I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Armenia, align themselves with this declaration.
As we all know, 2007 marks the first decade since the international community committed itself to eliminate the curse of anti-personnel mines. The European Union, along with many others, is pleased to celebrate a number of important and remarkable achievements such as, among other aspects, declining casualties from anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war, effective implementation of many key aspects of a strengthened international legal framework, as well as a successfully coordinated approach among the many UN system partners engaged in mine action on the ground and at headquarters. In addition, we are also pleased to note that the trade of anti personnel mines has also been reduced significantly in recent years.
Our accomplishments, however, must go hand in hand with renewed commitment. The EU is deeply concerned that, despite major improvements, still several thousands of victims, most of them innocent civilians, including children, are claimed by landmines and other explosive remnants of war every year. We must therefore continue to address old threats and tackle emerging ones. Reducing the risks posed by explosive remnants of war, including cluster munitions will bring us closer to our collective goal of protecting civilians.
The European Union fully shares the United Nations vision for a world free of the threat of landmines and explosive remnants of war. Accordingly, support for international mine action continues to be among the most important political priorities of the EU, consistently complimented with financial efforts, totaling to an amount of around 1.5 billion Euros allocated for such activities since 1997, in view of the contribution this can bring to the promotion of peace and stability globally and to the lessening of human suffering in mine affected regions. The European Union is the largest single contributor to both the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross for funds related to mine action.
Universalization of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention remains an important goal for the EU and we are pleased that 155 States have agreed to be bound by its provisions. In this respect, the EU welcomes the commitment of State Parties to pursue full and effective promotion and implementation of the Convention, including through the Nairobi Action Plan for 2005 to 2009. We also look forward to the 8th meeting of States Parties in Jordan later this month, as a further means of measuring the progress made towards the realization of the Conventions goals.
Yet, a total of 40 States still remain outside the Treaty and approximately 65 countries remain affected to some degree by anti-personnel landmines and explosive remnants of war.
It is clear that the international community must continue to support mine action programmes, both in political and financial terms; failure to give these efforts sufficient priority would have additional unacceptable human costs. Assistance in mine clearance and stockpile destruction must continue, but the EU believes that emphasis should also focus more strongly on victim assistance and mine risk education in order to address the humanitarian and medical consequences faced by mine-affected countries. The EU believes that any assistance given should help affected countries to fulfill their obligations under international law, most notably the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. Furthermore, the EU will keep focusing on structural national capacity building with the primary objective of raising the level of mine action management capacity within mine affected countries. Local capacity building has been in fact one of the main objectives of the 2005-2007 EU Mine Action Strategy.
Mainstreaming mine action into wider development strategies is important. The most evident priority to achieve efficiency of mine action is to fully integrate it into comprehensive country strategies and programmes. Integration ensures that the significant funds being committed to mine action are used within the socio-economic context of the country. The EU therefore supports the progressively more sophisticated approach to the integration of mine action requirements into development plans and budgets in order to ensure sustainability of essential initiatives and the development of national capacities for the future. The further integration of mine action into peacekeeping operations and mandates is also of critical importance.
We should not lose sight that we all have a common responsibility in this matter and joint efforts must continue to be pursued by mine-affected countries, donor governments, regional institutions, national and international NGOs as well as all bodies of the United Nations. Cooperation and coordination among all these actors is crucial in order to avoid duplication and to ensure the most effective utilization of resources, building on national capacity, where possible.
The overall aim, in coordination with other members of the international mine action community, is to continue to support the elimination of the scourge of anti-personnel landmines and other explosive remnants of war within the next 10-15 years. We support the coherent inter-agency approach that has been taken by this sector and which serves as a model to many others and hope that the international community continues to make steady progress in mine related issues. The EU, for its part, will remain committed to move forward with determination in order to address the threat posed by landmines and explosive remnants of war.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, the European Union has been pleased to work with delegations on a draft resolution on Assistance in Mine Action, for adoption under this item. On behalf of the co-sponsors, we thank all delegations for their constructive engagement on the text and hope that it can be adopted by consensus. The resolution draws attention to an issue that tragically affects thousands of people world-wide and also helps to demonstrate our collective resolve to continue to address this challenge.
*Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.