Azerbaijan's green agenda & the battle against landmines
    Zangilan conference highlights the danger

    ANALYTICS  30 May 2024 - 13:46

    Fuad Muxtar-Agbabali

    Azerbaijan's unfolding international conference, titled "Mitigating environmental impact of landmines: Resource mobilization for safe and green future," underway in the de-occupied Zangilan District, is a critical juncture in the nation's green agenda.

    This event in Zangilan District, positioned strategically on the border with Armenia and Iran, highlights the importance of the Zangazur Corridor, underscoring the intertwined challenges of environmental sustainability and post-conflict recovery.

    As Azerbaijan prepares for COP29 in November, the conference emphasizes the country's commitment to addressing the environmental impact of landmines, a pressing issue with far-reaching implications.

    The multifaceted threat of landmines

    Landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) remain a pervasive threat to human security, socioeconomic development, and environmental sustainability across many nations as stated in the Azerbaijani president’s address to the participants in the international conference.

    Decades after conflicts have ended, these remnants of war continue to jeopardize lives, damage ecosystems, hinder agricultural productivity, and stall economic recovery, the presidential address further underscores.

    Azerbaijan, with approximately 12% of its territory polluted by an estimated 1.5 million mines and countless UXOs, stands as a stark example of the enduring impact of landmines.

    The environmental consequences of landmines are significant and multifaceted. Explosions from landmines generate plastic waste that disrupts soil structure, leading to long-term environmental degradation. Additionally, unearthed mines can cause hazardous chemical reactions, further contaminating soil and water sources as underscored by the address.

    Land rendered unusable due to the threat of mines is susceptible to erosion and degradation, exacerbating sustainable land management challenges. This environmental degradation directly contradicts the goals of sustainable development and climate resilience.

    Azerbaijan's humanitarian demining efforts

    Azerbaijan's commitment to humanitarian demining is a cornerstone of its national policy, the Azerbaijani president says, drawing attention to demining efforts of the national mine agency.

    The Mine Action Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan (ANAMA) has cleared approximately 140,000 hectares, removing nearly 120,000 mines and UXOs. Despite these efforts, significant challenges remain. Mines are easy to plant but complex and resource-intensive to remove. Azerbaijan has mobilized advanced technologies and innovative methods to enhance the efficiency of mine clearance operations, including deploying all-women demining teams to bolster capacity.

    Since the end of the war in 2020, 361 of our citizens, mostly civilians, have fallen victim to mine explosions, resulting in 68 deaths and 293 severe injuries. Overall, since the beginning of “Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan, over 3,400 of our citizens have suffered from mines, including 358 children and 38 women. The steady increase in the number of mine victims is associated with Armenia’s refusal to provide accurate maps of the mines it planted across Azerbaijan’s territory, and with placing booby traps along the roads, cemeteries, and other civilian facilities located behind the former line of contact. From 2020 to 2023, new mine zones were created stretching up to 500 km, new mines had been planted in Azerbaijan. Responsibility for that rests with Armenia,” the presidential address stressed.

    Challenges Azerbaijan is facing on demining are also hampering development and recovery efforts, creating serious obstacles for the return of 800,000 formerly IDPs as humanitarian demining is among the top priorities of Azerbaijan’s state policies.

    The Intersection of environmental & security agendas

    The conference in Zangilan is particularly significant as it aligns with Azerbaijan's preparations for COP29. This alignment underscores the critical intersection of environmental and security agendas. By addressing the environmental impact of landmines, Azerbaijan is not only enhancing human security but also contributing to global climate action goals. The event highlights the necessity of integrating mine action with broader environmental and sustainable development strategies.

    Azerbaijan's efforts extend beyond national borders, advocating for international recognition of the humanitarian and environmental impacts of landmines. The country has declared humanitarian demining as its 18th National Sustainable Development Goal and is pushing for its recognition as a global SDG, the presidential address further underscored.

    Additionally, Azerbaijan has initiated the establishment of a Special Contact Group on Humanitarian Demining within the Non-Aligned Movement, fostering international collaboration and resource mobilization.

    The impact of landmines on cultural heritage is another critical aspect of Azerbaijan's advocacy. In 2013, Azerbaijan led the adoption of a resolution on the impact of mines on cultural property at the 15th meeting of the state parties to the 1954 Hague Convention. Following this, Azerbaijan hosted a conference in Aghdam to further address this issue, highlighting the need to protect cultural heritage from the threats posed by landmines as underscored in the address.

    Azerbaijan is working with the UN to establish a Center of Excellence for mine action education. This initiative aims to share Azerbaijan's expertise with other countries facing similar challenges, fostering knowledge exchange and capacity building. The anticipated signing of a letter of intent between ANAMA and the UN Development Program at the conference marks a significant step towards formalizing this collaboration.

    Azerbaijan's international conference on mitigating the environmental impact of landmines is a testament to the country's determination to address one of the most pressing challenges of our time.

    By integrating mine action with environmental sustainability and advocating for international cooperation, Azerbaijan is setting a precedent for comprehensive, multifaceted approaches to post-conflict recovery and sustainable development.

    As the world prepares for COP29, Azerbaijan's efforts highlight the critical importance of addressing landmines not only as a security threat but also as a barrier to achieving global environmental and sustainable development goals.


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