United Nations Secretary-General visits UXO Lao Training Center
On 7 September 2016, UXO Lao welcomed United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon to its Training Centre at Elay Village, Vientiane.
The Secretary-General joined the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare in touring the site, viewing a demonstration of the organisation’s work, and being briefed by UXO Lao Director Mr. Thiphasone Soukhathammavong on the new Concept of Operations. The Secretary-General expressed his continued support for the Government of Lao PDR’s work to address UXO and make progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Ban joined Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith to inaugurate Lao PDR’s own national Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on unexploded ordnance (UXO).
“Lives safe from UXO; Remove the UXO obstacle to national development” is the title of SDG 18. The logo shows, on red background, a person with disability, walking away from cluster munitions on a crutch, towards an empowered, self-reliant future.
SDG 18 is the newest addition to a set of 17 globally agreed goals which form the core of a new sustainable development agenda that came into effect at the beginning of the year. Lao PDR, together with all other 192 UN Member States, endorsed the SDGs at the General Assembly in New York in September 2015 and has since made inroads in incorporating them into national plans and policies. The SDGs aim to end poverty, fight injustice and inequality and tackle climate change by 2030, thus advancing the globe onto a sustainable development path.
Lao PDR decided to further address its legacy from the Indochina War (1964-1973) by creating an own SDG on UXO, whose targets aim to reduce casualties, address the needs of victims and clear the country in a way that most benefits the poorest parts of the population. Lao PDR has also been a leading advocate for the Convention on Cluster Munitions, an international agreement which entered into force in 2010, obliging State Parties to clear contaminated areas, destroy stockpiles and provide assistance to victims of cluster munitions accidents.
At today’s SDG 18 launch, which was also attended by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Labour and Social Welfare, and Natural Resources and Environment, the Vice Minister of Investment and Planning and the UN Resident Coordinator, as well as high-ranking officials of Lao PDR, Representatives of UN Agencies and donor representatives, a renewed commitment was expressed for a future safe from UXO in Lao PDR, and for dignified lives for all UXO survivors, many of whom have life-long needs.
“More than half of the casualties caused by UXO in Lao PDR in recent years have been children, most often young boys”, said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “With SDG 18, we aim to put an end to this horrible trend, once and for all. The socio-economic impact of UXO contamination means that people lack confidence in the safety of their land, which in turn has negative impacts on the income of rural farmers and their families and inhibits the development of the whole country. I welcome the Government’s commitment to free its people from UXO, with a powerful tool like a national SDG which will make sure efforts are coordinated for full impact.”
Mr. Ban Ki-moon added that with the implementation of the SDGs, the United Nations is delivering on its promise to leave no one behind. He acknowledged the support of national institutions, development partners and civil society organisations, who are all crucial for the implementation of the SDGs in Lao PDR.
Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith stressed the ambitious targets that come with SDG18: “Our Government, through SDG 18, will make sure that UXO are cleared to the extent possible by 2030, in high-risk areas, which are often the poorest areas of our country. We will also focus on ensuring that all survivors receive the support they need to lead dignified lives. For us to be successful we rely on a joint effort.”
As a first step of implementing SDG 18, the Government is planning to carry out a comprehensive national survey of UXO contamination, which will help to target clearance work on high-risk areas and reduce the number of casualties.