Bärbel Kofler , Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (4 April) to mark International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action:
The contamination of large areas with land mines and explosive remnants of war continues to pose great difficulties and challenges to many countries. Even long after wars and conflicts have ended, people are still at risk of being injured or killed by these remnants. I therefore call on all governments involved and on the international community not to waver in their efforts to clear mines and munitions, and thus to restore the livelihoods of the people affected.
As a major donor in the field of mine and munition clearance, Germany is chairing the donor coordination group Mine Action Support Group, in which countries discuss the challenges and priorities, for the 2020-2021 period. This engagement makes sense because providing information on the dangers and undertaking clearance work can reduce the impact of mines and explosive remnants of war.
The clearance of explosive materials is also crucial for humanitarian access for aid workers and aid organisations and for the return of internally displaced persons and refugees. The Federal Government is taking comprehensive action to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches the places where it is needed.
International Day for Mine Awareness was established just over 14 years ago (in December 2005).
Land mines, unexploded ordnance and booby-traps kill or maim thousands of people around the world each year. However, land mines and cluster munitions are still found in the ground in too many regions in the world. Furthermore, in recent years terrorists have increasingly set improvised mines and booby-traps that deliberately target the civilian population. Some of these mines and booby-taps are hidden in light switches, doors, toys, schools or inhabited buildings. All too often, children are the main victims. This means that for many people it is completely impossible to resume a normal life in the wake of a conflict.
Germany is therefore 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 largest international donors in this sphere and also takes on responsibility for coordinating political work. 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 priority countries are Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Colombia, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Syria and Ukraine. Germany provided approximately 34 million euros to this end in 2019.
The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti‑Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (the Ottawa Convention) was adopted in 1997 and entered into force two years later. Germany was one of its first signatories. In the meantime, many countries, including all EU member states, have signed up to the ban on anti-personnel mines. It is now clear that in order to ban mines completely, both national endeavours and cooperation and support from the international community are needed.