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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia[*], Montenegro[*], Serbia[*] and Albania[*], as well as Ukraine and Georgia align themselves with this statement.
I would like to thank Finland for presiding over Protocol V meetings in 2019 and assure you of our full support and cooperation.
The EU and its Member States are fully committed to the objectives of Protocol V which plays a key role in addressing the problem of unexploded and abandoned ordnance and minimising the serious post-conflict impact of Explosive Remnants of War (ERWs) on civilian populations. We strongly support efforts to strengthen this important instrument of International Humanitarian Law, promote its universalisation and enhance its implementation in order to reduce the humanitarian harm and minimise the risks and effects of ERWs.
We note with concern that the level of adherence to this and other protocols to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) remains relatively low. In this regard, we appreciate the outreach activities you have conducted to promote universal adherence to Protocol V, including the universalisation workshop, which took place yesterday, with the aim of sharing information of the Protocol with States who consider accession thereto. We hope these efforts will result in positive outcomes soon.
As the world's leading donor of humanitarian aid, the EU provides significant assistance for mine action, in particular for clearance and destruction of mines, booby-traps and ERWs, for victim assistance and for mine risk education in the most heavily affected countries and regions of the world. For us, gender mainstreaming is integral to the delivery of mine action, including through promoting women’s participation and providing integrated support where appropriate.
The EU and its Member States look forward to working together with all High Contracting Parties to further advance the effective implementation of all provisions of Protocol V. In this context, we welcome this year’s expert level discussion focusing on urban clearance, as ERWs continue to pose serious risks to health and safety of civilian populations in affected countries. Over the last century, armed conflicts have increasingly been fought in urban areas, which have exposed civilians and the civilian infrastructure to an even greater risk. The delivery of humanitarian aid is often complicated due to the destruction of roads, rendering them inaccessible and affecting access to basic services. Keeping this in mind, we welcome the technical discussion about the challenges related to survey and clearance of ERWs in urban context. Against the backdrop of the increasing urbanisation of conflict, this theme is both important and timely.
In accordance with Article 4, the High Contracting Parties and parties to an armed conflict shall to the maximum extent possible and as far as practicable record and retain information on the use of explosive ordnance or abandonment of explosive ordnance and to transfer this information to facilitate the rapid clearance of ERWs. Rapid assessment and clearance can help open up access for humanitarian and health workers, protect civilians, allow IDPs and refugees to return home safely and, eventually, enable longer-term development.
In this context, we support further sharing of information and experiences between the High Contracting Parties on the implementation of their obligations under Article 4. Information which is released by armed forces accurately, in a timely manner and in a usable format, as required by Article 4, will have a positive impact on clearance, destruction and removal of ERWs on the ground. Further work could be undertaken in particular to improve the accuracy and quality of the information. This is a prerequisite for understanding the scale and nature of contamination and designing appropriate responses, especially at a time when we face new types of contamination. We will remain focused on the clearance of ERWs and victim assistance and encourage the further development and implementation of Article 4 procedures.
We note that Protocol V is a stand-alone instrument with its own High Contracting Parties, but it does not function in a vacuum, and therefore areas of commonalities in the context of data collection and information management with another relevant disarmament bodies and instruments can be further discussed.
Explosive ordnance contamination finds itself at the intersection of different disciplines including security, humanitarian aid, stabilisation, development, public health and the implementation of treaty obligations. All these disciplines, where relevant and pertinent, should provide support for mine action and integrated support to mine victims.
Thank you, Madam President
[*] North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.