A delegation of high-level government representatives from Laos, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Phoxay Khaykhamphithoune, shared Laos’ achievements and challenges regarding the issue of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) at the 11th Meeting of States Parties of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) from 11 to 14 September 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland.
This meeting is particularly important to Laos as the Lao Government is preparing for clearance obligation extension request submission next year as the clearance obligation deadline under the CCM is approaching 1 August 2025.
Despite clearing explosive remnants of war at a faster rate than ever before, marking the highest clearance rate and the lowest number of casualties ever recorded at 20 (3 women, 9 men, 8 boys) in 2022, compared to 63 in 2021, Laos is still among the most heavily contaminated countries in the world.
Led by Mr. Khaykhamphithoune, Lao Government delegations, including the Director General of the National Regulatory Authority for the UXO/Mine Action Sector (NRA) and representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) attended the meeting with support from the Government of the Republic of Korea through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
At the meeting, Mr. Chomyaeng Phengthongsawat, Director General of the NRA, emphasized that Laos is committed to improving risk reduction activities by ensuring risk education to address the risk-taking behaviors of specific at-risk groups based on the findings from different studies and encouraging the risk messages to be communicated using different local languages to make it reachable for multi-ethnic communities across the country.
“In 2022, the UXO Sector carried out the Non-Technical Survey in 281 villages, Technical Survey in 369 villages identifying over 21,013 hectares of confirmed hazardous areas and cleared land 5,437 hectares, of which the majority was for agriculture,” said Mr. Phengthongsawat.
Also, he advocated for coordinated approaches to the implementation of CCM requirements and national development, as this can amplify the success of both as evidenced by the post-clearance impact assessment completed by UNDP and the NRA in 2023 supported by the Government of Korea and New Zealand.
Lastly, he emphasized that continuous cooperation with development partners is key to successfully implementing CCM obligations in Laos.
The CCM is a collective determination signed or ratified by over 120 states, to address the humanitarian consequences and unacceptable harm to civilians caused by cluster munitions. The CCM advocates for peace and a safer world for all by calling all States to refrain from the use, development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, or transfer of cluster munitions, which indiscriminately endanger the lives of civilians during and long after conflicts.