As our Mine Action Fellows stated at the Convention on Cluster Munitions MSP last year, “There is no place for cluster munitions in the future we are building.” International development is about sustainably building a better future for the world. On Day 3 of International Development Week, we will look at how this future can’t exist with explosive ordnance such as cluster munitions blocking progress.
Cluster munitions become de facto landmines because 5-30% of them fail to detonate upon landing. We know how landmines stall sustainable development- when land is contaminated, many development activities cannot take place at all or happen unsafely. In 2021, there were 149 cluster munitions casualties which brings the total number to 23,082 casualties officially recorded by the Cluster Munition Monitor. If we want sustainable cities and communities (SDG #11), clearance needs to happen first. We cannot develop when children are being injured by landmines when they are trying to go to school. We cannot develop when farmland is being avoided because of suspected contamination. We cannot develop when clinics are hard to reach because contamination is surrounding the facility. Clearance comes first. Once the land has been cleared, then we can build schools, hospitals, markets, and clean energy facilities.
Clearance is a legal obligation under the Convention on Cluster Munitions. States who have joined this Convention commit to clearing cluster munitions as soon as possible, but no later than 10 years after their entry. Two states completed clearance before joining, 5 states completed clearance after joining, and ten states submitted extension requests. Donor states need to contribute more to help affected states clear their land. Affected states need to make a firm commitment to clearing the land they are legally obligated to clear.
Only once clearance is completed will other UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) be achieved. Let’s take a close look at the goals clearing explosive ordnance will help achieve:
- SDG #1/ No Poverty: Clearance can open routes to sources of revenue (eg. farmland, access to another city) which will reduce poverty.
- SDG #2/ Zero Hunger: Clearance will make land available for farming again which will reduce hunger.
- SDG #3/ Good Health and Well-Being: Clearance will ensure no future casualties and help with the well-being of communities who no longer have to worry about contamination.
- SDG #4/ Quality Education: Clearance can give access to schools.
- SDG #5/ Gender Equality: Clearance can help ease the gender inequalities seen in casualties. Further, many mine action organizations employ women on clearance teams which contributes to development even after clearance is complete because women have gained valuable work experience and skills which can help them prosper in new roles.
- SDG #6/ Clean Water and Sanitation: Clearance can give access to clean water.
- SDG #7/ Affordable and Clean Energy: Clearance can give access to land where clean energy projects can take place.
- SDG #8/ Decent Work and Economic Growth: Clearance can give community members decent work, and once clearance is completed economic growth can improve because all land will be safely accessible.
- SDG #9/ Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure: Clearance can give access to land to safely build new infrastructure, or access to existing infrastructure that was previously contaminated.
- SDG #10/ Reduced Inequalities: Clearance will reduce inequalities between affected communities and non-affected communities. Likewise if we think about another pillar of mine action for a moment, victim assistance, we see that will reduce inequalities between survivors/victims and the general population.
- SDG #11/ Sustainable Cities and Communities: Clearance is a step towards building a sustainable city or community because the more land that is accessible and safe, the more a community can do for themselves.
- SDG #16/ Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions: Clearance can help bring peace to a community.
Clearing explosive ordnance opens a safe path to development and reaching the UN SDGs without clearance is not possible. Clearance is step one, development is step two.