Speech by UN Resident Coordinator Ghulam Isaczai at the webinar on “Second Karabakh War and Landmines”

We are pleased that the government has prioritized Mine action which the UN and other international actors are now supporting.

Thank you Ambassador Shafiyev for the invitation and organizing this webinar on such an important issue. 

Having lived through the horror of war myself in Afghanistan and witnessed the devasting impact of landmines on population, I can understand how important of a subject this is for Azerbaijan in the current situation.

It is undeniable that the return of IDPs very much depends on creating safe and appropriate living conditions. 

Currently, the presence of mines and unexploded ordinance are a major impediment to the rehabilitation of these areas.

Moreover, a safe environment is also needed for the recovery and reconstruction of affected areas including rebuilding of key infrastructure and rehabilitation of agricultural activities such as farming, and livestock, which is one of the main sources of livelihoods for the IDPs.

We are pleased that the government has prioritized Mine action which the UN and other international actors are now supporting.  

The UN was instrumental in the creation of ANAMA in 1999 and has since supported its mine action activities in areas impacted by the first Nagorno Karabakh conflict.    

While ANAMA has been able to deal well with the past demining operation, with the recent conflict and return of territories, these challenges have magnified exponentially and there is a clear need to expand ANAMA’s capacity, modernize its equipment and provide latest technology and knowledge to support its work. 

It was in this context that an assessment mission by UNDP and the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) was undertaken right after the conflict to look at the contamination of mines and unexploded ordinances in the new conflict-affected districts. 

The UN system will continue to engage with the Government and the restructured agency through the provision of technical expertise, resource mobilization and coordination support with external players.

The assessment called for a number of urgent actions including policy recommendations to expand and strengthen ANAMA’s capacity. 

The mission highly recommended a quick land and aerial survey of mine/UXO contamination in all affected areas using modern survey methods and technology before the onset of spring.  

This will help the Government to prioritize areas and land for mine clearance activities and their phased release for civilian use.  

Mine risk education and public awareness targeting IDPs who are desperate to return to their former villages and towns and those working on rehabilitation activities are extremely important. 

It is essential to discourage the population from uncontrolled and unauthorized return as well as future risk of exposure.

Also, in this area, UNICEF, UNDP, UNMAS are currently working with the government to improve and increase awareness of mine risk and education to the broader population. 

To support these activities, the UNDP Crisis Response and UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund released over $1 million to ANAMA to train, equip and deploy emergency response teams to clear mines and unexploded ordnances.

Successful mine clearance also depends on availability of and access to information and data. 

In this regard, cooperation between Armenia and Azerbaijan would help to speed up a mine clearance process and serve as a positive start to building peace between the two countries. 

Let me also highlight that the UN has been engaged with all interlocutors at the working level including Armenia to facilitate the sharing of information and data on mines. 

We continue to advocate for cooperation, including in sharing maps of mine-infected areas, as a confidence-building measure as and when appropriate.

In conclusion, let me reiterate now that the hostilities have largely ended, we encourage both Azerbaijan and Armenia to join the Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction.   

Speech by
Author
Ghulam M. Isaczai
UN Resident Coordinator
RCO
Ghulam M. Isaczai
UN entities involved in this initiative
RCO
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office