13 June 2017 - Mine action and mitigation of explosives risks: Mines sow death and mutilation [fr]
Mine action and mitigation of explosives risks - Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 13 June 2017
I would like to thank the Bolivian presidency of the Security Council for convening today’s important debate and for its resolution on mine action, in which France is actively participating. I would also like to thank Assistant Secretary-General Zuev and Ms. Nathalie Ochoa Niño for their very illuminating briefings.
The threats posed by anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war, as well as the ongoing use of cluster munitions, are a serious and major concern in today’s world. That is further compounded by numerous challenges posed by the growing use of improvised explosive devices with an ever-increasing death toll. Recent news of incidents in Mali, where we have all already been hard hit, has been particularly notable. But this worrisome observation applies in fact wherever civilians, local forces and troop-contributing countries are confronting this scourge of modern conflict on a daily basis. These weapons can kill and maim right away or at a later date, randomly striking long after they have been laid. They make no distinction between civilians and troops.
Given this extremely acute threat, we have moral and legal obligations — not just an obligation related to security concerns — with respect to the populations we must protect, the personnel we deploy, and the host States with which we collaborate. I am also thinking of the first teams on the ground — the civil and military mine-clearance experts. I would like to pay tribute to them for their ongoing and unstinting commitment as they risk their lives. What they do is key because it saves lives every day, not only by protecting civilians from these weapons, but also by creating the security conditions for Blue Helmets to be deployed and humanitarian personnel to reach populations in need.
Anti-personnel mines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices form a complex whole. The presence of mines in residential and cultural areas, the spread of unexploded ordnance, and entrapment by improvised explosive devices are particular challenges. To address them, we must garner specific expertise and resources. As in many other fields, there can be no one single response, but rather a series of tailored, distinct but complementary measures whose consistency must be maintained and strengthened.
We should first provide actors on the ground, be they troops or deployed forces, with the operational means necessary for their action. Specialized non-governmental organizations should also be supported, as they work tirelessly in extremely dangerous areas. New technologies must play a role in foreseeing and mitigating threats. Accordingly, I would like to commend all of the Secretariat’s innovative initiatives in this area. I would also like to pay tribute to the outstanding work of the United Nations Mine Action Service, under the particularly effective and dynamic leadership of Agnès Marcaillou, together with other United Nations bodies.
We also have a major responsibility in terms of assistance, particularly in the areas of training and awareness-raising. It is indeed important to let susceptible countries to build their own know-how, so that they do not have to depend on that of others. That also means stepping up our education efforts to improve local populations’ understanding of risks. Such prevention efforts are an essential part of our work and should be part of the clearing and security programmes undertaken to protect the civilian populations.
In that context, France’s efforts focus in particular on supporting the security sector reform in various partner States. We support the training of national bodies and provide assistance to non-governmental organizations deployed in relevant countries. Like Handicap International, these non-governmental organizations are doing an admirable job. In order to ensure stability, France, working in an essentially humanitarian framework, supports specialized training in a number of post-crisis countries. We also support demining programmes, particularly in the Middle East and Africa, in close cooperation with our partners. For example, we support such regional initiatives as the Development Centre for Post-Conflict Operations in Mine Clearance and Decontamination in Benin.
However, operational activities cannot simply be the sum of individual efforts. The complexity of the threat requires multiple stakeholders engaging in a coordinated response, based on the diversity of expertise and respective means. The Mine Action Support Group, currently chaired by Italy, is an excellent example of this. France also works closely with the European Union and the main non-governmental organizations involved.
Bolstering our resources on the ground will finally be coupled with the need to ensure the universalization and the full implementation of the legal tools at our disposal. The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction comes to mind as a reference instrument for combating anti-personnel mines, as does the Convention on Cluster Munitions, signed in Oslo, which bans cluster munitions. Many countries today share the same objectives as those conventions, even if they are not yet signatories. And some are considering becoming signatories, which we must encourage and facilitate.
In the face of ever-increasing casualties due to such weapons, time is short. We are duty-bound morally, politically and legally to intensify our efforts and strengthen their coherence so as to minimize the bloodshed caused by those deadly devices. I pledge France’s full support.