Wien, 2. December 2011 Press release

Spindelegger: “Solidarity with landmine victims must continue in financially difficult times”

Austria channels half a million euros more into demining projects and support for landmine victims

Vienna, 2 December 2011 – “Protecting civilians during armed conflicts is a priority issue in Austrian foreign policy. Providing help for the victims of landmines and cluster munitions is seen as a vitally important humanitarian aspect of this work, because weapons of this kind frequently remain an acute danger for civilian populations decades after conflicts have ended”, Austrian Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said on the provision of an additional half million euros funding for landmine clearance and victim aid projects in Cambodia and Laos. This further Austrian support will finance the work of a team of 30 demining experts and a rehabilitation centre for mine victims in the severely affected area of north-west Cambodia for the next two years.

The annual conference of the Ottawa Convention on the international banning of anti-personnel mines closed in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh today. The South-East Asian countries Cambodia and Laos are among the countries most seriously affected by landmines and cluster munitions left from the Vietnam War and subsequent conflicts. The landmine injuries and mutilations suffered in Cambodia by children in particular, were a major factor in creating awareness for this problem in the international community during the early nineteen nineties, and also for the initiative to achieve a world-wide ban on these especially indiscriminate and cruel weapons. This objective was reached in the Ottawa Convention of 1997. The use of cluster munitions was also prohibited by the Oslo Convention of 2008. 

“Austria has made important contributions to the worldwide ban on these weapons as one of the initiators of the prohibition conventions for anti-personnel and cluster munitions. This is a decisive development in the effort to prevent future suffering”, Spindelegger said. “The countries and above all the people who are most severely affected must be given effective support in solving the enormous problems they still face from landmines and cluster munitions left by conflicts in the past. Austria is determined to demonstrate commitment and to continue financial assistance, even at a time when our domestic budget situation is difficult”, the Vice Chancellor said.

In addition to the projects in Cambodia and Laos, Austria provides support for landmine victim rehabilitation projects in Ethiopia and for training projects on the dangers of mines and cluster munitions in Somalia in cooperation with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Austria is also participating in urgent United Nations clearance work in Libya in the wake of the massive use of cluster munitions during the civil war ordered by the now overthrown Gaddafi regime. In addition Austria has also been financing numerous United Nations demining projects in Afghanistan for several years. Austria will contribute a sum of 1.9 million euros for projects to deal with landmines and their effects in the period 2012/13.

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