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Kingdom's mine targets ‘out of reach’

CMAC personnel carry mine detectors through a forest in Stung Treng province in 2014. A report released by Mine Action Review suggests that Cambodia is falling short of its mine clearance deadline.
CMAC personnel carry mine detectors through a forest in Stung Treng province in 2014. A report released by Mine Action Review suggests that Cambodia is falling short of its mine clearance deadline. Pha Lina

Kingdom's mine targets ‘out of reach’

Cambodia is likely to come under scrutiny as parties to the UN’s anti-landmine convention gather in Geneva this week, with a recent report saying the Kingdom is unlikely to hit its mine clearance targets, even under an already-extended deadline.

The 14th meeting of states parties to the convention, which opened yesterday in Geneva, brings together the 162 state signatories of the 1997 convention to report on their implementation of treaty obligations as well as their commitments under the new Maputo Action Plan, agreed upon at the 2014 meeting.

Among the targets of the latter are mine clearance, victim assistance, stockpile destruction, risk education and national regulations.

But a report released last week ahead of the convention by the independent European analysis group Mine Action Review, found that the Kingdom – like other most-afflicted nations – remains short of its 2020 deadline to meet its goals.

“Cambodia lacks a coherent strategic plan based on latest mine action data,” it concluded, noting serious information management weaknesses. “Cambodia should present a national strategic mine action plan, setting out priorities, targets, and clear objectives for humanitarian, commercial, and developmental clearance.”

Some states are expected seek extensions to their clearance deadlines this week, but Cambodia’s was already extended to 2020 six years ago in recognition of what those in the field say is an uphill battle to manage the country’s estimated 10 million mines.

“The scale of contamination in Cambodia is extreme,” said Kimberley McCosker, National Coordinator of SafeGround, a mine research and education NGO working in Cambodia.

According to McCosker, the government’s projected failure to meet its targets is an understandable consequence of a lack of funding, making an extension of international funding a high priority for representatives of Cambodia’s official Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA).

“I think the mine action community in Cambodia has the will to meet the current clearance deadline, but progress is being hampered by a lack of financial capacity,” she said. “At the end of the day, [landmine clearance] is an expensive industry, so it therefore stands that there needs to be significant financial support if it is going to meet its deadlines.”

Other international donors say an increased capacity for detailed research will also be central to an effective response to the scourge.

“Cambodia still does not know the extent of its landmine problem,” said Atle Karlsen, deputy head of the Department for Humanitarian Disarmament at Norwegian People’s Aid, who fund clearance activities in country. “This is partly due to lack of proper, holistic survey being conducted and partly because the data management is still not good enough.”

Representatives of the CMAA yesterday insisted that they were tackling those issues, with the authority currently developing a new National Mine Action Strategy for 2017-2025.

“We are going to enhance our information management for mine action . . . to manage the relevant data on contaminated land, cleared land, victims and so on,” Ly Panharith, CMAA’s deputy secretary general for administration, said in an email from Geneva.

As Panharith noted, Cambodia’s five-member delegation yesterday hosted a side event presenting future plans for the country’s mine action sector, which he said would help get clearance back on track.

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