[Dateline: New York | Author: Department of Peacekeeping Operations]
Dmitry Titov, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions i n the Department of Peacekeeping Operations , addressed the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly last week on behalf of the Inter-Agency Coordination Group for Mine Action on the issue of assistance in mine action and introduced the report of the Secretary-General on Assistance in Mine Action ( A/64/287 ).
Mr. Titov praised the outstanding contribution and sacrifice of the men and women dealing with the threat of mines and explosive remnants of war in the field.
He shared the story of Steven Fantham, an Operations Officer for the United Nations Mine Action Office based in Juba, who suffered a lower limb amputation in the course of his duties this year. Not only has Mr. Fantham rehabilitated since the accident, but he has resumed his duties in Sudan - a stunning example to us all.
Mr. Titov also paid tribute to Femisberto Novele, a Mozambican national working as a deminer in Cyprus who was killed on 28 October while clearing mines in the buffer zone, many decades after the active conflict. [ UN News Centre article ]
ASG Titov also drew attention to a number of key elements of the Secretary-General’s report. “The Secretary-General seeks support of the General Assembly to continue the development of a United Nations capacity for rapid mine action deployment, most recently used in Gaza, that could contribute considerably to the protection of civilians and the efficient work of humanitarian operations.”
He noted, “The Secretary-General also asks Member States to acknowledge the potential role of the United Nations Mine Action Service in providing advice and assistance to peace operations in regard to improvised explosive devices and other explosive remnants of war. In light of recent events in Mogadishu, Afghanistan, Iraq and other areas where UN personnel have been gravely affected, this task is particularly urgent.”
Recent achievements in mine action include a drop in casualty levels from mines and explosive remnants of war in a number of affected countries. For example, in Mozambique, casualty rates dropped to almost zero in 2009; Sudan is also reaching the near-zero rate; and in other countries and territories - such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tajikistan and Uganda - the number of reported casualties has not increased, while the movement of internally displaced persons has accelerated, thanks to mine clearance and emergency education efforts.
The importance of mine action was discussed further in relation to the draft resolution on “Assistance in Mine Action”, which was adopted by the Fourth Committee without a vote. It is co-sponsored by at least 51 Member States.