Sunday, November 29, 2009

And now for some GOOD NEWS!
Lobbying and campaigning does work! . . .

International Campaign To Ban Landmines

Australian Network Incorporated.

Media Release

Australia provides global leadership on vision of a landmine-free world

The Australian Network to Ban Landmines has praised the Australian Government’s commitment to provide $100 million for work to rid the world of landmines over the period 2010 to 2014.

This funding will be used to cover clearance of minefields, assisting victims of landmines and other unexploded ordnance, providing education about the risks of landmines to communities where it will not be possible to remove the threat of landmines in a reasonable timeframe and assisting in the universalisation of the UN Convention banning anti-personnel landmines (“the Ottawa Convention”).

“The announcement by the Australian Government provides global leadership on seeking a world that is rid of anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions”, said Dr Mark Zirnsak, National Co-ordinator of the Australian Network to Ban Landmines.

Australia will now be in a very strong position to encourage other countries to match its commitment to rid the world of these terrible weapons that go on killing and maiming for decades after conflicts end.”

“This funding will make a real difference to people’s lives. It will mean less mines in the ground and more assistance for victims of landmines and their families, to help them get their lives back together”, said Dr Zirnsak.

While the annual number of casualties from landmines and explosive remnants of war continues to decrease as a result of the impact of the Ottawa Convention, the total number of landmine survivors continues to increase. The 2007 Landmine Monitor Report stated that there are an estimated 473,000 landmine survivors in the world today need on-going assistance.

Countries within our region that have high numbers of survivors from landmines and cluster munitions who need on-going assistance are Cambodia (47,000), Lao PDR (5,500) and Thailand (2,000). In addition, Afghanistan (52,000 – 60,000) and Iraq (estimated 80,000 to 100,000 amputees) are countries that receive aid from Australia that have high numbers of survivors of landmines and cluster munitions.

There are more than 70 countries affected by anti-personnel landmines and unexploded ordnance with thousands of square kilometers of area being contaminated that needs to be cleared.

In 2007 there were 2,448 recorded casualties in 15 countries in the Asian region from landmines and unexploded ordnance, although it should be noted that it is believed that the number of casualties (especially deaths) that go unreported outnumber the reported casualties.

Australia’s multiyear mine action assistance is acknowledged by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines as global best practice.

Australia’s own assessment is that the mine action activities it has funded, largely in the Asian region, have been integrated within the broader development context. For example, in the 2007 – 2008 financial year Australia provided $3.27 million to Cambodia’s Clearing for Results Program which has continued to exceed its annual land clearance target, clearing 8.5 km2 of land in 2007. The funding is directed to priority mine clearance tasks in accordance with Cambodia’s national and provincial development plans.


Dr Mark Zirnsak, National Co-ordinator, Australian Network to Ban Landmines, 0409 166 915


Statement by the Australian

Minister for Foreign Affairs,

Stephen Smith, MP

on Mine Action

18 November 2009

Mr Speaker, every five years nations now recommit themselves to tackling the scourge of landmines and other remnants of war. This year, Australia will present our largest ever commitment to mine action at the Second Review Conference of the Mine Ban Convention in Colombia.

Australia was one of the original signatories of the Mine Ban Convention when it opened for signature in December 1997 in Ottawa. Australia ratified the Treaty in December 1998. The Treaty came into force in March 1999. The first Review Conference was held in Nairobi in 2004, five years after the Treaty entered into force.

Australia is committed to a world free from landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war. These weapons have contaminated more than seventy countries around the world and kill and maim at least five thousand people a year.

Australia has long supported action to eradicate landmines and other explosive remnants of war and to ease the suffering of adversely affected people and communities. Australia has a proud history of being at the forefront of international efforts on mine action.

For more than a decade, our advocacy and leadership has demonstrated Australia’s international commitment.

Madam Deputy Speaker, in Oslo last December, I signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions on behalf of Australia. The Convention is a significant humanitarian achievement, prohibiting cluster munitions that scatter battlefields with hundreds of explosive devices. Many of them fail to detonate and pose a long-term threat to civilians for years after hostilities have ceased.

The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recommended in August 2009 that Australia should ratify the Convention. The Government is proceeding with all the usual necessary consultative steps to complete ratification. It is certainly the Government’s aspiration and intention to ratify as soon as possible.

Australia is the eleventh largest donor to mine action. We have contributed more than $175 million to mine action over the past twelve years.

Australia has been a committed mine action donor in sixteen badly affected countries across the Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, namely Afghanistan, Angola, Burma, Cambodia, Iraq, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Mozambique, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Somalia, the Sudan, Thailand, Uganda and Vietnam.

This assistance has helped affected countries achieve their mine action goals.

In 2005, Australia committed $75 million over five years to 2010 to clear landmines, rehabilitate and support survivors and educate communities about the risk of mines.
At the time this commitment had welcome bipartisan support.

I can report to the House that Australia achieved this commitment in August 2009, well ahead of schedule. Australia’s assistance has changed the lives of people for the better.
Through the provision of prostheses, wheelchairs, rehabilitation and other support, Australia has given a chance for a new life to thousands of landmine survivors.

We have saved many more lives through mine risk education, vital clearance and the subsequent release of productive land.

We have cleared mines from nearly seven million square metres of land in Cambodia and over five million square metres in Laos. This land is now being cultivated to reap social, environmental and economic benefits. It is used for resettlement, schools, roads, canals, water supplies and agricultural production such as rice paddies, tree plantations and fish farms.

In Cambodia, Australia’s work with the Australian Red Cross has helped more than 10,000 landmine survivors with prosthetics, wheelchairs, physiotherapy, livelihood training and support, and adequate health care, clean water and latrines.

In Lebanon, clearance of unexploded ordnance, particularly cluster munitions, and safety training has enabled safe access for humanitarian aid and promoted economic recovery.

In Iraq, nearly nine million square metres of land has been cleared, and Australia’s work with the United Nations Development Programme, the UNDP, has helped with the destruction of more than 60,000 explosive remnants of war, including abandoned artillery shells, mortars, grenades and ammunition.

Clearing unexploded ordnance from schools has allowed nearly 2,500 pupils to return to their studies while clearing unexploded ordnance from agricultural land has allowed 1,500 farmers to open new vegetable and date farms.

Madam Deputy Speaker, Australia can be proud that so many people’s lives have improved through these opportunities in education and employment.

Afghanistan is one of the most adversely mine-affected countries in the world and has one of the largest mine action programs. Australian support has helped establish a new Community Based Demining Project in Oruzgan province in the south of Afghanistan. Over 7,000 remnants of war have been removed to enable affected communities to again move freely again and to cultivate their lands.

On Monday last week I visited Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has been through a terrible conflict, a civil war lasting over 25 years where thousands of people were casualties and thousands of people were displaced. I announced when I was there a contribution by Australia of $6 million to assist in de-mining to ensure that the areas where people are resettled to are free from the terrible blight of landmines. This is vital work to enable communities to return to their homes, farmers to return to their fields and children to return to school.

The International Community will set further goals for landmine eradication at the Second Review Conference of the Mine Ban Convention in Colombia in two weeks time.

The Summit on a Mine-Free World will review progress made under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention over the past decade. The Summit will also look ahead to the next five years. Australia looks forward to participating in the Summit. It is an important milestone in the life of the Mine Ban Convention.

At the Summit, the Australian delegation will be led by Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance Bob McMullan and will include former Member for Cowan, Graham Edwards.

At the Summit, Australia will renew its commitment to global efforts to reduce the impacts of landmines and other explosive remnants of war, which continue to threaten the lives of so many people.

Since meeting the $75 million commitment to mine action, the Australian Government has been developing a strategy to build on our successful past efforts and to guide future assistance. We have consulted widely with key partners including Governments and Australian and International Non-Government Organisations.

Australia will present our new Mine Action Strategy for the Australian aid program to the Summit in two weeks time. The new strategy will support the achievement of Australia’s obligations under the Mine Ban Convention itself, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, in particular Protocol V on explosive remnants of war, and our future obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Under the Strategy, Australia will pledge $100 million over the next five years working towards a world free from landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war. This is the largest five-year commitment made by Australia to mine action.

It reinforces Australia’s ongoing commitment to mine action and sees Australia at the forefront of international efforts on mine action. Australia’s assistance will support countries still affected by these weapons, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Iraq, Laos and Sri Lanka. The Strategy has one overriding goal – to reduce the threat and social and economic impact of landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war.

To achieve this goal, Australia’s strategy will work towards the following four outcomes:

Australia will seek to reduce deaths and injuries;

Australia will improve the quality of life for victims and their affected families and communities;
Australia will support and encourage affected countries to increase their ownership of national mine action efforts; and
Australia will continue to advocate for universal adherence to key international instruments, such as the Mine Ban Convention and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

For many developing countries, these explosive devices continue to hold back development. They bring devastating social and economic impacts to some of the poorest countries in the world, both during and after armed conflict. They adversely affect security and stability. They threaten the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Madam Deputy Speaker, I look forward to the outcomes of the Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World. The Summit’s outcomes will help guide implementation of Australia’s new strategy. Australia looks forward to working with our bilateral, regional and international partners to achieve a mine-free world.

Our commitment will support Australia’s objectives to reduce poverty, promote sustainable development and contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
We will build on the success of Australia’s leadership
in mine action, reflecting Australia’s commitment to be a good international citizen.

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