Friday, October 10, 2014

ASEAN to strengthen assistance for victims of unexploded ordnance

Source: Association of Southeast Asian Nations

LUANG PRABANG, 9 October 2014 - The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare of Lao PDR, in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the ASEAN Secretariat, organised a workshop on children and families who are affected by unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination.

Twenty-four officials from the line agencies in charge of social affairs, assistance to victims and de-mining of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam participated in the workshop. They exchanged and discussed national policies and best practices that will ultimately benefit victims of UXOs and improve their lives, as well as prevent new victims in the future.

"As our Leaders adopted the ASEAN Declaration on Strengthening Social Protection at the 23rd ASEAN Summit last year, we are reminded that social protection is the right of everybody, including victims of unexploded ordnance, whose livelihood may be compromised owing to disabilities or other impediments," said Chomyaeng Phengthongsawat, Deputy Director-General of the Planning and Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. "Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam remain committed to provide social assistance to the victims through various ongoing programmes and strategies. Facing similar challenges, we could learn from each other and collaborate closely in responding to the needs of victims of unexploded ordnance in our respective countries."

Participants shared experiences in delivering assistance to victims including on access to special schools, access to the job market, vocational training, rehabilitation, de-mining, and community awareness programmes. They also identified the gaps and challenges in providing comprehensive assistance to the victims especially those who are living in remote areas.

Among countries affected world-wide, Lao PDR alone is estimated to have had 50,525 mines and explosive remnants of war casualties up to the end of 2012, according to the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, the vast majority of victims being civilians. Unexploded ordnance also poses a serious threat to future generations. “Unexploded ordnance has a devastating effect on societies, continuing to maim and kill civilians long after armed conflicts have ended. The long-term implications can deprive populations of economic activities, healthcare and education,” said Mr. Beat Schweizer, head of the ICRC’s regional delegation in Bangkok.

The workshop is a regional activity planned under the ASEAN Strategic Framework for Social Welfare and Development 2011-2015.