30 March 2006

First International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action to Be Marked on 4 April 

World Free from Threat of Landmines Achievable in Years, not Decades

VIENNA, 30 March (UN Information Service) -- The United Nations General Assembly has declared 4 April the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. The day will raise awareness about landmines and progress toward their eradication. 

The battle against landmines is being won, with some countries already achieving mine-free status.  But victory will depend on the unflagging commitment of the governments of those countries where mines still exist and on the sustained support of the international community, according to Max Gaylard, director of the United Nations Mine Action Service.

"The task of eliminating landmines is enormous, but it can be completed in years, rather than decades, as long as mine-affected countries do everything in their power to become mine-free, and donor countries and organizations maintain their interest and financial support," Gaylard adds. "Unlike so many of the global problems of our day, this one can be solved. 4 April is an opportunity to remind the world that there is light at the end of the tunnel."

In addition to tackling the landmine problem, the international community must also tackle the problem of explosive remnants of war, which in some countries, are an even greater threat, Gaylard says.  Explosive remnants of war include unexploded ordnance (such as cluster munitions that did not detonate on impact) and abandoned explosive ordnance (such as grenades and missiles that were left behind by retreating armed forces). 4 April provides an opportunity to raise awareness about this problem too.

According to the Landmine Monitor Report 2005, 84 countries are affected to some extent by landmines and unexploded ordnance, which together kill or maim between 15,000 and 20,000 adults and children annually, down from an estimated 26,000 in the late 1990s. Fourteen United Nations agencies, programmes, departments and funds are together helping find and destroy these devices and providing other mine-action services in 30 countries and three territories.

"Mine action" refers to a range of efforts to clear landmines and explosive remnants of war and to mark and fence off dangerous areas. It also includes assisting victims, teaching people how to remain safe in a mine-affected environment, advocating for universal participation in international treaties related to landmines, explosive remnants of war and their victims, and destroying landmines stockpiled by governments and non-state armed groups.

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For information contact:

Sonja Wintersberger
Associate Information Officer, UNIS Vienna
Telephone : + 43 1 260 60 3430
E-mail: sonja.wintersberger@unvienna.org