United States and Norway Commit USD 9.1 Million in Support for UXO Clearance in Laos

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The governments of the United States of America and Norway have committed more than USD 9.1 million to the clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in four southern provinces of Laos.

The two governments will use the budget to support survey and clearance operations in Attapeu, Champasak, Saravane, and Sekong provinces.

Mr. P. Daniel O’Hara, Head of the Political and Economic Affairs Section and Acting Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane reaffirmed his country’s commitment to supporting the UXO sector, saying

On behalf of the United States, I thank Norwegian People’s Aid for your extensive survey efforts.  To date, NPA has surveyed more than 672 villages in Salavan, Sekong, Attapeu and Champasak provinces.  These surveys enable humanitarian clearance operators to more accurately and effectively target areas for clearance.  This is particularly important as our collective UXO work shifts focus from surveying to clearing high priority Confirmed Hazardous Areas“.

These surveys enable humanitarian clearance operators to more accurately and effectively target areas for clearance, he said.  “This is particularly important as our collective UXO work shifts focus from surveying to clearing high priority Confirmed Hazardous Areas.”

An amendment to a Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) was approved by Laos’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 30 May, signed by the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare’s National Regulatory Authority for the UXO Sector (NRA) and NPA in Vientiane on 10 June.

The MOU totals do not include donor contributions for costs of certain administration fees, as per Lao government MOU instructions.

Positively, funding from the United States government to support UXO survey and clearance in Lao PDR has increased again in 2022, up from the total funding awarded in 2021.

Under a grant, NPA is receiving USD 8,500,000 from the US State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs for the period 1 January – 15 February 2023.

Additionally, NPA is receiving NOK 7,000,000 from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and NOK 350,000 from Fagforbundet, the Norwegian General Union for Municipal Employees, in 2022.

This increase will enable NPA to continue to expand its survey and clearance operations across southern provinces.

This will accelerate the pace of vital life-saving work to remove the threat of cluster munitions and other UXO and bring socio-economic benefits to thousands of families in hundreds of villages.

“Mr. P. Daniel O’Hara, U.S. Embassy, and NPA UXO survey and clearance team members at a clearance task in Lao-ngam District, Saravane province, 7 July 2022.

The increased US funding is also providing job opportunities and employment for over 430 people in NPA’s areas of operations and its support functions.

The official induction ceremony, held today in Salavanh Province was attended by the Deputy Governor of Saravane province, Mr. Somchai Ounchit, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Deputy Head of the INGO division, Mr. Chanthala Vannahong, and the Deputy Director-General of the National Regulatory Authority for the UXO Sector (NRA), Mr. Douangsy Thammavong.

The Head of the Planning and International Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Mr. Thipphasone Soukathammavong, and other distinguished representatives from the provincial authorities of Attapeu, Champasak, Saravane, and Sekong provinces also attended.

Mr. P. Daniel O’Hara, representative from the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane, presses a button to detonate an 82mm mortar bomb in Lao-ngam district, Saravane province on 7 July 2022.

Ambassador of Norway to Vietnam, Ms. Grete Løchen, who also oversees Norwegian diplomatic affairs in Laos, relayed her remarks.

“I am very pleased that the MOU has been signed today. NPA is a valuable partner of the Norwegian Government in mine action activities at the global level and has been active in Laos since 2009. NPA has a long history of survey and clearance both in Laos and in the whole region,” she said.

“With its unique approach and the priority on capacity-building of both national and local authorities, NPA can use the funding under this MOU and prioritize their operational budget for the activities to assist Laos in creating an effective, efficient, and sustainable national capacity in mine action efforts and thus contributing to economic recovery after the pandemic”, Ambassador Grete added.

Clearance of cluster munitions and other UXO is critical to improving the lives and livelihoods of people living in Laos, as projects conducted by NPA will benefit those most at-risk living in areas with the highest amount of contamination.

This will allow Lao people to use their land without fear of injury or death from UXO.

Two unexploded BLU 26 submunitions await demolition by NPA clearance teams, Dakcheung district, Sekong province.

Cluster munition contamination in Laos is among the highest in the world when measured against the population, and extensive contamination poses a risk to the livelihoods, socio-economic development, and quality of life of those living in affected communities.

The US Government and the Government of Norway have shown significant, ongoing commitment to assisting Laos in reducing the impacts of unexploded cluster munitions and in meeting its obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). This funding will support the development of the National Regulatory Authority for the UXO Sector (NRA) in their long-term management and regulation of mine action activities in Laos.

NPA will implement survey and clearance activities in Attapeu, Champasak, Salavanh, and Sekong provinces, expecting to clear nearly 11.3 square kilometers of high priority confirmed contaminated areas and survey an additional 5.3 square kilometers.

Over 3,480 people are expected to directly benefit from these activities.