CAIRO: In an attempt to raise awareness about landmines, explosive remnants of war (ERW) and progress toward their eradication the United Nations celebrated the International Day for Mine Awareness yesterday.
To commemorate this occasion and as reminder of the adverse effects of mines the United Nations in New York hosted a mock minefield and free de-mining demonstrations at the Humanitarian De-mining Training Center. At the UN General Assembly Building, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched “Enduring Fear, a month-long exhibition of photographs about landmines, ERWs and the people affected by them. Unicef also hosts free mine-risk education workshops for the public, while landmines, cluster munitions and other devices, along with the actual mine-ban treaty, are put on display. A number of mine-affected countries, including Egypt, take part in theses proceedings.
Landmines and ERWs continue to kill or injure many people each year. The overwhelming majority are civilians who trigger these devices years or even decades after a conflict ends. Landmines, cluster munitions and other ERWs, impede development in sectors such as agriculture, tourism, health, education, water supplies, and infrastructure. Areas that contain ERWs are deprived from industrial development and commercial growth and do not attract domestic or foreign investment.
While the international community increasingly recognizes that mine clearance is a development issue, additional efforts are needed to effectively integrate it with development. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) addresses mine clearance from a development perspective and advocates for the sustainability of mine clearance programs.
The Egyptian Armed Forces is responsible for carrying out mine clearance in Egypt. The government has stated that the engineering corps of the Egyptian Armed Forces has successfully cleared 3 million mines at an estimated cost of $27 million from 1981 to 1999. However, due to the lack of funds, the Armed Forces has slowed down its de-mining operations during the past few years.
The Egyptian government and the UNDP recently signed a project document to Support the North West Coast Development Plan and Mine Action Program: “Mine Action . Recognizing that de-mining is no longer merely a humanitarian issue but rather also a major developmental concern, this project falls within the scope of the UNDP Country Program for 2007-11, and is associated with the Crisis Prevention and Recovery service line under the current four-year funding framework.
Fayza Aboulnaga, Minister of International Cooperation (MIC), Ayman Zaineldine, Deputy Assistant Minister and Director of the Department of International Cooperation for Development at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Mr. James Rawley, UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator, signed the document on behalf of the parties involved in the implementation of the project.
The purpose of the “Mine Action project is to support the implementation of the cabinet-approved National Plan for the Development of the North West Coast and Inland Desert. The National Plan aims at clearing landmines and developing the entire area. This will be achieved through: establishing an Executive Secretariat for Mine Clearance and the Development of the NWC within the MIC to coordinate the efforts of all parties.
“Our goal is to bring an end to the suffering that has lasted over 60 years, and to bring the North West Coast back into our development plan. We need to open up new horizons to harness the creative energy our citizens have to offer. They need new opportunities and future generations need a chance to live a better life, said Minister of International Cooperation Fayza Aboulnaga.
The Mine Action Programme is set to be implemented over a period of five years, from January 2007 to December 2011. The first phase of the “Support to the North West Coast Development Plan and Mine Action Program project is set to last for 18 months, commencing on February 2007 and ending July 2008, and is budgeted at $3,147,795. Government of Egypt (through MIC) will be cost sharing $261,730, UNDP $375,000, British Embassy in Egypt $ 19,632, the Department for International Development United Kingdom (DFID UK) will contribute $490,400, Bureau of Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR) $ 200,533, UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) $150,000, in addition to in kind contributions from the Egyptian Armed Forces.