Vientiane Times: “Switzerland makes generous donation for Lao UXO removal”

November 5, 2010

At an April 2010 event in Vientiane, staff from FSD, a Swiss humanitarian organization, inform visitors about UXO clearance work supported by the Swiss government.

The government of Switzerland yesterday contributed US$3 million towards unexploded ordnance (UXO) related activities, aiming to clear munitions in rural areas and help accident victims.

Speaking at a signing ceremony for the funds, Regional Director for the Swiss Development Cooperation Martin Sommer said UXO has become a daily hazard in the lives of people in rural areas, and impedes poverty reduction and development.

“About 300 people are injured or killed each year in Laos, but we hope to reduce this number to 200 people by 2013,” he said.

The funds will support the work of the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) for the UXO Sector in Laos and the Lao National UXO Programme (UXO Lao) over a three-year period.

This support comes as Laos prepares to host the First Meeting of States Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions next week.

The funds will be vital resources in helping the Lao government fulfil its obligations under the convention.

UXO is an ongoing development challenge for Laos and other countries, said Mr Javier Barrantes, UN Development Programme Resident Representative a.i.

UXO is not only destroying lives and impacting on the socio-economic development of the country but is also affecting the Lao government’s attempts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 and graduate from least developed country status by 2020.

The MDG pact signed by the government, international community and the United Nations includes a goal relating to UXO action. This will act as a multiplier in the process of achieving all the other MDGs in saving lives and limbs and creating better access to social and physical services, Mr Barrantes pointed out.

He added that UXO clearance is vital to ensure the safety of people living in affected areas and to increase the amount of land accessible for food production and other development activities.

Switzerland has already contributed generously to the UXO sector in Laos with US$3.27 million for UXO-related activities since 2006.

These funds are assisting the NRA to achieve its important mandates and results including the National UXO Sector Strategy, Mr Barrantes said.

This strategy is aligned with the cycle of national socio-economic development with a strong focus on poverty reduction and in line with the obligations required by the convention on cluster sub-munitions.

In addition, the Swiss government has provided two technical advisors to the NRA.

Mr Barrantes also said the funding supported UXO Lao programmes in some of Laos’ most affected provinces including Attapeu, Xekong, Saravan, Xieng Khuang and Khammuan.

Since 2006, UXO Lao has destroyed or removed over 250,000 items of UXO and in the process has cleared nearly 10,000 hectares of land. In addition, Swiss Technical Advisors are currently helping to develop the quality management functions of UXO Lao, to enhance operational efficiency and effectiveness.

Source: Vientiane Times
by Khonesavanh Latsaphao
November 05, 2010

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