Vientiane, 01 August 2021- The 11th anniversary of the Entry into Force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) comes amidst a turning point in the world. As COVID-19 continues to ravage the globe, progress on clearing unexploded ordnance in Lao PDR has had to adapt to a changed world.
In his remarks, Mr. Padeumphone Sonthany, Vice Minister of Labour and Social Welfare and Standing Vice Chairman of the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) for the UXO/Mine Action Sector in Lao PDR noted that “The achievements are due to the attention and support of all stakeholders, including the government, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), international organizations, and international non-governmental organizations. Fundraising, technical contributions of the international community, the hard work and wisdom of both Lao and international operators are driving the work to clear the remaining unexploded ordnance in Lao PDR, which is in line with the implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.”
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). As one of the first signatories to the CCM, Lao PDR has been a champion for the implementation of these obligations.
However, COVID-19 posed significant challenges to the implementation of the CCM this year. Clearance operations in the field were suspended for two months, amid restrictions on moving between provinces. Nonetheless, Lao PDR rose to the occasion, with UXO staff displaying inventiveness in meeting CCM objectives, amidst the difficult circumstances. Mine Risk Education radio programmes continued to be broadcast 8 times a month, but were now integrated with COVID-19 messaging. The NRA also created UXO provincial committees to incorporate UXO issues into each province’s socio-economic development plans.
Despite this obstacle, the pause in operations provided an opportunity for reflection. The current Lao national strategic plan, Safe Path Forward II (SPF II), came to an end in 2020. An assessment was subsequently conducted to determine how best to position the next 10-year plan (SPF III). SPF II’s key targets have been either fully or partially achieved – in 2020, there were 33 victims of UXO accidents, a steep fall from 119 in 2010. Building on this success, SPF III will focus on improving Laos’ commitment to the other articles of the CCM.
With UXO still posing a hindrance to development, Lao PDR is not resting on its laurels, and the CCM’s strategic objectives remain a priority for the next 10 years. A Prime Minister’s decree is being formulated within the government, that will place implementation of the CCM into law. This will ensure that progress towards achieving the CCM’s treaty obligations are regulated throughout the entire government and UXO sector, and will firmly commit all actors to a long-term plan.
“The draft CCM legislation and the new 10-year plan will focus on sustainability and capacity development,” said Ms. Ricarda Rieger, UNDP Resident Representative. “Achieving the CCM’s objectives will require concerted efforts by whole of government, educators and development partners to minimise the risk to life and improve the development potential.”
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For more information, please contact:
Ms. Aksonethip Somvorachit, UNDP Communications Analyst,
020 5502 1550, email@example.com
Reducing the impact of UXO is Lao PDR's own national Sustainable Development Goal. By commiting to Goal 18 as a part of the global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Laos holds itself accountable to advancing the reduction of UXO impact and contributing to many other goals at the same time, e.g. Goal 1, Ending Poverty. An integrated approach is crucial for progress across the multiple goals. Learn more about Goal 18 and its targets.