Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Assistant Secretary-General Zuev and Ms. Ochoa for your very informative briefings today. We, too, would like to extend our appreciation to those brave individuals and organizations that put their lives on the line to mitigate landmines, improvised explosive devices, and unexploded ordnance in conflict-ridden areas.
We hope that today’s discussion will help us continue to highlight the importance of humanitarian mine action, countering the threat of improvised explosive devices and mitigating the danger of explosive remnants of war.
The United States has been the world’s single largest financial supporter of such efforts. We have provided more than $2.8 billion in such aid since 1993 in more than 99 countries for conventional weapons destruction, which includes clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnance, including in Colombia, where we are the largest donor in the sector. We urge other Member States to join us in a robust international partnership to reduce the humanitarian impact of landmines, unexploded ordnance, and IEDs on vulnerable communities around the world.
Today, public and private sector organizations are playing a vital role in clearing IEDs and other explosive devices, often before conflict and violence have completely ceased. These partners will continue to provide essential support to ease the safe return of civilians in areas where fighting has taken place.
Nowhere are these challenges more prevalent than in our ongoing efforts to defeat ISIS. Many of the areas that have been liberated or are in the process of being liberated from ISIS are severely contaminated with landmines and IEDs. Some of these explosive devices operate as booby traps – meant to spread terror even after ISIS fighters have departed.
An important part of defeating ISIS involves clearing these landmines, IEDs, and unexploded ordnance so internally displaced persons and refugees can return to their homes. This also involves ensuring key infrastructure points are free of landmines and IEDs so that water service can be restored and sanitation services resumed.
However, there remains the potential for confusion about the role of humanitarian mine action implementers and military and security personnel who are operating in evolving conflict areas to mitigate IEDs. In order to best protect mine action personnel, it is important that Member States not conflate IED clearance with military counter-IED activities. Affected states, donors, the UN, and humanitarian mine action implementers should work together to make sure that all personnel searching for and disposing of IEDs have the appropriate skills to do the job. The aim should be to ensure the safe, effective, and efficient disposal of IEDs.
The United States will continue to support the efforts of the UN and others to mitigate the humanitarian consequences of landmines, unexploded ordnances, and IEDs.
Thank you, Mr. President.