Prime Minister of New Zealand visits UXO Lao Training Center

On 8 September 2016, UXO Lao welcomed Rt. Hon. Mr. John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand to UXO Lao Training Center at Elay Village, Vientiane. 

A much needed boost to mine risk education and the clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Lao PDR’s heavily contaminated northern province of Xiengkhouang was announced by the Prime Minister of New Zealand at the Training Center. 

The new contribution from New Zealand of NZD 10 million (USD 7.2 million) is one of the biggest single contributions made through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to Lao PDR’s UXO sector, and will allow for long-term planning by UXO Lao in Xiengkhouang with financing certainty for the next four years.

Speaking at the Ban Elay UXO Training Center, the Rt. Hon. Mr. John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand said:

“New Zealand has a strong legacy of supporting UXO clearance around the world, including for the past 20 years in Laos, and this funding will make a real difference to the safety and economic prospects of the people there.

“We are proud to stand alongside the people and Government of Laos to continue this important work.”

The Government of New Zealand has been a key partner to the Government of Lao PDR and the UNDP since 2010, in the effort to reduce the impact of UXO in Xiengkhouang Province, considered the second most-contaminated province in the country.

Dr. Khampheng Saysompheng, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, acknowledged the impact of New Zealand’s support to UXO clearance in Xiengkhouang Province since 2010:

“More than 3,000 hectares of land have been cleared for safe use and important development projects. This has made a huge contribution to the socio-economic development of the province and the country, addressing poverty, reducing the number of casualties from UXO and reducing the risks to affected communities.”

Casualties from UXO in Xiengkhouang have reduced significantly from 41 in 2010 to 11 in 2015, due to clearance and mine risk education supported by New Zealand among others.

Ms. Kaarina Immonen, UNDP Resident Representative, stressed the importance of sustained support to UXO clearance and victim assistance:

“New Zealand has been a valued partner in this effort. The new contribution announced today is comprehensive. It has been designed together with the Government and in coordination with other donors. The grant is long-term, which enables UXO Lao to plan its work, with a focus on Xiengkhuang province.”

Lao PDR is one of the most heavily bombed countries in the world, per capita, following the Second Indochina War. The dangerous UXO left behind as sad legacies of the war continue to be a threat to the lives of rural populations and a hindrance to the use of land for agriculture and development.

UNDP works closely with the Government of Lao PDR to address the UXO problem. This engagement is through the national clearance operator UXO Lao and the National Regulatory Authority for UXO and Mine Action in Lao PDR.

The much needed boost of funding from New Zealand to UXO Lao in Xiengkhouang will support 12 UXO clearance teams, one mine risk education team, two UXO survey teams and the purchasing of necessary equipment for the task.

The contribution will also support the process of completing a national survey of known cluster munition contamination by 2021, which has been planned by the National Regulatory Authority for UXO/Mine Action with the support of UNDP.