Mine Action Support Group Update

excerpted by Leah Young [ Mine Action Information Center ]

The following article highlights the recent activities of the Mine Action Support Group,1 including updates on the United Nations Mine Action Service, the United Nations Development Programme and UNICEF. It is excerpted from the United Nations' newsletter covering the period from January to April 2008.

The Mine Action Support Group meets three to four times a year for discussion between donors and mine-action partners of the United Nations. It consists of 27 members and invites representatives from mine-affected countries, as well as mine-action experts and nongovernmental organizations to attend the meetings.

Developments in UNMAS Programs

Afghanistan. During the reporting period, significant progress was made in operational activities, with five districts having all contamination removed, and nine communities being declared impact-free. Additionally, village-by-village explosive-ordnance-disposal teams searched another 20 districts and 107 suspected hazardous areas were cleared, resulting in over 10,000 mines and 240,000 items of unexploded ordnance being destroyed. Due to continued review of the Information Management System for Mine Action database, another 149 square kilometers (58 square miles) of previously indicated hazardous area were closed. Over the same period, more than 4,000 women and girls, and over 5,000 men and boys received mine-risk education throughout the country, while in the first three months of the year, 173 casualties were reported nationally. Of these, 88 percent were male with over 43 percent of all casualties under the age of 18.

In the context of reaching the Afghanistan Compact2 objective of reducing the known hazard by 70 percent before the end of 2010, the mine-action program has reduced the total number of hazards by 55 percent, while 38 percent of the estimated hazardous area has been processed since the setting of the Compact benchmarks. Despite this progress, the rate of clearance must be markedly increased in order to meet both the Compact obligations and those of the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention3 (clearance complete by 2013). Based on current planning, the United Nations and the government of Afghanistan consider that reaching these benchmarks is critical and achievable within these timeframes; however, it will require increased and sustained support.

Chad. UNMAS prepared for the deployment of a mine-action component as part of the newly established U.N. Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) to deal with explosive remnants of war and possible landmine contamination in the border areas of eastern Chad.

The MINURCAT Mine Action Team Leader was deployed to N’Djamena in mid-May to start collecting and analyzing information gathered by the National Mine Action Authority and to develop a coordination mechanism with all the stakeholders. Within the coming weeks, it is expected that a contracted commercial operator will deploy to the east.

Darfur. The contractor for demining commenced operations in early February and completed survey and verification in all four proposed U.N. African Union Mission in Darfur Super Camp locations (El Fashir, El Geneina, Nyala and Zalingei), totaling 6.1 million square meters (2.4 square miles). Furthermore, 132 villages were visited and assessed with 136 explosive items destroyed and 18,674 people receiving briefings on mine/UXO safety.

Democratic Republic of Congo. In the DRC, efforts by the U.N. Mine Action Coordination Centre to persuade the newly established government of the need to facilitate the establishment of a national mine-action structure continued. As a result, the Ministry of Interior has become the designated authority for mine action and has appointed a counterpart to UNMACC.

In the meantime, operational mine-action activities continued apace under the coordination of UNMACC. The significant contribution from the government of Japan will allow a sharp increase in survey and mine/ERW-clearance capacities. In addition, in June, the Swedish Rescue Service Agency will start implementing a mechanical mine-clearance project in eastern DRC.

Eritrea. The activities of the U.N. Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea Mine Action Coordination Centre were necessarily curtailed progressively over this period as the mission shifted footing in response to significant political developments. Restrictions on fuel availability precluded the execution of the planned clearance program within the Temporary Security Zone.

The MACC provided support to UNMEE’s temporary relocation from Eritrea, once that decision was taken by the United Nations, and established a reduced operational and coordination capacity on the Ethiopian side of the TSZ. Some equipment that was unable to be relocated from Eritrea has been stored centrally in Asmara pending a decision about the mission’s future.

Nepal. The monitoring of the safe storage of Maoist improvised explosive devices in Nepal and assistance in their subsequent destruction, overseen by the U.N. Mine Action Unit within the U.N. Mission in Nepal, has been progressing through the sub-contracted services of a specialized commercial company, ArmorGroup.

ArmorGroup has also continued training and supervising four Nepal Army demining teams. Two of those teams are now fully operational and the two others will be accredited shortly. By early April they had completed the clearance of four Nepal Army minefields.

Somalia. UNMAS’ support to the mine-action component of the UNDP Rule of Law and Security Program for Somalia is ongoing. While the program oversees U.N. support to Somaliland, Puntland and the south central region of Somalia, UNMAS’ primary area of interest remains the last of these. The most significant achievements in this period were the successful conducting of training courses for police explosive ordnance removal and mine-risk education teams in Baidoa and substantial progress toward the establishment of a mine-action center, also in Baidoa. Support from Swedish Rescue Services Agency has been essential throughout this effort and has also been critical to the initial implementation of the Information Management System for Mine Action database.

South Lebanon. In February 2008, the Lebanese Armed Forces and United Nations Mine Action Service signed a memorandum of understanding confirming their respective roles and responsibilities. The MOU also included a commitment by both parties to the transition process, which includes developing and implementing a detailed joint strategy over the coming months.

Since 14 August 2006, the size and scope of the contamination from UXO, namely cluster bombs, has increased. When operational planning began after the war, the size of the problem was estimated at some 32 million square meters (12 square miles). This estimate has now increased to 38,968,562 square meters (15 square miles), comprising 970 individual cluster-strike locations. Between August 2006 and 30 April 2008, the U.N. Mine Action Coordination Centre–South Lebanon, in conjunction with the Lebanon Mine Action Center, coordinated the clearance and reduction of 35.6 million square meters (14 square miles) of contaminated land.

Sudan. On 31 March 2008, Sudan destroyed 6,078 stockpiled anti-personnel landmines to meet its obligation under the Ottawa Convention.U.N. Mission in Sudan mine-action teams, especially the Bangladeshi demining contingent, provided technical support for the destruction.

UNMIS mine-action teams accelerated productivity, taking advantage of the dry season. To date, over 21.3 million square meters (8.22 square miles) of suspected dangerous areas have been cleared and some 12,400 anti-personnel mines, 2,600 anti-tank mines, 731,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance and 434,000 items of small-arms ammunition have been destroyed.

Western Sahara. UNMAS continued supporting the landmine and ERW survey and clearance activities being implemented in eastern parts of Western Sahara by the U.K.-based nongovernmental organization Landmine Action. The large scale mine-clearance project conducted by the Royal Moroccan Army continued in the western parts of the territory.

The Senior Mine Action Adviser to the U.N. Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara reorganized the Mission’s Mine Action Cell, enhancing the Mission’s capacities for coordination, monitoring of mine-action activities and management of information. In addition, regular information-sharing meetings on mine action have been developed with the RMA. Possibilities for providing the RMA demining program with technical assistance are also being explored.

Updates from UNDP

Cambodia. Key achievements include:

Key challenges include:

Egypt. Key achievements include:

Iraq. Key objectives include:

Key achievements include:

Key challenge:

Mauritania. Key achievements include:

Sri Lanka. Key achievements include:

Key challenges include:

Sudan. Key achievements include:

Key challenges include:

Tajikistan. Key achievements include:

Uganda. The key achievement is as follows:

Zimbabwe. The key achievement is as follows:

Updates from UNICEF

Albania. UNICEF is continuing to support the Albanian government as it gradually accepts the responsibility of delivering mine/ERW-risk education in the country. In compliance with the Albanian National Mine Action Strategy and Mine Action Plan, the goal is to integrate mine/ERW-risk education into the extra-curricular component of compulsory education in order to reduce the risk of death and injury of children and communities exposed to different types of risk.

Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the period January to April 2008, UNICEF Bosnia and Herzegovina continued to provide technical, financial and logistical support mainly to the Bosnia-Herzegovina Mine Action Center and to implementing agencies involved in mine-risk education and Landmine Victim Assistance.

With UNICEF support, and as part of Community Integrated Mine Action Planning, BHMAC organized monitoring field visits of the implementation of the MRE plans. UNICEF and BHMAC cooperation was focused on preparations for the development of MRE and landmine victim-assistance strategies for the 2009–2019 period and the development of municipal MRE planning mechanism.

Cambodia. UNICEF continues to provide financial and technical support to the mine-action sector for national MRE coordination. It does this through the Cambodian Mine Action/Victim Assistance Authority, the Cambodia Mine Action Centre and the School MRE for Children program through the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport. Community-based mine-risk reduction, a mass-media campaign, and expanded school programs cover different types of accidents and injuries in order to promote safe-environment and -behavior practices. MRE materials are also provided to different NGOs, and the Ministry of Social Affairs provides community-based rehabilitation for survivors. Prostheses, wheelchairs and other mobility devices, as well as rehabilitation assistance to children and women victims of landmines/UXO and other causes of disabilities continued, also with the support of UNICEF.

Chechnya. To mark the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, UNICEF, jointly with the Voice of the Mountains, conducted a marathon race in Grozny on 3 April with the participation of young people. About 150 disabled children and approximately the same number of volunteers managed to run one-and-a-half kilometers (0.9 miles). During the marathon, a photo exhibition entitled “Mines are Hurting Children. This Should not be Happening!” was displayed with a view to furthering awareness on the existing mine threat to the local people and advocating for better protection of the rights of the affected civilian population. The event was attended by the ministries, the NGO community, and child mine survivors and was broadcast by the local TV station.¬†UNICEF chaired two coordination meetings with the participation of the ICRC, the Danish Refugee Council and Voice of the Mountains. The meetings reviewed ongoing activities in the north Caucasus. UNICEF also continued advocacy for the establishment of a government-led mine-action center in Chechnya.

Iraq. UNICEF assisted the Iraqi Kurdistan Mine Action Agency in Erbil to organize a two-day national coordination meeting on MRE and mine-victim assistance in Erbil on 22–23 April. The meeting agreed upon five main action points for the remainder of the year:

  1. Mine-action centers and the U.N. Mine Action Team should work toward a unified database and use of the “CORE question” developed in 2006 with UNICEF support.
  2. Regular monitoring and evaluation from mine-action centers.
  3. Support for national capacity building by the U.N. Mine Action Team.
  4. Continuation of coordination and information sharing.
  5. Awareness-raising on small arms and light weapons together with NGOs.

UNICEF also supported MRE needs assessments of 100 high- and medium-impact contaminated villages from three governorates in central and southern Iraq. UNICEF is supporting a 10-month MRE project in four southern governorates. The project has provided MRE in 183 communities and more than 400 schools reaching almost 80,000 children and 10,000 men and women.

Lao People’s Democratic Republic. The MRE unit of the National Regulatory Authority conducted an extensive workshop for MRE radio broadcasts in which professional radio personnel from nine heavily contaminated provinces prepared broadcasting plans for five risk-education radio spots already prepared, as well as strategies for translating these messages into ethnic minority languages.

UNICEF continued support for capacity building in the use of a 25-page parenting module targeting families in Savannakhet province—one of the most heavily contaminated districts in Lao PDR. The parenting module was developed with a Handicap International–Belgium risk-education team after analyzing information from families with children involved in the scrap-metal trade. The manual has been finalized and training guidance notes have been drafted.

Nepal. Although Nepal has been in a post-conflict situation since April 2006, improvised explosive devices, landmines and other ERW, which were used by both parties during the decade-long conflict, and more recently by other armed groups, continue to kill and injure. Between 2004 and 2008, 543 civilian casualties from victim-activated explosions were reported, 300 of which were children (55 percent). As of 15 May 2008, 24 new casualties, including 17 children, have been reported. Among mine-affected countries, Nepal has one of the highest rates of child casualties from victim-activated explosions.

In January 2008, the UNICEF-commissioned National Assessment on Rights, Care and Rehabilitation of Survivors of Explosive Devices conducted by Handicap International identified as key concerns the lack of a victim-assistance policy and plan of action for Nepal, the lack of coordination in victim-assistance and related fields, gaps in victim knowledge of available services, and a general lack of comprehensive data. JMA icon

Biography

Leah Young has been working at the Journal of Mine Action since January 2008. She is from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and attends James Madison University, where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in justice studies with a minor in Spanish.

Endnotes

  1. Additional information about the Mine Action Support Group is available online at http://www.state.gov/
    t/pm/wra/c17719.htm
    .
  2. The Afghanistan Compact, London, England. 1 February 2006. http://www.unama-afg.org/news/
    _londonConf/_docs/06jan30-AfghanistanCompact-Final.pdf
    . Accessed 13 June 2008.
  3. 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.icbl.org/treaty/text/english. Accessed 13 June 2008. The document was opened for signature in Ottawa, Canada, 3 December 1997, commonly known as the Ottawa Convention.
  4. Article 4 of the Ottawa Convention requires each signatory to “destroy or ensure the destruction of all stockpiled mines it owns or possesses, or that are under its jurisdiction or control, as soon as possible but not later than four years after the entry into force of this Convention for that State Party.” The Ottawa Convention is available at http://www.icbl.org/treaty/text/english. Accessed 13 June 2008.

Contact Information

Leah Young
Editorial Assistant
Journal of Mine Action
Mine Action Information Center
E-mail: maic(at)jmu.edu