Mark Field, Minister for Asia and the Pacific of the United Kingdom
(KPL) During my very recent first visit to Laos, I was briefed by the Mine Action Group (MAG) and The Halo Trust (HALO) about the state of UXO clearance in Laos, and I spent an insightful visit to the UXO Lao Visitor Center in Luang Prabang to learn about UXO clearance operations. It is devastating to see that even after decades of peace, there are still dozens of people killed or injured in Laos by discarded and forgotten munitions, most casualties sustained from individual bomblets or “bombies” from anti-personnel cluster bombs.
I take pride in the fact that the UK government is a committed partner for Laos’ efforts to achieve its special Sustainable Development Goal #18, which aims to ensure a safe environment through clearing the land from UXO and educating the population about risks. And I am happy to announce renewed funding from my government for UXO clearance in Laos.
All over the world, the British Government has continuously worked with various demining and unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance organizations, MAG, HALO, Norwegian People’s Aid, and others to eradicate the scourge of landmines and unexploded ordnance.
The British government has supported clearance work in Laos since 1998, including funding support of more than US$16 million. The Global Mine Action Programme (GMAP) from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) aims to reduce the devastating humanitarian and development impact of landmines across the world.
Through the first Global Mine Action programme 2014-2017, the UK provided US$4.6 million to clear and release over 3,200,000 square metres of land in Xieng Khouang and Savannakhet provinces, benefitting 115,000 Lao people.
The British government today confirmed contracts under its new second Global Mine Action Programme with HALO and MAG worth nearly £46m to support demining projects across Africa and Asia, part of a commitment to spend £100million on mine action by March 2020.
For Laos, this means that a consortium led by MAG – in partnership with the Halo Trust, and Norwegian People’s Aid – will clear or over 15 million square metres in 7 provinces and benefit more than 68,000 people. The programme in Laos will cover survey, clearance, mine risk education and capacity development until 2020.
I’m also happy to say that in response to an offer from the British government, Laos has agreed to prioritise assistance from this programme to Attapeu province and the communities that were affected by the recent collapse of a subsidiary dam of the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy Power Project. The consortium is currently preparing this support.
Sadly, 60 million people worldwide still live in fear of the threat of landmines and unexploded ordnance. As well as causing death, these remnants of war often prevent access to health, education, agricultural land and infrastructure, which makes them a global humanitarian concern. I am pleased that, through the initiatives announced today, the UK will now cooperate even more closely with Laos to support UXO clearance and improve social and economic conditions for Lao people living in contaminated areas.