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Cluster Munition Remnants Survey (CMRS) Workshop

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA), facilitated by Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) and organized by the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery (CISR) at James Madison University


About the workshop

Objectives

Event organizers designed the CMRS workshop to increase participants’ understanding of the standardized CMRS methodology so that it may be used to a) increase the quality and cost-effectiveness of activities and b) create a united view of potential survey and clearance operations in the region and long-term management of residual risk. At the same time, participants (which included government and local/international NGO representatives) had the opportunity to share their perspectives, lessons learned and challenges through both formal remarks and informal discussions. The workshop consisted of two full days of formal presentations, group discussions and breakout sessions specific to each country. A full list of CMRS workshop sessions with descriptions is below (click HERE to skip to the Session Descriptions section).

The CMRS workshop demonstrates the commitment of stakeholders across Southeast Asia and the U.S. Government to promote collaboration and cooperation in order to reduce the harmful impact of explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam. U.S. Department of State officials noted that with limited donor resources available, it is imperative that operators focus attention on specific problems in ways that lead to efficient solutions. Ultimately, information sharing and lessons learned should permeate within and across organizations in the region to build the national capacity necessary to address contamination challenges presently and in the future.


Background

Driven to improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness of cluster munition survey and clearance, NPA initiated development and testing of its CMRS methodology in October 2010 in Lao PDR. Subsequently, NPA tested the CMRS methodology in Cambodia and Vietnam, and adopted it as NPA’s standard methodology for surveying areas suspected of cluster munition remnants contamination. Since 2010, the CMRS methodology has gone through a number of transformations to increase the efficiency of operations and the accuracy of survey results. Based on analysis of both survey results and information collected during clearance of Confirmed Hazardous Areas (CHA) established through CMRS, NPA has adjusted the methodology to produce more accurate CHAs for clearance, thus giving a more realistic overview of contaminated areas as well as a better basis for planning of clearance operations. In Vietnam, the close cooperation and partnership between Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and NPA has proven crucial in this development. Through MAG’s clearance of CHAs that NPA has generated during CMRS operations, immediate feedback has been provided on the accuracy and quality of CMRS results. Full details of the CMRS methodology and the clearance collaboration process with MAG can be found in the presentations in the Session Descriptions section.


Workshop Outcomes

Workshop participants gained a deeper understanding on the use of CMRS as well as how it adapts to the context of different countries and organizations within the region. While in many ways contamination throughout the region is similar, participants recognized, based on certain factors, that CMRS must be flexible in order for operators to effectively complete procedures in a variety of situations. The workshop also served as an opportunity to reflect on which standards and procedures could be more uniform among organizations and countries. All participants approved the following standard definition of CMRS as it applies to Southeast Asia: CMRS is the combination of non-technical survey (NTS) and technical survey (TS) procedures used to identify CHAs in land previously suspected of cluster munition (CM) contamination.

Workshop participants agreed information management (IM) of CMRS data needs to be standardized and strengthened for the methodology and subsequent clearance operations to be successful, making this component a recommended donor priority for operators adopting CMRS procedures. This includes utilizing historical information efficiently and appropriately, and acting upon recent information gathered from NTS and TS as quickly as possible. Well-defined and uniform standard operating procedures (SOPs) regarding the IM of CMRS data should designate appropriate storage and ownership responsibilities for current programs and to inform future residual risk management. Such developments will improve the growing regional shift from request-based to evidence-based prioritization, and ultimately, promote more timely clearance. Prioritization is a critical step in the CMRS cycle because the survey process has increased the number of CHAs.

Stakeholders conducting CMRS in Southeast Asia recognize that CM contamination requires approaches different to those previously established for traditional landmine contamination. For this reason, innovation and adaptability is key and should continue to be a priority for further discussion on the subject. 

As a result of the workshop presentations and discussions, NPA created a Facilitator’s Executive Summary with further details about the workshop outcomes and technical aspects of CMRS.


The Path Forward

The workshop lays a solid foundation for a regional effort to implement standardized CMRS methodology and to plan survey and clearance operations. Workshop organizers created the following list of questions for stakeholders and organizations to consider based on the formal and group discussions during the workshop:

  • In what ways can SOPs adopt and/or include CMRS methodology? What are the next steps to creating the SOPs?
  • How can the information shared during the workshop best disseminate to other organization members and national stakeholders in the region?
  • What standards can be re-evaluated to fit the current context of the contamination problem (e.g. clearance depth, team structure/size, and TS search time)? How can they clearly distinguish the difference in approach between mine and CM contamination?

Session Descriptions

This section provides an overview of each formal presentation session including the presenter and their organization. In addition to formal presentations, the workshop hosted several group discussions and country-specific breakout sessions. 

  • CMRS Best Practice
    Simon Rea, Country Director, MAG, Lao PDR/Vietnam

    MAG illustrates its CMRS process including the use of evidence point polygon mapping (EPP) methodology for TS activities. MAG argues that the use of historical and ongoing operational data results in more thorough and efficient survey results. With increased confirmed hazardous areas as a result of CMRS, prioritization is a key component of an integrated survey and clearance program. MAG clearance efforts act as a “feedback loop” to improve CMRS methodology.
  • Cluster Munition Remnants Survey Workshop
    Bounphamith Somvichith, Deputy Director General (Operations), National Regulatory Authority for the UXO Mine/Action Sector in Lao PDR (NRA)

    NRA discusses technical and non-technical survey lessons learned as the national capacity and operations in Lao PDR develop and move away from a “response-based” to “evidence based” approach. Main concerns for NRA as Lao PDR develops national SOPs  include: a separation of NTS and TS functions, flexibility and adaptability of SOPs, and improved community relations and information sharing.
  • CMAA – Organizational briefs on lessons learned in survey
    Rotha Chan, Deputy Secretary General, Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA)

    CMAA reports on the status of the national baseline survey, lessons learned from the process, and steps going forward as they address the contamination in the eastern region of Cambodia. Due to the diversity of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the country, Cambodia’s national mine action standards (NMAS) use a land classification system based on the type of contamination. CMRS activities fall under land classification B1.2: “Land containing cluster munitions/bombies.”
  • National Steering Committee 504, Vietnam National Mine Action Center (VNMAC)
    Nguyen Van Nghiep, Deputy Director General, VNMAC

    VNMAC compares CMRS activities in Quang Tri province to the wider mine action process in the country as a national centralized system is developed in Vietnam. VNAMC notes the importance of creating a CMRS procedure that counts other types of contamination found during the process, which can commonly occur based on Vietnam’s situation. VNMAC also highlighted the need to further evaluate what qualifies as evidence during the NTS phase.
  • Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Program (UXO Lao) Survey Operations 
    Wanghong Khamdala, Deputy Director, UXO Lao

    UXO Lao outlines its role in the national survey process, the adoption of CMRS, best practices and current challenges related to technical and non-technical survey. UXO Lao argues, based on its experience, future SOPs incorporating CMRS must be flexible, such as NTS and TS team sizes, as there is no single NTS approach that is appropriate for every situation.

  • HALO Trust, Lao PDR
    Susanna Smale, Programme Manager, HALO Trust Lao PDR

    HALO Trust provides an overview of its program activities in Lao PDR highlighting its technical and non-technical survey techniques, including historical evidence points and data analysis. HALO Trust demonstrates through its experience how multifunctional teams have been successful building both trust and information-sharing between operators and affected communities.

  • Using Mobile GIS to Enhance Field Data Collection: Lessons Learned from the Field
    Resad Junuzagic, Country Director, NPA Vietnam and Paul Rittenhouse, Instructor of Geographic Science/Geospatial Projects Coordinator, JMU/CISR

    CISR and NPA Vietnam review lessons learned from a collaborative pilot project conducted June – September 2016, testing mobile GIS tools developed by CISR in the field with Project RENEW technical survey teams. Teams found the application of this technology overall to be flexible and efficient, particularly when adapted to assist the region’s data collection needs and protocols. NPA Vietnam’s recommendations from the pilot phase led to the development of the CISR ArcGIS-Online Survey Tool, or CAST, which is a mobile application used for technical or non-technical survey of mines and UXO.

  • Desk Assessment and NTS*
    Group Discussion moderated by Jan Erik Stoa, Operations Manager, NPA Lao PDR

    Desk assessment refers to the preparation before NTS activities begin and may include: analysis of available USAF bombing data and all historical data, preparing a map overlay of the survey target area, correction of any previous data errors reported to IMSMA and the collection of potential relevant data from other sources (ex. village plans or commercial operators). Participants discussed the ways USAF bombing data and historical data may be used to inform planning and survey and its limitations. Viewpoints on this topic varied by country. There is a need for improved coordination with all stakeholders to increase data reliability and ownership and the understanding of this process by all involved in CMRS. Workshop participants agreed that CMRS is the combination of NTS and TS procedures used to identify CHAs in land previously suspected of CM contamination.

  • Technical Survey*
    Group Discussion moderated by Jan Erik Stoa, Operations Manager NPA Lao PDR

    After analyzing NTS findings, TS operations should start as soon as possible. Participants discussed issues concerning CMRS technical survey strategy including standard boxes, search procedure, and amount of time needed to complete a search. These factors, as well as the use of multifunctional teams, the type of detectors and PPE, and team size, are dependent on the local situation.

  • ARMAC – ASEAN Mine Action Center (no presentation available)
    Sounpraseth Prum, Interim Executive Director, ARMAC

    ARMAC announces its role in the region as a Center of Excellence to encourage efforts addressing explosive remnants of war for interested Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states.

  • Long Term Risk Management – Management of Residual ERW (MORE)
    Rob White, Advisor – Strategic Management and Residual Contamination, Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD)

    GICHD introduces the Management of Residual ERW (MORE) project and how it relates to risk management, the international mine action standards (IMAS), strategic planning and information management as countries near their end-state goals. The project draws upon the experiences of countries after World War 2 and develops lessons learned to apply to countries recovering from more recent armed conflicts. GICHD is also gathering additional data on the effects of aging weapons and their implications for the mine action community.

  • The “End State” of the Evidence Based Survey Confirmed Hazards*
    Group Discussion by Jonathan Guthrie, Senior Technical Advisor, NPA

    Workshop participants discussed the importance of a well-coordinated and complete handover process following CMRS and clearance. Those involved in the CMRS can improve this process by involving all relevant stakeholders, not only the villagers and operators. IMSMA must store all of the final results from CMRS and clearance, and it will be the national mine action authority (NMAA) that ultimately accepts the result and assumes ownership of the data. Since CMRS is an ongoing survey process, workshop participants agreed operators are not liable if new evidence is found, but authorities may task them to conduct more survey to ensure that the quality of survey is in line with NMAS and the operators SOP.

*Group discussions do not include formal remarks or a corresponding presentation. The paragraphs contain a brief overview of the discussion topic. For a more detailed report of the group discussions and their outcomes, please see the NPA Facilitator’s Executive Summary.

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