Vientiane, 26 July 2019 – The 1st of August is a significant date for Lao PDR – the most bombed country per capita in the world. The day marks the anniversary of the Entry into Force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and 2019 commemorates its ninth anniversary. The Convention is an international treaty that prohibits the production, use, transfer and storage of these any form of cluster munition. To commemorate the anniversary, the Government of 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.
The ceremony not only marked the Convention’s anniversary but also recalled 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 Laos, 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 in Lao PDR affecting nearly every province.
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 the remnants of 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 375 square kilometers 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. 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 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.
“In 2020, Lao PDR will focus on developing legislation on the implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions for being a reference for UXO effective clearance,” H.E. Dr Khampheng Saysompheng, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare and Chair of the National Regulatory Authority for the UXO/Mine Action Sector in 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.”
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. The NRA 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 Lao PDR for the birth of the CCM – congratulations to the Government of Lao 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 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.”
Witness the work of a UXO clearance operator in the field by watching UNDP’s 360-degree film The bombs below.
Please read this press release in Lao here.
For more information, please contact:
Aksonethip Somvorachit, Communications Analyst, UNDP Lao PDR
Telephone: 021 267 778
Mobile: 020 5502 1550