UXO Sector Working Group approves new strategy

Nov 16, 2015

US Ambassador Mr. Daniel Clune, Chairman of the NRA Board Mr. Bounheuang Duangphachanh and UNDP Resident Representative Ms. Kaarina Immonen chairing the meeting. Photo: Vientiane Times

Article adapted from Vientiane Times

The National Regulatory Authority (NRA) for the UXO/Mine Action sector in Lao PDR has set a target to reduce the number of UXO casualties to less than 40 per year and provide assistance to at least 1,500 UXO victims in the period from 2016-2020, while also conducting non-technical survey to identify cluster munitions in more than five thousand villages.  

The targets was set out at the UXO Sector Working Group meeting held in Vientiane on 16 November 2015, and chaired by the Minister to the Prime Minister's Office and Chairman of the Board of the NRA Mr. Bounheuang Duangphachanh, and his co-chairs US Ambassador to Lao PDR, Mr. Daniel Clune, and United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative to Lao PDR, Ms. Kaarina Immonen.

The chair and co-chairs all hailed significant progress in the sector over the past year, with the turn towards the evidence-based survey methodology already showing results; the number of cluster munitions found per hectare has more than doubled since 2014. Ambassador Clune and Ms. Immonen also praised the inclusion of more ambitious targets in the draft eighth National Socio-Economic Development Plan. 

The issue of exactly how clearance operations are to be prioritized was raised by Mr. Clune, as well as by representatives of the European Union and the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, both of whom announced new commitments to supporting the UXO sector. Ms. Immonen said: “We now benefit from priorities in the form of Confirmed Hazardous Areas (CHA) and Focal Development Areas (FDA), but with the number of CHAs in the thousands, and the number of FDAs more than a hundred, the question of prioritizing among them remains pertinent.”

The participants heard that in June 2012, the government approved a revised UXO Sector Strategy entitled “The Safe Path Forward II (SPF II)” that will guide work in the UXO sector through to 2020. 

The SPF II was aligned with the 7th 5-year National Socio-economic Development Plan and was designed to bring together humanitarian and national development priorities for the UXO sector to a far greater extent than in the past.

The government has directed the UXO sector to give priority to survey and clearance, if required, in development focus areas throughout the country.

During the implementation of the SFP II (2011-2015) some 33,358 hectares of land have been cleared and 242,056 cluster munitions have been destroyed in addition to 2,158 big bombs, 1,141 mines, and 314,407 other items of UXO.

Medical and rehabilitation assistance has been provided to UXO survivors, among them more than 600 people have been economically and socially reintegrated.

Risk education activities have been conducted in 12,591 villages in nine provinces across the country. As a result, the number of the UXO casualties has been steadily reduced from 119 in 2010 to 45 people in 2014.

NRA Director General Mr Phoukhieo Chanthasomboun reported that “We already have 3,000 confirmed hazardous areas , amounting to 14,000 hectares.”

“This is already three or four years of work. This will c hange but we use what we already have today for planning, we have these areas identified and they need to be cleared. We were not able to do this in the past.”

The key target is to enable survey and data collection on UXO contamination in 5,238 villages in the nine most affected provinces of the country.

This will be achieved via technical surveys (using an evidence based approach) to identify confirmed hazardous areas  in 124 government focal development areas and all villages w here people are still living in fear of UXO.

In addition, UXO risk education will be included in the education curriculum, especially for primary and secondary schools, aiming at reducing the number of casualties to be lower than 40 people by 2020.

Medical rehabilitation and work opportunities will be provided to the UXO survivors, targeting 1,500 people by 2020.

Mr Phoukhieo said for the funding of UXO operations, the sector will continue to mobilise funds from the private sector and research the budget funding required for UXO operations.

“Meanwhile the budget allocated to victim assistance is very limited, and this means we cannot pursue the strategic plan's goals for 2020.” Ms. Immonen echoed the views of several participants when she said that “The integration of UXO victim assistance into a broader disability policy for the country is an increasingly important question too.”

Contact

Souphalack Bounpadith, Planning and Reporting Officer/ UXO Unit, Email: souphalack.bounpadith@undp.org, Tel: +856 (21) 267 746