Lao PDR marks the seventh anniversary of the Entry Into Force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions

Jul 31, 2017

A UXO clearance operator at work. Photo: UNDP Lao PDR/Lou Sensouphone

For Lao PDR, the most bombed country per capita in the world, 1 August is a significant date. The day marks the anniversary of the Entry Into Force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and 2017 is the seventh anniversary. The Convention is an international treaty that prohibits the production, use, transfer and storage of these explosive weapons. To mark the anniversary, the Government of Lao PDR, development partners and entities active in the Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) sector came together at an event organised by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. 

The ceremony not only commemorated the Convention’s anniversary but also recalled Lao PDR’s painful history with UXO. 59 persons were injured or killed last year through exploding bombs in Laos, from a war that ended over 40 years ago. The number of UXO victims for this year stands at 23 till date. Up to 30% of the total 270 million of cluster munitions dropped on Laos during the Indochina War did not detonate, so that around 80 million bomblets remain scattered and buried all over the land of Lao PDR.

With 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 this violent chapter in the history of Lao PDR. In total, during the past 20 years of its existence, UXO Lao has cleared more than 61,000 hectares of land for safe use, destroying more than 1.8 million pieces of different types of UXO. Moreover, the Convention provided a framework for 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. Lao PDR has also made important contributions in advocating for the Convention to be ratified by other countries.

“Lao PDR has reviewed the national implementation of the Convention, and we hope to share some lessons learnt with other parties of the Convention in the next annual meeting in Geneva this September,” H.E. Dr Khampheng Saysompheng, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare stated at the event. “We fully support the Convention’s implementation, especially the UXO survey. Based on evidence gained from the survey we will be able to confirm that an area is no longer contaminated with UXO, and allow people to use those lands again.”

The National Regulatory Authority for the UXO/Mine Action Sector in Lao PDR is mandated to coordinate 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. The National Regulatory Authority 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

“Last year, UNDP worked with the Government to develop a long-term aspiration for the UXO sector, the national Sustainable Development Goal 18 on removing the UXO obstacle to development, launched by the Prime Minister of Lao PDR together with the UN Secretary-General in September 2016. Earlier this month, the Government of Lao PDR and UNDP signed a new joint five-year plan of action to lay the important foundation for Lao PDR to achieve these ambitious goals by 2030,” said Ms. Kaarina Immonen, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative. “We feel privileged to be part of a broad coalition in Lao PDR working toward these aims, with a wide range of international and national supporters.”

Witness the work of a UXO clearance operator in the field by watching UNDP’s 360-degree film The bombs below

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