Human Rights Commissioner Bärbel Kofler on International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action
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:
Mines are a horrible legacy of war – they kill people who were never involved in it. Every day, people fall victim to mines. This often happens long after the fighting has ended. Especially in recent years, we have seen a rise in the number of victims. Violent non-state actors are more and more frequently using improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Where landmines lurk underground, it is impossible to farm or raise livestock. Every trip to work, to the market or to visit a local authority is fraught with danger. That weakens the economic environment and means that many people are less able to live a life in dignity.
For years and decades after the fighting ends, people are killed and maimed by landmines. In Colombia, Bosnia and Herzegovina or Somalia, landmines that were planted decades ago remain underground. The affected countries are in need of support. That is why, in 2019, Germany concluded a mine clearance partnership with Bosnia and Herzegovina. Colombia and Somalia, too, are among the priority countries of the humanitarian mine action strategy. In 2020, Germany made available some six million euro for mine clearance projects in these three countries. Together, the international community must put an end to the threat posed by mines around the world!
With a view to achieving this, 122 countries adopted the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (the Ottawa Convention) in 1997. It drives forward efforts for a worldwide ban on anti-personnel mines and works to help affected countries finally free themselves from these remnants of war. Germany was among the first signatories of the Convention and is campaigning to get more countries to sign it. For, to become mine-free, we need strong international cooperation.
Germany is one of the most active countries in the world in the sphere of mine clearance. The German Government made available nearly 50 million euro for this purpose in 2020. At the end of May 2021, Germany will co-host a UN conference on mine clearance under the heading “Perseverance, Progress, Partnership”. Germany is also chairing the Mine Action Support Group in 2020-2021. In these two roles, Germany will continue to do its part to enhance international cooperation and get aid to those who are affected.
In December 2005, the United Nations General Assembly established the International Day for Mine Awareness. Land mines, unexploded ordnance and booby-traps kill or maim thousands of people around the world each year. According to Landmine Monitor (2020), nearly 60 countries are still contaminated with landmines – and in 2019 more than 5500 incidents were recorded involving deaths and injuries due to explosive remnants of war. Moreover, many cases are believed to go unreported. Germany is actively working for the global prohibition of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, and in 2020 supported projects in 13 countries in the field of mine and ordnance clearance. Germany is also working to promote international cooperation in this area. Alongside mine clearance, disposal of ordnance and training specialists for these tasks, Germany’s focus is on victim care and efforts to raise public awareness of the dangers among the population groups affected. Priority countries for humanitarian mine clearance are Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Colombia, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Syria and Ukraine. The Federal Foreign Office has made available funding for mine and ordnance clearance in connection with the current crises in Yemen and Libya. Mine clearance efforts are also supported in the context of stabilisation measures in, for example, Nigeria and Iraq.
Click here for more information on the German Government’s current humanitarian mine action strategy, which is part of its humanitarian assistance portfolio.