UNOAU participates in the African Union Peace and Security Council commemoration for International Mine Awareness and Assistance to Mine Action Day

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3 Apr 2023

UNOAU participates in the African Union Peace and Security Council commemoration for International Mine Awareness and Assistance to Mine Action Day

On 03 April 2023, the AUPSC held its 1146th Meeting in commemoration of International Day on Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, focusing on peace and security in Africa.

During the meeting, keynote addresses were presented by various representatives, including Ambassador Abdelhamid Elgharbi, the Permanent Representative of Tunisia and Chairperson of the AUPSC for the month of April; Dr. Sarjoh Bah, Director of Conflict Management Directorate, representing the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS); Mr. Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the AU and Head of UNOAU; Bruce Mokaya Orina, Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation to the African Union; Riccardo Mosca, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union (EU) to the AU; Abel Tesfai, United Nations Mine Action Service; and Tobby Robinson, Country Director of HALO Trust Ethiopia.

In his statement, Ambassador Elgharbi, emphasized the importance of eliminating the threat of landmines and other explosive remnants of war in Africa. He expressed concern about the grave humanitarian cost of explosive devices, including curtailing humanitarian access to populations in need, and called on all stakeholders to explore alternative approaches to mine action. He also stressed the need to strengthen mine action efforts in the continent, including through enhanced mobilization of funds for mine clearance activities at the national, regional, and continental level.

In his own remarks, Dr. Sarjoh welcomed participants and noted that the 1164th session commemorating international mine awareness and assistance in mine action under this year’s  theme “Mine Action Cannot Wait” provides an important opportunity to reflect on mine action in general and more specifically on support to victims of landmines. He underscored the importance of developing inclusive approaches in Africa to raise awareness about the risks and dangers of landmines. He underscored the need to establish a continental mechanism for mine action to coordinate member states’ efforts and fostering partnerships with affected communities to silence the guns in Africa. He further noted the different impact mines have on women and children, underscoring the importance of gender mainstreaming in mine action programming.

In his remarks, SRSG Parfait Onanga-Anyanga underscored the AU’s important role in global efforts to achieve a mine-free world, including through its commitment made in the 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration adopted by Heads of State and Government in May 2013. He further emphasized that the United Nations has been helping states to free themselves from the threat of mines, explosive remnants of war, and improvised explosive devices for more than 25 years. He called on member states to support international efforts by mainstreaming mine action into national planning and budget processes. He commended the strong partnership within the framework of the UN-AU partnership in peace and security and noted the UNOAU's support to the AU on developing the Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and Mine Action strategies. He stressed that these achievements can be sustained and further enhanced by mobilizing more political and financial support for mine action. He also urged all states that have not yet acceded to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and associated Protocols, and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, to do so.

Mr. Abel Tesfai, provided a technical presentation emphasizing the increasing threat of landmines, explosive remnants of war, and improvised explosive devices to peace-support and peace-keeping operations in Africa, resulting in significant casualties. UNMAS reported that in 2021, there were 12,500 explosive ordnance casualties, with 22% of those occurring in the 12 AU countries/territories. The casualties included injuries from IEDs, mine-related injuries, ERW-related casualties, and unknowns, with a total of 1,648 injuries and 1,014 deaths. Mr. Tesfai stressed the importance of increasing mine action funding to meet clearance obligations and promote adherence to the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty and Oslo Action Plan.

Mr. Bruce Mokaya Orina, commended the AU for dedicating its 1146th session to discuss the impact of mines particularly on women, children, migrants and on livelihoods more general. He emphasized the 26th anniversary of the adoption of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention adopted in 1997. Mr. Orina reiterated the condemnation of any use of anti-personnel mines and stressed the need to 1) address the permanent needs of mine survivors; 2) for member states to complete their mine clearance obligations; 3) for member states to join the various conventions on the use of mines and enact national policies; 4) for partners to renew commitment and allocate resources to assist Africa in becoming free from landmines and explosive remnants as well as the need 5) to raise risk awareness among communities. Mr. Bruce Mokaya Orina further called on international organizations, the private sector and academia to work together to find innovative solutions to address Africa’s mine action needs.

Mr. Toby Robinson highlighted the organization's extensive work in landmine clearance and management of weapons and ammunition armory rehabilitation projects in 18 African countries and underscored the importance of making financial resources available. Toby Robison’s statement was followed by a short video introducing the work of HALO Trust on the continent. The Deputy Head of the EU Delegation, Mr. Riccardo Mosca, expressed strong support for the execution of the Oslo action plan and the prohibition of anti-personnel mines, stating that the EU is the world's second greatest donor to humanitarian mine action. He urged accelerated implementation and universalization of major international treaties relevant to mine action.

During the meeting, member states, including Namibia and Burundi, reaffirmed their commitment to international mine action agreements, while Burundi inquired about the timeline for eliminating landmines in Africa. Namibia further commended HALO Trust and ICRC for their important work in mine action. Tanzania revealed their expertise in using an animal detection system, underlining the local expertise in this regard and informed that one of Tanzania’s Universities has a major program on mine action and suggested for the AU to collaborate with this institution. Ghana inquired about the UN's role in dealing with non-state entities and ensuring their adherence to international treaties. It further asked the AUPSC Chair how the different departments working on ‘Mine Action” and on “Silencing the Guns” collaborate.

The council explored the relationship between mine action and the link to gun silence, and the representative of PAPS stressed the need for a coherent approach to assist African efforts to address the core causes of war. Mr. Alhaji Sarjoh further noted that he would be in touch with the Representative of Tanzania on how to cooperate with Tanzania’s Research Institute in the area of mine action. In response to questions, SRSG Parfait mentioned that IHL provides protection to civilians, even when non-state parties control territory, and encouraged non-state actors to provide reports of contamination. The meeting continued in a closed session.