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20 years ago the Ottawa Convention, which prohibits all anti-personnel mines, their use, stockpiling, production and transfer, was signed by 122 States. To date, there are 162 States Parties.
"You can count on the European Union being one of the strongest supporters of the Ottawa Convention. All 28 EU Member States have joined it and we are united in pursuing its objectives and promoting its universalisation and full implementation," said Ambassador Peter Sørensen, Head of the EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva, during an anniversary event organised by the Permanent Missions of Canada and Austria.
The humanitarian impact of the Convention on people's lives around the world has been remarkable. Over 51 million anti-personnel mines have been destroyed, 87 of 90 States have declared to no longer hold stockpiles, 30 of 61 States Parties have declared they no longer have mined areas under their territory or control, and the situation for the majority of mine victims is significantly better today than it was two decades ago.
The European Union remains a top donor for humanitarian mine action to address the threat of mines, booby-traps and explosive remnants of war in conflict-affected countries. Between 2012 and 2016, EU institutions committed 300 million Euros to support mine action worldwide. In the same period, EU Member States committed also around 300 million Euros, which brings our total commitments to 600 million Euros. EU assistance covers all key aspects - mine clearance, risk education, victim assistance, stockpile destruction and capacity building - and benefits nearly all heavily affected countries, including Chad, Colombia, Croatia, Iraq, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Libya, Myanmar, Syria and Ukraine.
Furthermore, the EU is funding activities under the Ottawa Convention to promote universal adherence and to support States Parties in their efforts to implement the commitments laid down in the 2014 Maputo Action Plan. A new EU Council Decision, worth of 2.3 million Euros, was adopted in August 2017 to this end and will be presented at a side-event in Vienna, on 19 December 2017, on the margins of the 16th Meeting of States Parties.
"The Ottawa Convention is multilateralism at its best. It combines a strong global norm with impressive results on the ground. Tens of thousands of human lives and limbs have been saved since the entry into force of the Convention. Victims' needs are more systematically addressed, giving survivors the opportunity to live a more dignified life," Ambassador Sørensen underlined.
Thirty countries that were previously heavily contaminated are now mine-free and vast areas have been cleared. More than 50 million stockpiled mines have been destroyed. Positive effects are evident in the protection of civilians, stabilisation, development and disarmament. Mine action has also served as an instrument for peace in many post-conflict situations, facilitating confidence building and reconciliation between former enemies.
However, Ambassador Sørensen also identified key challenges: "The work is not done yet. Vast areas across the world remain inaccessible due to mine contamination. We are also confronted with new challenges. Most alarmingly, we have witnessed large-scale new contaminations in countries such as Iraq, Libya and Syria, by improvised mines and other improvised explosive weapons placed by non-State actors," he said and explained that this has resulted in an increase in the number of global mine casualties for the first time since the entry into force of the Convention.
He concluded his speech with an appeal by the EU to all State and non-State actors to refrain from the manufacture, trade and use of anti-personnel mines and urged all States to join the Ottawa Convention to achieve the goal of an anti-personnel mine free world without new victims by 2025.