A workshop on ‘Addressing Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) Contamination in the Pacific’ has concluded in Koror, Palau.
The workshop, which was held from 18 to 22 November 2013, was organised by the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) in close collaboration with the Government of Palau and the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat (PIFS). Funding for the workshop was provided by the Government of the United States.
Nine Forum Island countries – the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu – remain contaminated by explosive remnants from battles fought during World War II. For almost 70 years now, these leftover explosive remnants have and continue to pose a very real threat to the safety of Pacific communities – in particular children and young people.
In many cases, the presence of ERW has restricted the ability of communities to use or develop land for socio-economic development.
“The ERW scattered across these islands pose a great hazard to the inhabitants as well as to visitors of the islands,” explains GICHD Director Stephan Husy. “In addition to the cost on human wellbeing and safety, the presence of these leftover remnants also has an impact on livelihoods.”
In his opening remarks, Palau’s Minister of State, Mr Billy Kuartei stated that “unexploded and explosive remnants (UXO) from World War II have been a long standing humanitarian, security and environmental threat to the Republic.” Mr Kuartei further highlighted that to manage the threat, Palau, by executive order, has formed a “UXO Advisory Committee tasked to organize Palau’s clearance work and to initiate work toward establishing Standards and Procedures to guide work involving UXO.”
The workshop provided a further opportunity for participants to discuss and consider a more technical and operational focus on topics such as techniques in ERW clearance operations, humanitarian underwater demining, national capacity development support, and information management training. Similar meetings on ERW and UXO were also held in Palau in October 2012 and in Brisbane, Australia in June 2013.
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