United Nations Development Programme Egypt Country Office Statement by the UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. James W. Rawley, on the occasion of the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action Cairo, 22 April 2008 Excellencies Madame Fayza Aboulnaga, Minister of International Cooperation Dr. Osman Mohamed Osman, Minister of State for Economic Development Ambassador Fathy El Shazly, National Project Director of the Executive Secretariat for the Demining and Development of the North West Coast Dr. Sherif Battisha, Vice President Egypt National Post Authority Ambassador Wafaa Bassim, Chief de Cabinet, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mr. Rene Wilson, Ambassador of New Zealand Mr. Christian Hoppe, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Denmark Mr. Drazen Margeta, Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia Mr. Hannu Halinen, Ambassador of the Republic of Finland Mr. Kaoru Ishikawa, Ambassador of Japan Distinguished Guests and Colleagues, from the diplomatic and development community Ladies and Gentlemen It gives me great pleasure to join you here today as we observe the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. Today, we also witness the civilian-led Demining Secretariat of the Ministry of International Cooperation in action as we will observe the signing of the first mine detector purchasing contract. Allow me also to congratulate in advance the winners of the Demining postage stamp design competition, who will be announced shortly. Landmines and unexploded ordinances (UXOs) are a lethal menace resulting from armed conflict. Like no other weapons, landmines and UXOs continue to pose a threat long after peace is made, acting as both a real and symbolic manifestation of the permanent damage caused by armed conflict. As Egypt knows only too well, the enduring humanitarian and developmental consequences caused by these „silent soldiers‟ are devastating. A few of their many young, innocent victims honour us with their presence here today. Demining, or “Mine Action” as it is now commonly referred to, grabbed the attention of the international community during the 1990s. The United Nations, and in particular the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), have worked together to support national Mine Action and UXO removal programmes in more than thirty countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, including Egypt. I am delighted that the Government of Egypt has chosen to draw on the wealth of international experience that the UN has to offer in setting up its Mine Action programme here. There are numerous lessons to be learned from these experiences including the importance of close cooperation between national authorities, their implementing agencies, and international partners. It is my view that the level of cooperation between the different parties involved in Egypt‟s Mine Action programme is first rate, thanks in large part to Government‟s deep commitment to this Programme and the personal leadership of the Minister of International Cooperation, Her Excellency, Ambassador Fayza Aboulnaga. As a result, we are seeing that the Egyptian Mine Action programme is aligned with national and local development priorities, reflected in development plans and budgets, and linked to development funds from national sources as well as bilateral and multilateral partners. Excellencies Ladies and Gentlemen The Egyptian North-West Coast and its desert hinterland are endowed with natural resources and a year-round moderate climate that have a great potential to attract investment for tourism, agriculture, and industry. Fortunately, converting this potential into reality is being facilitated thanks to the strategic development plan for this area, which is a product of the hard work performed by a team of national experts led by H.E. the Minister of State for Economic Development, Dr. Osman Mohamed Osman. This North-West Coast and Inland Desert Development Strategy is based on a consultative spatial planning approach that has generated a comprehensive framework for the sustainable development of this region, anchored in fostering economic growth, improving living conditions, and preserving the area‟s rich natural and cultural resources. Unfortunately, however, converting this plan into reality is greatly hindered by the presence of huge numbers of mines and UXOs spread over a vast area of about 248,000 hectares. It is therefore essential to substantially reduce the remaining Landmines and UXOs as soon as possible to so as to clear the way for expanded investment in this area as well as ending once and for all the suffering that continues to be experienced by the local population when it accidentally crosses through mined areas. In closing, allow me to recall that the continued success of Egypt‟s Mine Action Programme is our collective responsibility. Each and every one of us has an important role to play. For the Government of Egypt continued leadership combined with financial vigilance, transparency, responsiveness, and clear prioritization of tasks and resources, are keys to success. For the United Nations, in addition to a modest financial contribution, our technical and managerial support, help in mobilizing contributions from donors and the private sector, and timely, accurate reporting to these funding sources, are important areas of cooperation. For bilateral partners and the private sector, co-funding is vital at this time so as to allow the programme to go to scale to rid the a North-West coast of the insidious mines and UXOs that continue to take a cruel toll on the local population and hamper the implementation of the Government‟s ambitious development plans for this important region. In this regard, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of the United Kingdom, which through its Department for International Development (DFID), was a pioneer in supporting the Egypt Mine Action programme, as well as the Government of the United States, through USAID, whose Director, Ms. Hilda Arellano, is with us today. I am also pleased that the Governments of Germany, Italy and New Zealand are seriously considering making contributions to this worthy cause. I fervently hope that today‟s event will accelerate the support that these and other countries represented here today will extend to this important programme. And I look forward to the day when all of us can come together once again to celebrate a truly great achievement – declaring the North-West region of Egypt to be free of landmines and UXOs and fully open for investment. Thank you.