Human Rights Commissioner Kofler on International Mine Awareness Day
Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (4 April) to mark the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action:
The contamination of large areas with mines and explosive remnants of war presents many countries with huge challenges long after wars and conflicts have come to an end. The need to clear these areas and thereby restore the livelihoods of the people living there was recognised a long time ago. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Ottawa Treaty). In too many regions of the world there are still landmines, cluster munitions and booby-traps in the ground, in hiding places, in some cases even in schools and inhabited buildings. This means that for many people it is absolutely impossible to resume a normal life in the wake of a conflict. Each year countless numbers of people are killed or suffer permanent injury as a result of mines, booby-traps and other explosive remnants. All too often children are among the victims.
Through awareness-raising and mine clearance these dangers can be reduced. Many states have now committed themselves to the prohibition of anti-personnel mines, most recently Sri Lanka and the Palestinian territories. Sri Lanka aims to be entirely mine-free by 2020 and has made impressive progress towards that goal. Support from the international community is necessary for a country to become mine-free. Germany is providing assistance in this area not only in Sri Lanka but also through aid projects in other countries. Last year the Federal Foreign Office earmarked a total of 36 million euros for mine and ordnance clearance projects, making it one of the most significant donors in this field.
Humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance is also part of the Federal Foreign Office’s humanitarian assistance strategy, which I will be officially introducing this afternoon during a panel discussion there. The clearance of explosive material can be a crucial condition for humanitarian access for helpers and aid organisations as well as for the return of internally displaced persons and refugees to their homes. Through its broad engagement, the Federal Government is working to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches the places where it is needed.
International Mine Awareness Day was established just over 13 years ago (in December 2005). Landmines, unexploded ordnance and booby traps kill or maim thousands of people around the world each year. That is why Germany is working actively for a global prohibition of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions and is backing measures around the world in the field of mine and ordnance clearance. The German Government is one of the biggest international donors in this sphere. Alongside the actual clearance and disposal of ordnance, aid measures focus on victim care and efforts to raise public awareness of the dangers among the population groups affected. The countries prioritised include Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Colombia, Iraq, Somalia and Ukraine. Germany made available around 36 million euros to this end in 2018.