I am grateful to be able to speak at the end of this event. For two reasons: the high important that Germany attaches to Mine action, but it is also a very personal matter for me.
It was very moving to listen to the moving testimonies of what it means to live daily with the curse of landmines and unexploded ordinances.
During my postings in Rwanda after the Genocide and in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, I experienced a little bit, of what this constant invisible threat means. The fear of driving on streets, where genocidal Interahmwe militia were placing landmines in deep potholes full of water. I was not hit, others were. I also remember the little light blue pebbles along the streets in Takhar province in Northern Afghanistan in 2002, stretching as far as you can see, indicating a vast no go zones of undeclared mine fields.
My personal experience is only a minute fraction of what millions of people experiencing every day who have to live with landmines and unexploded ordnance: the risk of death, mutilation, injury, the loss of livelihood.
We also heard testimonies of resilience today, from survivors, from people who do not lose hope and do not accept this situation but shape effective mine action.
Today the Takhar province is largely free of land mines and UXO, people are again able to access their fields and move freely off the main roads. This is an enormous achievement, which amazes me until today.
I would like to pay tribute to all those who are involved in the field of Mine Action: at community and national level, and, of course, the United Nations Mine Action Service and the many other important actors, who contribute to this endeavor.
We are well aware that you are conducting this live-saving work under extremely challenging circumstances, often even risking your own life. We sadly remember those who lost their lives in their important work for humanity.
Talking about Afghanistan, I would like us not to forget the crucial contribution of women to mine action, at all levels! Before the Taliban take-over in August 2021, an all-female mine-clearance team was helping to turn minefields into playing fields. I would like to pay tribute their bravery and sincerely hope that we will collectively be able to find a way that these AFG women can resume their important work.
It makes me proud, that my country has been an active partner in the international community’s fight against anti-personnel mines. For many years, Germany has been consistently the second-largest bilateral donor for mine action worldwide, and we will continue to do so. Last year we contributed 70 mio. USD to programs in 15 countries, focusing on Survey and Clearance, Risk Education, Victim Assistance and Capacity Building.
We will also continue to remain engaged in shaping the global mine action agenda and address new evolving challenges like the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. We just took the lead (of the donor-coordination round) in the G7++ format on humanitarian Mine Action in Ukraine.
And we will continue to work towards banning mines in the first place.
The Mine Ban Treaty of 1999 is proof that effective multilateral action in the sphere of humanitarian arms control is possible. Germany has taken over the Convention’s Presidency, last November. We hope to drive progress on important discussions such as, how to address contaminations with improvised explosive devices and improve cooperation between mine-affected and supporting State Parties.
The responsibility to rid the world of mines is one that we all share. In closing, I, therefore, call on the remaining 33 states still outside of the Convention, to join it and contribute to our shared ambition: A mine-free world.
A mine free world, in which communities heal and people re-build their lives in safety and security.