VIENTIANE, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- The Government of Ireland committed 2.7 million U.S. dollars over the next three years to assist Laos in tackling its unexploded ordinance (UXO) problems, at a ceremony held in Lao capital of Vientiane on Monday.
UXO contamination is a major inhibitor to development in Laos, one of South East Asia's least developed nations. The UXO in the country is as a result of years of bombing by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War as well as by forces in the country's concurrent civil war.
Irish aid will go towards strengthening the capacities of the Lao National Regulatory Authority (NRA) and UXO Laos, the two national institutions which deal with UXO issues.
The contribution will support NRA policy making, UXO coordination and regulatory work, and UXO Lao operations, including clearance, roving tasks, surveys, land release, as well as risk education and training.
UXO contamination causes a variety of problems within Laos, such as loss of life and injuries, and can also deny access to land that could otherwise be used for agricultural and economic purposes. This is a major issue in Laos, where only around ten percent of land is presently available for agriculture and malnutrition is quite serious in some areas.
The signing ceremony was attended by the Ambassador of Ireland to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos Damien Cole. Speaking at the event Cole said he expected the UXO program to "continue the battle to rid Laos of the scourge of UXO and reduce the negative effects these have on Laos' economic and social development."
The donation will be distributed via the UXO Trust Fund, which is administered by the UN Development Program (UNDP). UNDP Resident Representative Minh Pham signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Cole signifying their agreement.
Pham spoke at the ceremony where he explained the future of the UXO program in Laos, "The new program will focus on institutional strengthening, providing support to the UXO victims, better coordination among the UXO sector, and accelerating prioritized land release in line with national development priorities."
The Director General of the NRA thanked the Irish government for their contribution both now and in the past. Ireland has contributed 4.7 million U.S. dollars since 2006. They also played a leading role in the development and promotion of the Anti- Personnel Landmine Convention and Convention on Cluster Munitions.