MAG

by Rachel Canfield [ Mine Action Information Center ]

MAG, also known as the Mines Advisory Group, whose motto is "saves lives, builds futures," takes a proactive role in meeting the needs of individuals in mine-affected countries through peacebuilding, community liaison and mine-risk education. With operations located in Angola, Cambodia, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Vietnam, MAG has learned to incorporate old and new techniques, resulting in prosperous futures for many.

In the mine-action language of numbers and statistics, the effects on people's lives are sometimes lost in translation. However, for MAG, the focus never strays from meeting humanitarian needs and aiding the individuals in affected communities. MAG has taken its unique approach to 35 countries worldwide in an effort to clear abandoned weapons and landmines.

MAG has been operating since 1989, after Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan, leaving the country with a staggering landmine and unexploded ordnance problem. During its early years of operation, MAG filled an advisory role in mine action, working to influence the international community to respond to the needs of conflict-affected countries.

While many of its efforts are community-focused, MAG has never ignored the need for international recognition and support of efforts to eliminate the landmine/unexploded ordnance problem. In 1992, MAG, along with five other nongovernmental organizations, founded the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.1 Over the past 15 years the ICBL has grown to include more than 1,400 NGOs in over 90 countries.

Balancing local needs and a unified effort against landmines, MAG adopted its long-term approach to concentrate on sustainable development for affected communities. MAG strives to create a "world where people can build peaceful and prosperous futures free from the impact of the remnants of conflicts."2

The MAG Approach

The MAG approach focuses on rebuilding communities and countries by providing physical clearance, education, and local know-how and partnerships. The organization concentrates on meeting the most critical needs of a community, such as safe access to water and clear routes between villages.

MAG aims:

This distinctive approach encompasses peacebuilding, community liaison, mine-risk education, Mine Action Teams and mine- and explosive-detecting dogs, explosive ordnance disposal and technology processes.

Peacebuilding. Many MAG efforts are directed at constructing an environment in which sustained economic and social development can take place. Tactics used to create such an environment are disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. Disarmament involves landmine removal and explosive ordnance disposal. MAG attempts to bring organizations and both sides of conflicts together to work toward lasting peace.

Community liaison. In order to create the most effective plan to help a conflict-affected community, MAG employs Community Liaisons that work with all stakeholders to develop a clear understanding of the unique problems faced. Villages, authorities, hospitals, governments and aid agencies are among the partners that assist in this process. Community Liaisons are used to discover how landmines and UXO affect the everyday lives of those in at-risk communities. Through information-gathering and establishing current and potential risk-taking activities, suitable responses can be formulated before, during and after clearance. This process stresses the importance of information-sharing and networking.

Mine-risk education. MAG was the first organization to introduce the concept of MRE. MAG mine-risk education campaigns are tailored to each community and take into consideration the specific impact of landmines/UXO, as well as other details, such as economic pressures, cultural differences, existing awareness, age, gender, etc.

MRE can include information on a variety of issues, including:

MRE programs also concentrate on initiating discussions that promote ways to stay safe through behavior change.

Mine Action Teams and mine- and explosives-detection dogs. Typically, demining teams consist of army-style platoons that can increase costs and efforts. MAG Mine Action Teams are compact and efficient, each with 15 people who are all trained in at least two of the following skills: demining, EOD, Technical Survey, medical and firstaid training, and management capabilities. Individuals from the local population are trained to work on the MATs, which helps strengthen the national work force.

In projects that utilize mine- and explosives-detection dogs, clearance rates can be maximized as much as 300 percent. MAG prefers to employ these animals for clearing areas prepared by remote-controlled flail or vegetation-cutting machines, reducing area in low-risk areas and assuring quality control after clearance.

Explosive ordnance disposal. EOD involves locating, identifying, marking, securing, and safely removing and destroying dangerous remnants of conflict. This work includes the destruction of stockpiles and caches. In areas that contain a large amount of EOD, MAG frequently works to develop a local capacity to assist in the diposal of dangerous items, training local laborers in support roles. The EOD teams MAG deploys are helped greatly by the response of communities to MRE and Community Liaisons.

Technology. MAG uses a range of multi-faceted technological techniques. These technologies can include metal detectors, large machinery and new innovations. However, no single clearance method works for every setting and situation. Consequently, MAG developed its "toolbox" of different approaches.

MAG uses some machinery, such as the Tempest mini-flail, Minecat, Bozena, sifting machines and advanced metal detectors. While new technologies are constantly being developed, MAG still views manual clearance as the most reliable method.

Recent Operations

Currently, MAG has operations in 11 countries. Below is information on their latest operations in Iraq and Lebanon. For additional information on other programs, please visit the MAG Web site, http://www.mag.org.uk.

Iraq. MAG has worked in Iraq for over 15 years. During the current conflict in the country, MAG's efforts have been concentrated in the northern region. Over 1.5 million landmines and pieces of UXO have been cleared, making several million square meters of land available for use. Recently, MAG created a project aimed at safely removing and destroying small arms and light weapons in an effort to create long-term stability in the region. In the project's first two weeks of operation, over 3,000 items were removed and destroyed. MAG works with mine-action organizations within the country, including the National Mine Action Authority, the Iraqi Kurdistan Mine Action Agency and U.N. agencies.

Lebanon. MAG's operations in Lebanon began in 2000 with a team of 80 national staff members. Most current activities focus on clearing the unexploded munitions in the southern region of the country. The Lebanon program has involved activities such as rapid survey and demarcation of areas containing landmines and UXO, clearance of priority routes and land, and EOD tasks. Currently, there are 380 people working on battle-area-clearance tasks and they clear between 300,000 and 500,000 square meters(74.1 and 123.6 acres) monthly, thereby allowing safe access to essential agricultural land.

Conclusion

For almost 20 years, MAG has been developing its distinctive approach and disseminating it through operations that span the globe. These operations help realize the social and economic potential of conflict-affected communities. Ultimately, MAG's work continues to "save lives, build futures." Bullet

Endnotes

  1. For more information about the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, visit http://www.icbl.org. Accessed 29 October 2007.
  2. "MAG: What is MAG?" Mines Advisory Group. http://www.mag.org.uk/page.php?s=4&p=606. Accessed 29 October 2007.

Biography

HeadshotRachel Canfield is from Richmond, Virginia, and has worked as an Editorial Assistant and Student Researcher for the Journal of Mine Action since January 2006. She is a senior at James Madison University, majoring in public relations and print journalism.

Contact Information

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