Armenia

by Joseph Keane [ Mine Action Information Center ]

Armenia Map
Graphic courtesy of MAIC

Armenia has been gaining strength since recovering from the 1988 Spitak earthquake, the collapse of the Soviet government and Turkey's trade embargo. The country experienced economic depression in the 1990s1 but the government turned the economy around, creating positive growth from 1995 to 2006.1 As a member of 35 international organizations, Armenia is moving out of the post-Soviet era and onto the international stage. Part of becoming a modern nation is removing all possible threats to development. Landmines and unexploded ordnance are a threat to every aspect of development in Armenia.

Current Landmine Situation

The majority of Armenia's landmines and UXO are a result of the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict (1988–1994) over the Nagorno-Karabakh region in southwest Azerbaijan. Following the ceasefire, the Armenian Army surveyed the border where most landmines were placed and estimated that there were from 50,000 to 80,000 active landmines.2 The two countries have not signed a peace treaty, and Armenia reports security issues to be the reason the country has not signed the Ottawa Convention.2

In 2005 a Landmine Impact Survey was conducted in Armenia. It did not include areas under the control of Armenia that are considered part of Azerbaijan, such as Nagorno-Karabakh.3 The United Nations Development Programme, the European Commission and the Armenian government financed the LIS. It concluded that there were 102 suspected hazardous areas that covered a combined 321.7 square kilometers (124.3 square miles), including 20 "UXO hotspots."3 Sixty communities with a total population of 68,737 live close enough to the 102 sites to be directly affected.3 The Ministry of Defense has claimed it marked all known minefields with barbed wire and warning signs; however, the LIS found that only five of the 60 impacted communities had any restricted areas.3 Five people were injured by landmines and UXO in 2005; no reports have been made since.3

Armenia has supported the banning of anti-personnel landmines at the annual U.N. General Assembly meeting by voting in favor of the universalization and full implementation of the Ottawa Convention.3 Armenia is not a member of the Ottawa Convention nor the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons4 but voluntarily submitted a report to the U.N. Secretary-General on the status of landmines in 2005, which, according to the United Nations Disarmament and Development Web site, is the last time Armenia submitted such a report.5

The Armenian Ministry of Defense, the Armenian Humanitarian Demining Centre and the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure Coordination have recently completed a three-year plan to coordinate and implement a demining program. The goals of 2006 were "conducting a Technical Survey, Marking and Clearance (one community, as a pilot project); conducting a public awareness campaign and mine-risk education in mine-affected areas; conducting targeted victim assistance in mine-affected areas; supporting the Armenian Humanitarian Demining Centre; and assisting the government of Armenia in drafting a national mine action strategy and legislation."6

Armenia faces a number of challenges in demining. Weather permits landmine clearance for only six months per year, from May to October.3 Of the three 18-person teams, only two are active in Armenia; the third is currently working in Iraq.3 In addition, the extremely slow rate of demining in Armenia indicates that the country would benefit from additional funding and capacity.3 According to the Ministry of Defense, less than one square kilometer has been cleared since 2003.3

Mine-action Organizations in Armenia

The Armenian Humanitarian Demining Centre was created in March 2002 through funding and training from the United States Departments of State and Defense.7 The Centre is a part of the Armenian Ministry of Defense and is the implementing body for mine action in Armenia. UNDP–Armenia and the European Commission are also involved in mine action; the organizations initiated and funded the three-year humanitarian-demining project for Armenia.3

Another organization working on mine action in Armenia is the Marshall Legacy Institute, which introduced the Mine Detecting Dog Partnership Program in Armenia in 2002 to use handlers and professional dogs capable of "sniffing out" the explosives in landmines and UXO.8 The International Committee of the Red Cross helps the UNDP with victim assistance, mainly finding artificial limbs for landmine survivors, helping support healthcare and creating safe play areas for children.9 The Armenian Red Cross and UNICEF work with the UNDP to promote mine-risk education programs.

Looking Ahead

Armenia continued to make progress in mine action with each passing year. As residents become more aware of the risks, the number of casualties related to mines and UXO has decreased.10 There may also be hope for peace sometime in the future for Armenia and Azerbaijan. Miguel Angel Moratinos, Chairman for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, stated, "the two countries had never been so close to reaching an agreement on the [Nagorno-Karabakh] conflict" in June 2007.11 The OSCE Minsk group hopes to finally end the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh by continuing to organize peace talks between leaders of the two countries. Bullet

Biography

HeadshotJoseph Keane has been an Editorial Assistant for the Journal of Mine Action since November 2006. He is currently attending James Madison University, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in technical and scientific communication and a Bachelor of Arts in journalism. He plans to graduate in spring 2009.

Endnotes

  1. "Armenia." The World Factbook. https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/am.html. Last updated 8 March 2007. Accessed 27 July 2007.
  2. "Armenia." Landmine Monitor Report 2005. International Campaign to Ban Landmines, New York, August 2001. http://www.icbl.org/lm/2005/armenia.html. Accessed 2 April 2007.
  3. "Armenia." Landmine Monitor Report 2006: Toward a Mine-Free World. International Campaign to Ban Landmines, New York, August 2001. http://www.icbl.org/lm/2006/armenia.html. Accessed 30 July 2007.
  4. 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 27 April 2007. The document was opened for signature in Ottawa, Canada, 3 December 1997, and thus is commonly known as the Ottawa Convention.
  5. "Article 7 Reports." United Nations–Department for Disarmament Affairs. http://disarmament.un.org/MineBan.nsf. Accessed 27 July 2007.
  6. "EN The European Union Mine Actions in the World." Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg, 2006. http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/library/publications/26_mines_2006_en.pdf. Accessed 30 July 2007.
  7. Tolliver, Whitney. "U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Programs in the Balkans and Caucasus." Journal of Mine Action. Issue 7.2, August 2003. http://www.jmu.edu/cisr/journal/7.2/focus/tolliver/tolliver.htm. Accessed 2 April 2007.
  8. "K9 Demining Corps Campaign." The Marshall Legacy Institute. http://www.marshall-legacy.org/k9_demining_corps/k9_demining_corps.html. Accessed 2 April 2007.
  9. "The ICRC in Armenia." International Committee of the Red Cross. http://www.icrc.org/Web/Eng/siteeng0.nsf/htmlall/armenia?OpenDocument. Accessed 2 April 2007.
  10. Vardanian, Gegham. "Armenia's Mine Curse." Environment News Service. Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 7 March 2007. http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/mar2007/2007-03-07-01.asp. Accessed 30 July 2007.
  11. "Modest Expectations as Armenian, Azeri Leaders Gear Up for Karabakh Talks." UNDP Azerbaijan Development Bulletin. BBC Monitoring Research, 7 June 2007. www.un-az.org/undp/bulnews50/nk3.php. Accessed 30 July 2007.

Contact Information

Joseph Keane
Editorial Assistant
Journal of Mine Action
Mine Action Information Center
E-mail: maic@jmu.edu