Vientiane, 31 July 2020- A press conference was held today to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). The event was marked with the attendance of H.E. Dr Khampheng Saysompheng, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare and Chairman of the National Regulatory Authority for the UXO/Mine Action Sector in Lao PDR (NRA) Board, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, Ms. Ricarda Rieger, the NRA Director General, Mr. Chomyaeng Phengthongsawat, including others, at the conference room of the National Social Security Fund Office.
Mr. Saysompheng in his remarks noted that “today's ceremony is a demonstration of the unity and solidarity in fulfilling our international obligations to the world, aiming to make our world peaceful and free from the threat of cluster munitions”.
The CCM holds a particular importance for Lao PDR, being the second signatory to the CCM in December 2008, with Prime Minister Sisoulith, who was the Foreign Minister at the time, signing on behalf of the state. Lao PDR has taken its role as State Party very seriously and successfully hosted the first ever Meeting of State Parties in Vientiane, November 2010. Both the Vientiane Declaration and the Vientiane Action Plan were adopted at this meeting. The latter was instrumental in setting out concrete and measurable steps, actions and targets aimed to be completed within specific time frames over the next five-year period, until the Dubrovnik Action Plan was adopted.
Under the CCM, State Parties are obligated to clear and destroy cluster munition remnants located under its jurisdiction (Article 4), to conduct risk reduction education to ensure awareness among civilians (Article 4), to provide comprehensive support to UXO victims (Article 5), to engage in international cooperation and assistance (Article 6) and to enact appropriate legislation to implement the CCM (Article 9). Given the extent of UXO-contamination in Lao PDR, it was impossible for Lao PDR to meet its clearance obligations by 2020 and so a 5-year extension request was submitted under Article 4, which was approved by the Meeting of State Parties in September 2019.
Lao PDR has made significant headway on these obligations over the past decade. Survey methodologies have been revised and improved, moving away from the older request-based approach to the newer evidence-based approach. This has resulted in an increased number of cluster munitions being found per hectare of land and has greatly improved operational efficiency. The NRA are currently working on drafting a sector-wide prioritization plan, which will clearly define clearance priorities. This focus on Mine-Risk Education has contributed to the steady decline in the number of victims over the past decade, with 119 victims in 2010, 25 in 2019 and 18 so far in 2020.
Ms. Rieger noted that, “As an important partner to the CCM, Laos at this time of the drafting of the new National Socio-Economic Development Plan, has to consider the prevalence of UXOs and devise sustainable strategies, to ensure that lives are safe from UXO and everyone enjoys equal opportunities.”.
In addition, Lao PDR held the first CCM Presidency, holding the seat of the President’s Executive Coordinator. From 2017 to 2019, Lao PDR then held a joint seat with Sweden on the CCM coordination committee for the thematic area of clearance and risk education. With 108 State Parties to the CCM, Lao PDR is the only State Party from Southeast Asia and so plays an important role of representing Southeast Asia and voicing the challenges faced within the region.
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Aksonethip Somvorachit, Communications Analyst at UNDP Lao PDR