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MINE BAN CONVENTION
2013 Intersessional Meetings
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION AND ASSISTANCE
Statement by Australia
30 May 2013
Thank you Mr Co-Chair
Australia remains firmly committed to providing cooperation and assistance in mine action in order to reduce the threat and socio-economic impact of landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war.
We consider mine action to be an important humanitarian, development and security activity. We are pleased to note that Australia has exceeded the commitment it made at the Second Review Conference to provide $100 million through its mine action strategy over the years 2010 and 2014. By the end of June 2013, Australia will have committed over $105 million to mine action since 2010. This assistance has benefitted over twenty countries and a number of programs that have a global reach.
Australia is continuing to focus its efforts on increasing the impact and effectiveness of our support, including through seeking to strengthen national mine action programs by building national capacities and working with countries, implementing partners and donors to coordinate and pool resources.
Whilst the majority of our assistance is dedicated to mine clearance, risk reduction and victim assistance, Australia also actively promotes international cooperation and assistance in mine action.
Australia is pleased to be assisting the Co-Chairs of this Standing Committee through its support to the Bangkok Symposium on Cooperation and Assistance; Building Synergy Towards Effective Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention Implementation which will take place in Bangkok next month. As outlined by the Co-Chairs, the Symposium is expected to enhance regional cooperation in mine action by sharing experiences on the full range of regional approaches to cooperation and assistance. Australia‟s support will enable approximately 25 delegates from mine affected countries to attend the Symposium.
In the Pacific region, explosive remnants of war are an under recognized problem that pose a risk to communities, the environment, socio-economic development and human security. Almost seven decades since the end of WWII, explosive remnants of war continues to plague a number of Pacific island countries including the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
In recognition of this Australia is supporting the Regional Pacific Explosive Remnants of War Workshop which will take place in Brisbane on 27-28 June 2013 - a follow up to last year‟s Regional Meeting on the Implementation of the Pacific Islands Forum Regional Unexploded Ordnance Strategy in Palau, which Australia also supported.
The focus of the workshop is to assist affected Pacific Island countries in developing comprehensive and effective national action plans to deal with their WWII-era explosive remnants of war. The workshop is expected to increase regional and national level knowledge of the ways and means to address the problems caused by ERW and to illustrate the breadth and variety of financial and technical assistance and good practice in mine action.
Australia has also recently announced further funding of $3 million to reduce the threat of unexploded ordnance in Palau. The announcement was made at the opening of an Australian-funded Regional Explosive Ordnance Disposal Training School in Palau. The school will provide training in the identification and clearance of ERW and in risk education.
Australia also provides a range of technical assistance and training to regional countries affected by ERW, including through cooperative ERW clearance, removal and destruction activities.
In 2012, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) training – to develop explosive hazard awareness and regional nations‟ EOD capabilities – was included in Australian training for military personnel from Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea.
In 2012-13, the Australian Defence Force also assisted the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force EOD team with infrastructure and specialist equipment under the Defence Cooperation Program. This EOD assistance occurs in close cooperation with US State Department sponsored training
With the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force EOD team, the ADF will conduct Operation RENDER SAFE in Solomon Islands in October-November 2013. Operation RENDER SAFE is a regular, biennial activity by the ADF to remediate the threat posed by ERW in South West Pacific Countries.
Additionally, Australia works with other regional partners – such as the armed forces of the United States, New Zealand and France – to coordinate joint responses to requests for EOD assistance, with the aim that affected States will develop EOD capabilities to the point where assistance is no longer required.
Australia would like to reinforce the message that effective mine action assistance is dependent on effective partnerships and cooperation between affected States, local communities and their governments, implementing operators and donors.
The Mine Action Support Group (MASG) that Australia chairs is considering how it can contribute to improving donor coordination and partnerships in mine action.
At its last meeting in April this year the MASG discussed a study it had commissioned to look at ways of improving donor coordination. Points included broadening the MASG membership, enhancing the MASG website as an information exchange tool and continually exchanging information on donor mine action policies and strategies. This topic will remain a regular feature of the twice yearly meetings of the Mine Action Support Group.
The Mine Action Support Group has also been considering how cooperation and assistance in mine action could be better coordinated and applied to assist more States to meet their clearance obligations and become mine free. Whilst noting the importance of becoming mine free, members of the Mine Action Support Group have also stressed that humanitarian need is a primary concern in determining the allocation of mine action resources.
Further discussion amongst members of the Mine Action Support Group is planned to consider setting priorities for funding and allocating resources to mine action programs.
It is expected that annual meetings of the Mine Action Support Group will retain a focus on discussing the issues of countries nearing completion. Two to three countries that are nearing “completion” will be invited to the annual meetings of the Mine Action Support Group to discuss their remaining mine action challenges. The MASG will continue to work with partners like the UN and the GICHD to refine methodologies to make a strong socio-economic or „business case‟ for completing clearance work in affected countries as appropriate.
To assist donors in planning and prioritising effective cooperation and assistance in mine action, we urge affected states to provide detailed and accurate information on the scope of the contamination problem and the challenges they are facing in meeting the needs of victims.
It is difficult for donors to prioritize resources to mine action unless affected countries themselves place appropriate priority at the national level on mine action in their regular development plans.
We urge affected countries to demonstrate their ownership and commitment to mine action by ratifying the Convention and by resourcing a national mine action program.
We also urge affected countries to prioritize national coordination mechanisms so that mine action resources can be put to maximum effect.