Laos delegation highlights UXO challenges and achievements at Convention on Cluster Munitions meeting

A group of senior government officials from Laos, including Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Phoxay Khaykhamphithoune, participated in the 11th Meeting of States Parties of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) held in Geneva, Switzerland, from September 11 to 14, 2023. The primary focus of Laos’ delegation was to share their country’s accomplishments and challenges related to the critical issue of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO).

This meeting held significant importance for Laos as the Lao Government is gearing up to submit a request for the extension of its clearance obligation. The deadline for this clearance obligation, as mandated by the CCM, is rapidly approaching on August 1, 2025.

Despite making remarkable progress in clearing explosive remnants of war at an accelerated rate, achieving the highest clearance rate ever and recording the lowest number of casualties in 2022 (20 casualties, including 3 women, 9 men and 8 boys), compared to 63 in 2021, Laos continues to be one of the world’s most heavily contaminated nations.

The Lao Government’s delegation, led by Mr. Khaykhamphithoune, included representatives such as the Director General of the National Regulatory Authority for the UXO/Mine Action Sector (NRA) and officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA). Their presence at the meeting was made possible with the support of the Government of the Republic of Korea, facilitated through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

During the meeting, Mr. Chomyaeng Phengthongsawat, Director General of the NRA, underscored Laos’ commitment to enhancing risk reduction activities. This commitment includes providing risk education to address the risky behaviors of specific vulnerable groups based on the findings of various studies. Moreover, efforts are being made to convey risk messages in multiple local languages, ensuring accessibility for the diverse ethnic communities across the nation.

Mr. Phengthongsawat shared that in 2022, the UXO Sector conducted Non-Technical Surveys in 281 villages and Technical Surveys in 369 villages. These surveys identified over 21,013 hectares of confirmed hazardous areas and approximately 5,437 hectares of land were successfully cleared, with a significant portion allocated for agricultural purposes.

Furthermore, Mr. Phengthongsawat advocated for a coordinated approach to implementing CCM requirements and national development, highlighting the positive outcomes of this approach as demonstrated by a post-clearance impact assessment conducted by UNDP and the NRA in 2023. This assessment was made possible through support from the Governments of Korea and New Zealand.

In closing, he emphasized the importance of continued collaboration with development partners as a crucial element for the successful fulfillment of CCM obligations in Laos.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) is a collective commitment signed or ratified by more than 120 states. Its objective is to address the humanitarian consequences and unacceptable harm inflicted on civilians by cluster munitions. The CCM promotes global peace and strives for a safer world by urging all States to refrain from activities related to cluster munitions, which pose indiscriminate threats to civilian lives during and long after armed conflicts.