Statement by Minister Coveney at the UNSC Open Debate on Mine Action
Statement08 April 2021
I congratulate you, Minister, on Vietnam’s Presidency of the Council, and thank you for organising this important debate. In addition, let me congratulate you on your appointment today as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
We greatly appreciate the strong leadership of Secretary-General Guterres across all areas of disarmament. The actions that he has set out in the Agenda for Disarmament are a vital guiding reference in our work today.
Ireland values the role of civil society too, in mine action, and works closely with the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, and Project RENEW. I’m very glad to hear both share your experience today.
Ireland welcomes the agreement of a Presidential Statement on this important issue.
Last Sunday marked the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. Yet, for too many people, the threat of landmines and explosive remnants of war is not about one day.
It is a grim continuing reality. A reality that shatters limbs, lives and futures – often long after the guns have been silenced.
Mines claim a victim almost every hour of every day, threatening the poorest communities and affecting their rhythm of life.
They undermine post-conflict recovery, and restrict vital opportunities for development.
Even as we make progress in de-mining is many contexts, in conflict areas such as Syria and Yemen, a lethal legacy continues to be sown.
It is essential, therefore, that the international community, and this Council, redouble efforts to put an end to the civilian harm caused by mines, and address the consequences of their use.
Ireland remains a committed partner on mine action, and in the task of ridding the world of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions.
We believe we must take action on a number of tracks.
Firstly, the international community must live up to the existing commitments and obligations.
Ireland emphasises the enduring validity of Resolution 2365. This Resolution, and the UN Mine Action Strategy, make clear the need for continued engagement and leadership by States, and for sustained financial support.
We must continue to universalise, support and protect the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, and the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which form the cornerstone of our international efforts.
In 2019, States Parties adopted the Oslo Action Plan, reiterating the ambitious goal of a mine-free world by 2025, and we cannot lower our collective determination to see this vision realised.
We should review the continued use of mines other than anti-personnel mines in many contemporary armed conflicts, and address their serious humanitarian and developmental impacts.
And on the issue of explosive weapons in populated areas, Ireland is leading consultations to develop a political declaration to deliver behavioural change and enhance the protection of civilians, which is badly needed.
My second point, Mr President, is that humanitarian mine action is integral to sustainable development and the international community must continue to invest in mine action.
The reduction in global funding for mine action over recent years is both worrying and disappointing. More needs to be done to reverse this trend. Otherwise, we risk leaving the job of mine action unfinished for far too long.
Ireland has a long-standing commitment to humanitarian mine action, funding programmes across four continents and 17 countries.
The EU remains one of the largest donors to global demining, research, and assistance to mine victims.
Project RENEW in Vietnam is a longstanding valued partner of my country. I am glad that Ms. Linh could share her experience with us today. This work complements unexploded ordnance clearance efforts which Ireland has funded for many years in Quang Tri Province.
Ireland’s approach is based on maximising the benefits of demining so that communities can live in a safe environment, improving quality of life, and expanding opportunities.
This work helps to save lives and livelihoods.
Demining opens up land for sustainable development including agriculture, services, education and employment opportunities. Access to agricultural land for smallholder farmers increases agricultural productivity, tackling food insecurity and boosting community resilience.
My third point is that, although landmines are indiscriminate weapons, we cannot ignore their gendered impacts.
For example, women and girls often assume caregiving or breadwinning roles due to injuries or deaths in their families caused by mines.
We must also ensure the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in mine action activities.
And we commend the gender-responsive efforts of the United Nations Mine Action Service in this regard, which has resulted in women holding half of all technical positions in Syria, and three-quarters of leadership roles in Colombia.
The effect of landmines on children, who are often tragically drawn to mines thinking that they are toys, is one of the most distressing aspects of this issue. Child survivors of land mines deserve to receive adequate treatment and to be able to return to a normal childhood, including their education.
We must ensure that the diverse needs of all people in affected communities are taken into account in Mine Action.
My final point, is that we must recognise the contribution that peacekeepers make to demining efforts, that allow populations to return to and access land so they can safely rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
Ireland recognises that this important work also significantly contributes to keeping safe the women and men we deploy as peacekeepers.
Teams from the Irish Defence Forces support UNIFIL and UNDOF in clearance of areas and disposal of explosive ordnance. Their work has helped enable the re-deployment of UNDOF on the Syrian side of the Area of Separation since August 2018, an area heavily contaminated with explosive remnants of war and landmines.
We are also working in support of the UN Mine Action Service to build capacity among other troop contributing countries, as well as affected states.
The norm and consensus against the use of anti-personnel mines is now embedded in the international system. That’s true.
However, we must continue outreach to states that manufacture and stockpile them and increase our efforts towards the universalisation of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. Likewise, the full implementation of the CCW will reduce harm arising from all types of mines.
Humanitarian demining, and the clearance of unexploded ordnance, not only protects lives and alleviates suffering, it also directly contributes to achieving the 2030 Agenda.
Ireland remains firm in our belief that the vision of a mine-free world is achievable, and it can be done.
But we must rededicate our efforts toward this important goal.