‘Sri Lanka has shown extraordinary seriousness at all levels to make ‘ Sri Lanka Mine Free by 2020’-UN Special Envoy Prince Mired

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During my visit to Sri Lanka I saw extraordinary seriousness from the higher political level, down to official level to make Sri Lanka mine free by 2020’’, stated His Royal Highness Prince Mired Bin Ra’ad Bin Zeid Al-Hussein, the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General promoting universalization of the Ottawa Convention, at a Panel Discussion, chaired by Sri Lanka Permanent Representative, Ambassador A. L. A. Azeez, in Geneva on 30th November 2018. He addressed a gathering of Ambassadors, delegates, civil society and other volunteers participating in the ‘Mine Free Sri Lanka 2020’ event, co-organized by the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka in Geneva, and the Sri Lanka Campaign to Ban Land Mines.

The event took place on the sidelines of the 17th Meeting of States Parties (17 MSP) to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destructions’. Commending the commitment of Sri Lanka and all its implementing partners, Prince Mired lauded Sri Lanka’s progress as ‘a unique example’.

Making opening remarks as the Chair of the Panel, Ambassador Azeez stressed “the tremendous amount of work that was done on the ground, paving the way for the release of land and the resettlement of affected persons, makes the case of Sri Lanka distinct from other situations elsewhere’’.

Secretary to the Ministry of Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Northern Development, Mr. V. Sivagnanasothy, making a keynote presentation, explained the strategic approach intended to make Sri Lanka mine free by 2020 and provided outline of the remaining challenges, including risks and impacts associated with contamination and resource constraints. He also briefed the participants on the resettlement work conducted following demining, as well as achievements made. He paid tribute to key implementing partners including the Sri Lanka Army and many other national and international organizations, as well as donors for their support for Sri Lanka’s efforts towards advancing development and building sustainable peace.

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A video documentary produced by the Government Information Department on ‘Quest for a Mine free Land’, was screened. Main activities under the Mine Action Programme including Mine Risk Education, Victim Assistance, and how returnees were rebuilding their lives remained the central focus of the documentary which was well received by the audience.

The panel included Ms. C. Wallen, the representative of HALO and Mr. L. Jones, expert from MAG, the mine action implementation partners engaged in demining in Sri Lanka and Mr. Vidya Abhayagunawardena, the coordinator for ‘Sri Lanka Campaign to Ban Land Mines’. Speaking on the gender dimension of mine action programme in Sri Lanka, Samantha Jayasuriya, Deputy Permanent Representative, stated that women involved in demining made difficult and risky efforts ‘taking it beyond mere employment with the hope to see a better future for their next generation’. She invited continued support to empower the women affected by the conflict.

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Earlier in the day, Secretary Mr. V. Sivagnanasothy presented Sri Lanka’s first transparency report under Article 7 of the Convention to Mr. Peter Kolarov, senior officer of the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs. The Report provides a comprehensive account on contaminated areas, destruction of mines, stockpiles, and efforts in mine risk education, victim assistance etc., prepared through a stakeholder consultation, coordinated by National Mine Action Center, Ministry of Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Northern Development, Ministry of Defence and Ministry Foreign Affairs etc.

Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to UNO-Geneva

30 November 2018

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