Launch Event of the Project “Socioeconomic Development Through Demining and Increasing the Border Surveillance Capacity at the Eastern Borders of Turkey”

Apr 4, 2016

Statement by
Kamal Malhotra
United Nations Resident Coordinator, Turkey
Resident Representative, UNDP Turkey

 

Honorable Minister of Defence, İsmet Yılmaz

The Minister of the Interior, Efkan Ala (Tbc)

The Deputy Minister of European Union Affairs Ali Şahin

The Head of Civil Society, Fundamental Rights, Judiciary and Home Affairs of the European Union Delegation to Turkey, Michael Rupp,

The Director of the Turkish Mine Action Center, Brigadier General Celalettin Çoban

Excellencies,

Civil society organizations, members of the press

Distinguished participants,

 

•       Allow me to begin by saying what a privilege it is to address you at the launch of this critically important project “Socioeconomic Development Through Demining and Increasing the Border Surveillance Capacity at the Eastern Borders of Turkey”, which is fortuitously taking place on the occasion of the UN’s International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.

 

•       In December 2005, the UN General Assembly declared that 4 April each year will be observed as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. It called for continued efforts by States, with the assistance of the United Nations and relevant organizations, to foster the establishment and development of national mine-action capacities in countries where mines and explosive remnants of war constitute a serious threat to the safety, health and lives of the civilian population, or an impediment to social and economic development at the national and local levels.

 

•       The Theme of the 2016 International Day is “Mine Action is humanitarian action." At this point allow me to quote two of the UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon’s central messages this year on this important day: “Mine Action is critical for an effective humanitarian response in conflict and post-conflict situations” and “…in too many places around the world, new and re-emerging conflicts are creating yet another legacy of explosive hazards, cluster munitions and improvised explosive devices.”

 

•       On this important day, we are happy to introduce the Eastern Border Mine Clearance Project in Turkey to you. It is the first one of its kind supported jointly by UNDP and the European Union in Turkey. It will not only pave the way for a well-functioning and technologically supported border governance and management system but should also contribute to the prevention of illegal migration and cross-border crime on Turkey’s eastern borders.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

•       The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (-what a mouthful- it is also known as the Mine Ban Convention) entered into force in March 1999. To date, 162 UN Member States have formally agreed through ratification or accession to be bound by the Convention. Anti-Personnel landmines are prohibited by these States due to their destructive humanitarian impact and hindrance to socio-economic development. Landmines are indiscriminate weapons that cannot distinguish between a solider and a child. Once planted in the ground, landmines continue to pose a threat to innocent civilians long after the end of a conflict and the purpose they were originally intended for.

 

•       Mine action saves lives. Mine action also ensures that landmines and explosive hazards are found and destroyed, making possible the delivery of humanitarian assistance -so that people and supplies reach those most in need.

 

•       At this point, clearing all the anti-personnel mines in mined areas under the jurisdiction or control of each State Party is what will ultimately eradicate humanitarian, economic and environmental threats posed by anti-personnel mines. It will also contribute to paving the way for sustainable peace and development. This is at the core of the UN Mine Ban Convention which is the globally agreed framework for the “fight against landmines”.

 

 

•       Through its 2013-2018 Strategy on Mine Action, the United Nations is committed to advocating the universalization and implementation of the Mine Convention as a means to achieve its four strategic objectives and to move towards the international community's common vision of a world free of landmines. These objectives, which are also in line with our engagement in Turkey are:

 

-         To reduce the risk to both individuals and the risk of socio-economic impacts of mines,

-         Provide and facilitate comprehensive support from national and international actors to mine victims as part of broader responses to injury and disability,

-         Accelerate the transfer of mine action functions to national actors and increase national capacity to fulfil mine action responsibilities,

-         Promote and integrate mine action in multilateral instruments and frameworks as well as national plans and legislation.

 

•       Mine action has a multi-dimensional nature and, therefore, requires continuous engagement in all aspects of mine action. This includes but is not limited to  facilitating immediate humanitarian efforts, improving peace and security, promoting stabilization, ensuring respect for human rights and enabling the implementation of the newly agreed Agenda 2030 and its sustainable development goals.

 

•       Integration of mine action into broader frameworks of international assistance and cooperation is also critical in order to accelerate the specific objectives of mine action and ensure sustainable gains across the spectrum of humanitarian assistance, human rights, peace, security, and development. I wish to emphasize that our engagement on the eastern borders of Turkey has been designed and will be implemented within these frameworks and from these perspectives.

 

 

Distinguished guests,

 

•       In the context of Turkey, illegal border crossings constitute a serious threat to national security. The EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement was signed on 16 December 2013, in parallel with the launching of the visa liberalisation dialogue and was ratified on 1 October 2014. Increasing migration has led to concerns surrounding the questions of how to overcome the challenges of these irregular flows and how effective border control regimes which are critical for migration management can be.  

•       Demining in Turkey is an indispensable part of its border governance and management reforms. Turkey should be commended for its commitment to clearing these landmines in a manner which will provide a more humane and secure way of protecting the borders as well as achieve the targets set out in the European Union accession process for a well-functioning border governance and management system.

•       The establishment of the Turkish Mine Action Center in 2015 is an important indication of Turkey’s commitment and should be used as a response to the needs for mine clearance activities in Turkey which are in accordance with International Mine Action Standards (IMAS).

•       Turkey reported in March 2015 that the size of the remaining mined areas is more than one-hundred and seventy thousand square meters of which more than one-hundred and forty four thousand square meters are located on the Syrian border. Against this background and in addition to the positive developments I have just mentioned, let me also emphasize the need for Turkey to fulfill its obligation to clear all anti-personnel mines by 2022 as required by the Mine Ban Convention, during the eight- year extension which was agreed to the original 2014 deadline.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

•       Globally, UNDP supports national mine action authorities in around 30 countries in implementing surveys, land release, clearance and quality assurance. Through support to policy development, strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation, UNDP ensures that mine clearance contributes to recovery, development, reconciliation and livelihoods.

 

•       As in the case of other countries where UNDP supports mine clearance, e.g. Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Mozambique, and Tajikistan, the context for demining in the eastern borders of Turkey is a complex one. While at a technical level, the demining of the border is unlikely to be very challenging, political and security-related aspects as well as administrative challenges are what create the complexity in this situation.

 

•       Starting 18 December 2015, two phases of work are now underway. As a result of international competition, DENEL-MECHEM, a South African company was contracted in December 2015 for mine clearance under Phase I. A well-known British company RPS Energy Limited, Explosives Engineering Service was then granted  the quality assurance and control service provider contract. The project is expected to generate at least 300 jobs for local communities along the eastern border.

 

•       As I speak, the staff and equipment of the companies are being mobilized to get ready to start field level operations. At this point, we expect that the region will be free of land mines by December 2017. As UNDP, we are fully committed to make this happen within this timeframe.

 

•       There is also no doubt that the success and sustainability of this project will depend very much on the commitment of all our partners and all the stakeholders involved. This includes the Turkish Mine Action Center, Land Forces Command, Ministry of Interior as well as civil society organizations, the international community and the public at large.

 

Distinguished Participants,

 

•       I would like to thank all of you present here today, as well as those who are committed to this cause but could not join us, for your coordinated efforts in support of this critical initiative. I would also like to express my appreciation to the Turkish Mine Action Center which will be the main beneficiary of the Project and to the European Union for its support.

 

•       While concluding, let me leave you to reflect on another quotation from the UN Secretary General’s message today regarding the huge challenges that we face in this region and the important role of mine clearance: “Syrian people continue to face deadly threats every day. There is an urgent need for increased support as well as full, sustained and unhindered access for all mine action activities….. Mine action is an investment in humanity. It helps nurture peaceful societies, where those in need can receive aid, and refugees and internally displaced persons can safely return home, and children can go to school.

 

 

Thank you very much

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