Sunday, November 27, 2011

World’s largest anti-landmines conference kicks off in Cambodia

   PHNOM PENH, Nov. 27 (Xinhua) -- The 11th Meeting of the States Parties (11MSP) of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, or Ottawa Convention, kicked off here on Sunday evening with the participation by more than 1,000 ministers, diplomats, landmine experts, civil society activists, observers and survivors from about 120 countries. 
   The meeting is the largest multilateral meeting ever to take place in Cambodia. Speaking at the opening of the 11MSP at Phnom Penh’s Peace Palace, the Prime Minister Hun Sen said it was a great honor for Cambodia to host such milestone event.
   He said in Cambodia, the history of mine clearance and the release of land for agricultural production began after the liberation of the country from the Democratic Kampuchea, or known as Khmer Rouge regime, in the early 1979, but humanitarian demining formally commenced since 1992.
   “We have made a remarkable progress over the last two decades of mine action in Cambodia--the number of mine victims has declined from 4,320 in 1996 to 286 in 2010 and during the first ten months of this year, the number of victims had dropped to 152,” said the premier. “It is believed that the number of victims will be below 200 in 2011.”
   At the end of the one-week meeting, Hun Sen said the delegates will consider and adopt the Phnom Penh Progress Report, a detailed document measuring progress in the past year and highlighting priority areas of work to be acted upon for the year to come.
   Addressing at the opening ceremony, Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), said the 11MSP was to celebrate progress to date in overcoming the menace of anti-personnel mines, and to acknowledge that much work still remains to be done to rid the world of them.
   “This meeting is also an opportunity to acknowledge the power of partnerships between states, civil society, and international organizations in pursuing humanitarian diplomacy which is preventive in nature and helps build a more peaceful and secure world,” she said.
   Helen added that while it is difficult to quantify exact numbers of victims and survivors from landmines, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines has estimated that these weapons have killed and maimed over a million people in the last thirty years.  Seventy-one percent of these were estimated to be civilians, and thirty-two percent children. 
   The Ottawa Treaty is formally the convention on the prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines and on their destruction. It was adopted in Oslo in 1997, opened for signature in Ottawa the same year and entered into force in 1999.
   To date, 158 states have joined the convention with 153 of these reporting that they no longer hold stocks of anti-personnel mines and over 44.5 million stockpiled mines have been destroyed by the States Parties.
   Cambodia is one of the worst countries suffered from mines in the world as the results of nearly three decades of war and internal conflict from the mid 1960s until the end of 1998.
   Since 1979 to September 2011, landmines in Cambodia had killed 19,608 people and injured 44,346 others, according to the report from the Cambodian Mine and Explosive Remnants of War Victim Information System.
   The country needs about 30 million U.S. dollars a year for the next 10 years to entirely get rid of mines. 

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