Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates,
Let me join other delegations in congratulating you on your assumption of Chairmanship of the forth committee of the 70th session of the UNGA and your bureau members for their well-deserved elections. We look forward to working closely with you and assure you of our full support and cooperation throughout the deliberations of issues concerned to this committee.
Afghanistan has been struggling with the problem of landmines, explosive remnants of war (ERW), including improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and their devastating consequences for more than three decades. Abandoned landmines and explosive ordnances, vestiges of the prolonged conflict in the country, continue to pose a great threat by jeopardizing the security and development of Afghanistan and its people. Although significant progress has been achieved in demining activities, Afghanistan remains one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.
Approximately, half a million Afghan civilians live within five hundred meters of landmine contaminated areas. An average of 33 civilians have been injured or killed each month so far in 2015. 1,612 communities remain affected in 258 districts across the country. Over 107 square kilometres of minefields impede upon national infrastructure projects, such as, highway and road networks, airports, transmission lines, new settlements etc., delaying implementation until clearance. The country remains littered with hazardous explosive devices in multiple areas, including those where conflict has long ceased. Innocent civilians, including a large proportion of women and children, bear the highest risk of being killed or injured by these mines. Not only it is detrimental to stability and post-conflict development, landmines and other explosive remnants of war impede significant socio-economic development, required for basic sustenance in a war torn economy. More than eighty percent of the landmine and ERW contaminated areas obstruct agricultural and grazing spaces, thereby posing a tremendous challenge in a country where livelihoods of majority of people are concentrated around agriculture and livestock. Mines and ERWs obstruct access to basic services, facilities and infrastructure and create severe challenges to use land for schools, crops, and other productive activities.
The presence of Improvised Explosive Devices or IEDs is another imperative threat to civilian life. Indiscriminate use of IEDs is a common tactic amongst the Taliban and other terrorist groups. Last year alone, approximately three thousand civilians were victims of injuries caused by IEDs in Afghanistan.
The Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan has cleared nearly 78.5 percent of known “legacy” contamination – the mines and ERWs which resulted from the pre-2001 conflict. The remaining 21.5 percent includes 4,363 identifiable mine and battlefield hazards covering a total area of 557.6 square kilometres. In December of 2012, Afghanistan submitted a request to the States Parties of the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty to extend the deadline. All antipersonnel mines would be removed from Afghan territory in ten years. As part of the extension request, Afghanistan submitted a ten-year work plan that will eliminate mines by 2023 if, and only if further mining stops.
I would like to turn now to the resolution on assistance in mine action which was facilitated by Poland. As a mine affected country, we highly appreciate the resolution on Assistance in Mine action and its role in reaffirming the normative framework for the humanitarian mine action activities carried out by the UN system. We are pleased the resolution continues to support the work of United Nations Mine Action Service and takes note of the elaboration and adoption of UN mine action strategy for the years 2013-2018.
Afghanistan fully supports the work and appreciates the enormous contribution of the UN and civil society in progressing mine action. We look forward to continuing to work with Member States, UN agencies, implementing partners, civil society and other donors to achieve our collective goal of a mine free world. I would also like to express my government’s sincere appreciation for the victim assistance project generously funded by USAID in Afghanistan. This is a thirty million dollar project that will be implemented over the next three years with the aim to provide assistance to the victims of mines, ERWs and IEDs.
Continued support of the international community and sustained financial support are required to help Afghanistan meet the 2023 deadline and provide the Afghans a secure and stable, mine-free future.