[Datline: Cyprus | Author: DPKO]
The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in the Department of Peacekeeping Operation's (DPKO) Office for Rule of Law and Security Institutions (OROLSI) is conducting its annual Heads of Mine Action Components Conference in Cyprus from 11 to 13 November 2008.
The Conference was opened by Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Tayé-Brook Zerihoun of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).
Also present were Programme Managers from Afghanistan, where UNMAS manages the mine action programme on behalf of the Government of Afghanistan and from Cyprus where UNMAS provides technical and policy oversight to the UNDP mine action programme working in coordination with UNFICYP clearing the buffer zone with funding provided by the European Commission (EC).
In total 26 men and 15 women are taking part in the Conference.
SRSG Zerihoun lauded the work of the participants from his personal experience in UNFICYP and UNMIS and added that, "During my time in UNMIS, I witnessed the mine action programme clear thousands of kilometres of roads that not only provided benefit and savings to the Mission, but also allowed for the safe return of refugees and IDPs [internally displaced persons]. I'm sure colleagues in other Missions can speak of similar successes."
The Conference is focusing on best practices and techniques aimed at accelerating clearance operations and working within existing resource limitations. The Conference also presented the opportunity to review UNMAS’ contribution to the UN Inter-Agency Strategy on Mine Action 2006-2010. The aims of the Strategy are reducing casualties, expanding mobility and access, integrating mine action into national development plans and the development of national capacities that would allow for the conclusion of UN support.
"The Heads of Components Conference allows us to take stock and see where we are going, not only in terms of supporting the achievement of the respective Mission mandates, but UNMAS’ contribution to the sector as a whole," according to John Flanagan, Officer-in-Charge of UNMAS. "Having the Conference in Cyprus is a unique opportunity to highlight the peace building aspect of mine action where the outcome is the elimination of the barrier between the two communities on the island, which has enabled the opening of new crossing points."