. The declaration stemmed from recommendations by member states, who wanted to create an opportunity to sustain public awareness about the problem of landmines and explosive remnants of war and the efforts to eliminate them.
Lao PDR is the most heavily bombed country in the world, per capita. The bombings of the Second Indochina War left behind a destructive legacy when millions of cluster munitions dropped in the country failed to explode and still continue to kill and injure civilians today, 40 years after the war ended. To raise awareness of the Unexploded Ordnance issue in Lao PDR, this year’s global celebration for the International Day in UN headquarters in New York had a special focus on Lao PDR. A panel discussion, titled “Voices from Laos: Clearing Bombs, Protecting Lives”, was hosted on the 4th of April by the Permanent Mission of Lao PDR, United Nations Development Programme and Legacies of War.
For more information, please contact: Ms Yumiko Horie at UNDP, Tel: 021 267 743