Unexploded ordnance regulatory NRA holds 1st Working Group meeting

The Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Sector Working Group met on Friday, 25th June 2021, in Vientiane with its primary focus placed on the new ten-year UXO national strategic plan – Safe Path Forward III (SPF III), which is currently in development.

This is the first meeting of the year, chaired by Mr. Padeumphone Sonthany, Vice Minister of Labour and Social Welfare and Standing Vice Chairman of the National Regulatory Authority for the UXO/Mine Action Sector in Lao PDR (NRA).

The meeting was co-chaired by Ms. Catherine Phuong, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Deputy Resident Representative, together with Mr. Brian Jungwiwattanaporn, Acting Chief of the Political-Economic Section at the Embassy of the United States of America.

Also attending are approximately 100 people from international embassy representatives, line Ministry officials, UXO operators and other UXO stakeholders.

The plan comes at a crucial turning point for the UXO programme, as it shifts to greater national ownership, as well as alignment with the country’s national social and economic development goals. In line with this, a national UXO training centre is being operated to build longer-term clearance capacity within the Humanitarian teams of the Lao People’s Army and other operators, and UXO has been integrated in the 9th Five-Year National Socio-Economic Development Plan (2021-25).

“The new ten-year strategy for the UXO Sector (Safe Path Forward III) is a crucial step towards ensuring the long-term sustainability of UXO work in the Lao PDR,” said Ms. Phuong. “The new strategy will also help the country implement the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG 18 on mine action, and increase the contribution of the UXO sector to the overall socio-economic development of the country.”

Likewise, Mr. Padeumphone remarked that “Although UXO works have been effected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the UXO sector has taken out this opportunity to working remotely to ensure continuity of works by focusing on assessment and formulating the UXO National Strategic Plan “Safe Path Forward III” for the period 2021-2030 and drafting the Decree on UXO management in the Lao PDR to be in line with the obligation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM).

The meeting also reflected on the achievements of the UXO sector over the past ten-year period, particularly the alignment with strategic objectives of the national UXO strategy such as the Safe Path Forward II (2011-2020) as a part of development process of SPF III.

Of particular importance for the UXO sector is the greater responsibility undertaken by the humanitarian teams of the Lao People’s Army, and the long-term development of the National Training Centre, both of which will ensure the sustainability of the UXO programme in the longer term.

These steps will ensure that the UXO sector will continue to contribute to the country’s economic progress and achievement of the SDG 18 by 2030, even as it enters its next decade.

Source: Lao News Agency