Panel on humanitarian demining in Ukraine
Bern, 22.06.2023 - Address by Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) – Check against delivery
Good morning everybody.
Thank you for inviting me to join this panel.
The task of recovery that Ukrainians are facing is indeed colossal. But so are our commitment and determination to support Ukraine.
When it comes to humanitarian mine action, we know that it is key to recovery and reconstruction in Ukraine.
It is a precondition for humanitarian access;
for the return of displaced persons;
for social and economic recovery;
for agricultural activities, and
for the reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure.
While the ownership, the leadership in mine action - as in other aspects of the recovery process - lies with Ukraine, Ukraine is not alone.
Ukraine can build on its own, but also on our experiences and established practices, and we are all aware that our commitments – both public and private – need to be coordinated.
Ukraine and the international community are pursuing the common objective to offer as quickly as possible a sustainable future to the Ukrainian people.
Switzerland, as a neutral nation and depositary of the Geneva Conventions, has a long-standing humanitarian tradition.
Protecting civilian populations in wartime is at the very heart of our international commitment.
My country has gained experience in mine action since its first specialists were deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1997.
Today, our strong expertise is unfortunately very useful in Ukraine.
Allow me to outline three points on the collective efforts Switzerland is supporting:
1. First, our engagement in mine action follows firmly the spirit of Lugano.
Those seven principles we agreed upon last year in Switzerland are guiding the recovery process in Ukraine.
It’s about ownership, reforms, partnerships, multi-stakeholder approaches and sustainability.
This means that we support the Ukrainian government in strengthening its national capacities.
The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining will support the Ukrainian authorities in expanding their mine action programme.
The International Mine Action Standards, co-developed and refined by that centre over the last 20 years, are crucial.
Their application ensures that mine action is delivered in an effective and safe manner.
These standards are the foundation of the essential trust among donors and investors.
But Switzerland also supports mine action on the ground.
The Swiss Foundation for Demining (FSD) has been active in Ukraine since 2014.
The FSD will clear unexploded ordnance in Kharkiv Oblast, particularly in urban areas, which are heavily contaminated.
Multilaterally as well, part of Switzerland’s contribution to the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund helped to kick-start, this year, a large project of the World Food Programme focusing on agricultural land, where the FSD carries out demining, so that farmers can return to their land after clearance.
2. Second - This year Switzerland has provided funding of at least EUR 15 million for humanitarian mine action in Ukraine and we are looking into continuously increasing this support.
Furthermore, until 2028, Switzerland has already decided to support Ukraine with EUR 1.8 billion as a first step.Mine action will be an important pillar in this commitment.
3. Allow me to conclude on a third and crucial point: The importance of innovation and technology in mine action.
The application of new technologies – such as the use of drones and field robots – has the potential to make humanitarian mine action more effective, safe and responsive.
For Switzerland, it will be key to combine technical specialists with humanitarian.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Switzerland, together with Ukraine and Germany, organised the Ukraine Mine Action Donor Coordination Workshop in November 2022 in Geneva.
This was the first international meeting to coordinate our efforts in support of Ukraine in mine action.
I am also looking forward to participating in the International Donors’ Conference on Humanitarian Demining in Ukraine on 11-12 October 2023 in Zagreb.
Last but not least:
I stand ready to host a follow-up Conference, in Geneva next year!
We have a major task ahead of us – let’s continue working together.
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