2007 Marks 10th Anniversary of Mine Action Standards

by Faiz M. Paktian [ Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining ]

The International Mine Action Standards are guidelines set by the United Nations to implement mine-action programmes safely and effectively. The author discusses the purpose and processes of the IMAS as well as provides various references for those interested in learning more about the IMAS.

In March 1997, the United Nations Mine Action Service issued the first edition of international standards for humanitarian mine clearance. These standards have since been expanded to include the other components of mine action and to reflect changes to operational procedures, practises and norms. The 1997 standards were redeveloped and renamed as the International Mine Action Standards with the first edition produced in October 2001; therefore, 2007 marks the 10th anniversary of the original mine-action standards.

Image 1
IMAS homepage. All graphics courtesy of MAIC
Image 2
IMAS in Spanish.
Image 3
IMAS registration page.

The IMAS are standards the United Nations has issued to guide the planning, implementation and management of mine-action programmes. They have been developed to improve safety, quality and efficiency in mine action. The IMAS follow the International Organization for Standardization1 format and draw on the two main instruments of international law that regulate landmines: the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention2 and Amended Protocol II and Protocol V3 to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.4 The IMAS provide general information on existing regulations and conventions that affect mine action, particularly those referring to international humanitarian law, clearance requirements, hazard marking and general safety issues.

The IMAS are a framework to assist the development of National Mine Action Standards that can more accurately reflect specific local situations in a given country. The IMAS can be adapted as national standards where the United Nations, or another international body, temporarily assumes the responsibility of a mine-action authority. IMAS can also provide the framework for legal contracts between donors and implementing organisations.

There are currently a number of IMAS covering a wide range of issues from establishing to evaluating mine-action programmes. They include not only general guidelines for mine action but also standards for specific field activities such as clearance requirements or marking of hazards in demining operations. New IMAS are produced periodically based on requirements realised either in the field or at the management levels in mine action. The existing IMAS are reviewed every three years and amended or replaced with a new edition as needed.

UNMAS has the mandated responsibility for development and maintenance of the IMAS. The work of preparing, reviewing and revising the IMAS is conducted by technical committees, with the support of international, governmental and nongovernmental organisations. The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining coordinates this process at the request of the United Nations. There is a Review Board of the IMAS that is responsible for overseeing the review and revision of the IMAS. It is composed of representatives of demining NGOs, national authorities and mine-action centres, commercial demining companies, research and development institutions, donors, the concerned U.N. agencies, and as required, subject specialists. UNMAS chairs the Review Board and the GICHD serves as Secretary to the Board. A higher-level IMAS Steering Group, chaired by the Director of UNMAS with U.N. agency representation from UNICEF, the United Nations Development Programme, and the United Nations Office for Project Services, in addition to the GICHD, oversees the work of the Review Board. It provides executive direction, agrees on the membership of the Review Board, determines the Terms of Reference5 for the Review Board and endorses or directs the production of new IMAS.

Since the IMAS are continuously amended and new IMAS are being added, all readers should make sure they have the latest version of them. There are two ways to get an up-to-date version of the IMAS: visit the IMAS Web site at www.mineactionstandards.org or ask the GICHD for an updated CD-ROM (see contact information below). If you have access to the Internet, we encourage you to visit the IMAS Web site for additional information.

As part of the continuing efforts to ensure accessibility of the Standards to the mine-action community, UNMAS and the GICHD worked with the Web site managers at the Mine Action Information Center to redesign and streamline the site in 2007. In the new design, in addition to the IMAS in English, unofficial translations of some IMAS are now available in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish for ease of reference. However, for the most up-to-date version, users must refer to the English version.

The Web site also houses and presents a number of National Mine Action Standards—standards produced by the mine-action authority of mine-affected countries that reflect a country's specific situation and are based on the IMAS. These standards are posted for reference and information to assist the national authorities of those mine-affected countries that have yet to develop their own national standards. If you wish to post your national standards on the IMAS Web site, please send the GICHD an electronic copy of your standards.

An important feature of the new site is that users will have the ability to register for updates. By requesting updates, you will receive an e-mail as soon as a new IMAS, NMAS or Technical Notes for Mine Action is posted on the Web site.

The UNMAS and the GICHD welcome any questions, suggestions or comments about standards or their contributions to the mine-action community. Specialists are available to assist you in understanding the principle of IMAS and NMAS, building structures for NMAS, developing specific standards, reviewing your national standards and providing useful feedback. If you think you need help, please contact UNMAS or GICHD. Bullet

Biography

HeadshotFaiz Paktian is the Head of Standards and Stockpile Destruction at the GICHD and is responsible for the continual development and review of the International Mine Action Standards and the associated Technical Notes for Mine Action. He has been involved in mine action in a variety of roles for the last 17 years in several mine-affected countries. He holds a Master of Mechanical Engineering and a Master of Business Administration.

Endnotes

  1. The International Organization for Standardization, or the ISO, is a nongovernmental organization and network of 157 countries. Its goal is to create an international standard of technology, government policies and consumerism. For more information on the ISO, visit http://www.iso.org/iso/en/ISOOnline.frontpage. Accessed 28 March 2007.
  2. Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, Oslo, Norway. 18 September 1997. http://www.un.org/Depts/mine/UNDocs/ban_trty.htm. Accessed 19 March 2007. The document was opened for signature in Ottawa, Canada, 3 December 1997, and thus is commonly known as the Ottawa Convention.
  3. Amended Protocol V (which addresses the effects of explosive remnants of war on civilian and civilian economies after conflicts end) of the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, Geneva, Switzerland, 10 October 1980. http://www.ccwtreaty.com/KeyDocs/ccwtreatytext.htm. Accessed 19 March 2007.
  4. Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, Geneva, Switzerland, 10 October 1980. http://www.ccwtreaty.com/KeyDocs/ccwtreatytext.htm. Accessed 19 January 2007. This Convention is also referred to as the CCW or CCCW.
  5. The Terms of Reference for the Review Board include: Purpose, to continually review and revise the IMAS; Responsibilities of IMAS Review Board, to advise and monitor the IMAS; Composition, a list of members of the Review Board; and Meetings, when meetings are and what occurs during meetings. To view the Terms of Reference visit http://www.mineactionstandards.org/IMAS_archive/Related/ReviewofIMAS.pdf. Accessed 19 April 2007.

Contact Information

Faiz M. Paktian
Head of Standards and Stockpile Destruction
Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining
7bis ave de la Paix
PO Box 1300, CH-1211
Geneva 1 / Switzerland
Tel +41 22 906 16 87
Fax +41 22 906 16 90
E-mail: f.paktian@gichd.org
Web site: http://www.gichd.org

Noel Mulliner
Technology Coordinator
United Nations Mine Action Service
2 UN Plaza
New York, NY 10017 / USA
Tel: +1 212 963 2627
Fax: +1 212 963 2498
E-mail: mulliner@un.org
Web site: http://www.mineaction.org