[Dateline: Beirut | Author: iSeek]
Staff of the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Centre South Lebanon are the proud winners of the 2008 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award, for their courageous efforts to clear southern Lebanon of the cluster munitions and other explosive war leftovers that impeded the safe return of civilians displaced during the 2006 Israeli-Lebanon conflict.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres will on 6 October in Geneva, present the agency’s top honor to the Centre, which has led international effort since 2006 to clean up deadly arms and weapons from South Lebanon. Head of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre of South Lebanon, Christopher Clark, will receive the award on behalf of the Centre, its staff and 1,000 deminers at the Geneva ceremony.
“Through their painstaking work and devotion, the teams created the conditions for a safe and dignified return home for almost 1 million displaced Lebanese,” says Mr. Guterres in a statement issued in New York today.
The Nansen Refugee Award is given annually to an individual or organization for outstanding work on behalf of refugees. It includes a $100,000 prize, which the winner may donate to a cause of his or her choice. The award is named after Nobel Peace Laureate Fridtjof Nansen, the first High Commissioner for refugees. Its previous recipients include Eleanor Roosevelt, King Juan Carlos I of Spain and Queen Juliana of the Netherlands.
The Mine Action Coordination Centre of South Lebanon coordinates mine action operations of non-governmental organizations, commercial companies, the Lebanese Armed Forces and the UN peacekeeping mission - UNIFIL. The Centre is overseen by the New York-based UN Mine Action Service in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions.
“I congratulate my colleagues in southern Lebanon for their impressive achievement,” says Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain LeRoy. “Their actions have benefited so many people—not only the returning refugees and internally displaced persons, but also the humanitarian relief workers and our peacekeepers.”
Twenty-two donor countries and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs have provided about $38 million through the Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action in support of the cluster munitions clean-up effort since August 2006.
Among these donors, the Netherlands contributed the largest amount: about $5.2 million. Italy contributed more than $4 million, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributed $500,000. The United Arab Emirates has since 2001 contributed more than $70 million for mine action in southern Lebanon, and a portion of this amount has been applied toward recent cluster munitions removal. The General Assembly approved additional funding of about $5 million in support of UNIFIL. The European Union and seven donor countries provided support directly to clearance operators.