Mine-action Funding: GICHD Survey of Donor Countries

by Jean Devlin [ Consultant ] and Sharmala Naidoo [ GICHD ]

A recent survey of donors conducted by the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining found that, while short-term donor support remains strong, levels of funding may decrease and become more unpredictable over the coming years.

In May and June 2010, the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining commissioned a survey of 25 donors that have contributed to mine-action programs. The study’s objective was to gain insight into the donors’ motivation in funding mine-action programs, the issues that play a role in driving their continued support and the factors that will influence future funding. The findings indicate that short-term commitment and financial support remain strong. However, the sustainability of the current level of support for mine action beyond 2015 is difficult to ascertain.

Donors responding to the survey indicated that in the near future they would be subject to program reviews, multi-year approvals for the renewal of funding for mine action or broader-defined programs that include mine action, anticipated budget cuts this year or in the next, and planned reduction in expenditures in mine action. Support will likely decrease beyond the next five years, with increasing unpredictability in funding. Consequently, donors and officials responsible for mine action in affected countries need to rethink their approach to funding. The Ottawa Convention has had remarkable success and provided substantial assistance to countries in need. However, monetary resources need to be redirected to continue achieving viable results in the coming years.

In the future, a number of factors will converge, posing challenges and offering opportunities to officials concerned with mine action. Growing competition for financial resources in the broader peace and security field, a more pronounced desire to integrate mine action in the security-development nexus, reduced human resources in donor administrations dedicated to mine action and greater affected country ownership and capacity for dealing with residual mine and explosive-remnants-of-war contamination demand new approaches to a continual problem. Officials will need to work on strategies for integrating capacity-building into government priorities in affected countries, ensuring maximum protection of populations at risk, reducing the size of suspected areas and concentrating on priority areas for socio-economic development.

These elements constitute a strong argument for sustaining dialogue between donors and affected countries on how to assist the countries in their gradual takeover of Ottawa Convention responsibilities and obligations. The current explorations, such as those of GICHD, into the best way of instituting this dialogue are a positive step in this direction.

What Led to the Current Study?

Mine action has traditionally benefited from generous donor funding. According to the Landmine Monitor Report 2009, total funding for mine action amounted to US$626.5 million through May 2009. Of this amount, $517.8 million1 came from international sources and $108.7 million from mine-affected countries themselves. Despite recent adjustments, this amounted to some of the highest levels of investment to reduce the landmine threat since financial contributions to mine action were first recorded in 1992. Despite minor fluctuation in donor data, the Landmine Monitor has also recorded constant growth in annual mine-action contributions since 1996. In spite of this encouraging trend, concerns remain about the effectiveness of mine-action programs, the uneven distribution of support and sustainability of funding. While funding for mine action has remained relatively high and donor commitment has been positive, there is some concern that funding over the coming years might be limited and difficult to secure. This is particularly true for the 19 countries—Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Chad, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, Jordan, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Peru, Senegal, Tajikistan, Thailand, Uganda, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe—that have applied for deadline extensions to fulfill their clearance obligations.


The study carried out between May and June 2010 consisted of a written questionnaire sent to 25 donors, including the European Commission, as well as telephone interviews with 10 donors selected from the study group.2 The findings are based on the answers 18 donors (85.3 percent of total external funding) provided and a review of donor documents and websites.

Key Findings

1. Broader environment and mine action.

Even though the Ottawa Convention remains the central anchor of donor policy-making, it is no longer the only point of reference. Most donors view mine action as part of broader development cooperation, which includes humanitarian assistance. Donors no longer view mine contamination strictly as an emergency issue requiring an immediate humanitarian response.

2. Policy and strategic planning for mine action.

Donors are pragmatic in the way they relate to mine action. Donor policy language is now more nuanced and realistic in terms of what is achievable. Thinking has shifted toward placing greater emphasis on socio-economic impact, protection, reintegration, livelihoods, gender equality and care for survivors than on the number of mines found and destroyed.

A female deminer in Jordan.
A female deminer in Jordan.
Photo courtesy of Erik Tollefsen/GICHD

Unless there is an unexpected turn of events, donors are unlikely to launch new initiatives and increase mine-action funding levels. This could well be the preview of a leveling off in programming. It also presents a challenge and an opportunity for mine-affected countries and mine-action operators to adjust programming during these strategically important next five years, in order to not only prioritize funding, but also to improve efficiency and transparency in mine action.

Donors are increasingly concentrating their support on a smaller number of countries. Fifteen out of 18 donors said that to varying degrees, the countries receiving assistance for mine action are also partner countries for other forms of aid. This is consistent with the calls made by the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Accra Agenda of Action3 for donors to focus their development assistance on a smaller number of partner countries. It is also in line with the desire expressed by donors and recipients to ensure all government departments involved offer a coherent and consistent approach in providing assistance. For fragile states and states coming out of conflict, this means placing greater attention on ensuring that security and development programs are planned in tandem, which further supports the argument not to isolate mine action.

Putting these principles into action is not an easy task. Donors are generally in favor of coordination among themselves and mine-affected countries but are not proactive in pursuing this coordination. They tend to respond to invitations from other donors to become part of a joint evaluation or assessment rather than initiate the project (with the notable exception of Japan which has emphasized this aspect in its recent aid policy). They remain divided about instituting new structures like a standing committee on international cooperation and assistance.

3. Budget and program management.

The budget process varies considerably from country to country. In most cases, mine-action allocations are not highlighted as specific line items in budgets, but rather are subsumed in humanitarian, development, security or other related programming. Eight donors of the 18 that provided answers choose to dedicate a portion of their budget allocations for mine action or a mix of mine action and ERW/cluster munitions. Two of these donors dedicate part of their budget allocation for mine action for a specific purpose such as victim assistance.

The majority of mine-action funding is channeled bilaterally (directed to a specific country), typically through a multilateral organization, a nongovernmental organization or an operator. Most donors provide some un-earmarked funding, for example, core funding through multilateral channels (the United Nations Mine Action Service, GICHD), and through NGOs (International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Geneva Call, International Committee of the Red Cross), but these amounts are substantially smaller. The preference for bilateral funding is based on foreign policy and strategic reasons, as well as a desire to focus aid on those countries most in need. This partly explains why the majority of mine-action funding focuses on less than 10 mine-affected countries: Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Iraq, Jordan, Lao PDR, Lebanon and Sudan.1

A village development committee in Cambodia.
A village development committee in Cambodia.
Photo courtesy of Sharmala Naidoo/GICHD

Within donor agencies, the growth of competing fields, such as peacebuilding, security-sector reform, and conflict prevention and recovery, have affected mine-action programs. Competition for time and budgets has become a serious challenge. As a result, there are less people tasked with primarily mine-action responsibilities than in previous years, as well as a rapid turnover of mine-action personnel, resulting in a loss of corporate memory and in-house expertise.

Donors typically channel their support for mine action through a small number of intermediaries with limited direct support provided to national mine-action authorities. Out of 18 responses, only two donors mentioned clearly that their funding decisions took consultations with mine-affected governments into consideration. This is at odds with donor calls for greater national ownership and enhanced national mine-action capacity.

The main criteria that donors take into account when considering funding proposals and making funding decisions include:

4. Relationships with mine-affected countries and mine-action organizations.

Due to competing demands and reduced capacity, donor engagement at international mine-action meetings and at field level is weak. Donors typically function in response mode, reacting to proposals submitted to them as opposed to developing their own programs. Visits from donors are few and far apart, and are typically for monitoring and evaluation purposes. Most of the liaison work is left to embassies.

Donors tend to have a light footprint in host countries in terms of informing mine-affected governments of their decisions to fund a mine-action project, with the exception of the United States and the European Commission. Direct contacts with central agencies occur more frequently when countries integrate mine action with development, such as in the case of Australia and Sweden.

5. Funding trends and prospects.

While the total flow of official assistance to developing countries may still be growing despite the current economic climate, little evidence shows that mine-action funding will follow this trend. On the contrary, mine action’s relative importance, combined with mounting donor interest in other global challenges, and the fact that the Ottawa Convention has delivered tangible results, will probably mark a turning point in the next three to five years. Beyond the next five years, the picture becomes difficult to predict. However, it is quite plausible that funding will take a further downward trend.

Donor reaction to the recent extension process is prudent. As other countries join the extension process with their list of additional resources needed, the gap between needs and available resources will likely widen considerably.

In terms of change between channels, programming types and modalities, donors do not anticipate any major changes in the way they do business. Donors are open to integrating mine-action projects in broader development programs if mine-affected countries take the lead in raising the issue. Opportunities within donor administrations for initiating new funding avenues for mine action are marginal.4

In terms of commitment to support mine action, 17 donors stated their commitments (which differ from actual expenditures) would hold until the end of the current funding period (usually part of an official strategy, a mine-action plan or a public commitment of some sort). Donor funding for mine action may well have peaked in 2008–09 and has reached a new plateau for the immediate future (2010–11). In the medium-term (2012–15), funding will likely fall to another plateau. This situation could change during the 2014–15 period, as some major donors review their multi-year, mine-action assistance.

Many reasons explain this slow but predictable trend toward gradually reduced funding levels including lack of transparency and progress on clearance, lack of value for funds invested, extension requests with unreasonable financing estimates, budget restrictions, and competition for limited funding. Many donors and experts, however, contend that it is not the level of funding that counts as much as the effectiveness of assistance programs, socio-economic impact, national authorities demonstrating ownership and pace of progress in land release. j

The full report will be available for download through the GICHD website (http://gichd.org) by late 2010. For further information, contact Sharmala Naidoo at s.naidoo(at)gichd.org.


  1. Landmine Monitor Report 2009: Toward a Mine-Free World Annual Report. International Campaign to Ban Landmines. The 2009 Landmine Monitor refers to total external funding amounting to US$517.8 million in 2008. http://www.the-monitor.org/lm/2009/res/Landmines_Report_2009.pdf. Accessed 11 October 2010.
  2. Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, the European Commission (EC), Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Canada stated it was unable to respond at this time as it is undergoing a review, and China, the Czech Republic, France, South Africa, Spain and the UAE did not respond to the initial message.
  3. Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Accra Agenda for Action. Organization For Economic Co-operation And Development. http://www.oecd.org/document/18/
    . Accessed 11 October 2010.
  4. The GICHD study did not explore new funding avenues for development activities in mine-affected communities, for which there may be significant opportunities.


Jean DevlinJean Devlin works as an international development consultant. Prior to this, his professional career was with the Canadian International Development Agency. He occupied successive program management positions, among other areas, for humanitarian assistance, academic cooperation, policy, strategic planning and program development. Prior to retiring in 2008, he was Manager of the Peace and Security and Mine Action Programmes for CIDA.

Sharmala NaidooSharmala Naidoo is Project Manager for the Linking Mine Action and Development program at GICHD and author of GICHD’s Linking Mine Action and Development Guidelines for Policy and Programme Development. She previously worked with Saferworld, Amnesty International, local human rights and development NGOs in Zimbabwe, and the Canadian Foreign Ministry.

Contact Information

Jean Devlin
International Development Consultant
Expert cinseil développement international
77 rue de Brouage
Gatineau, Quebec J9J 1J5 / Canada
Tel: +1 819 775 4486
Mobile: +1 819 923 8768
E-mail: jean.devlin(at)videotron.ca

Sharmala Naidoo
Project Manager
Linking Mine Action and Development Project
Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining
7 bis, Avenue de la Paix
PO Box 1300
1211 Geneva 1 / Switzerland
Tel: +41 22 906 83 22
Fax: +41 22 906 16 90
E-mail: s.naidoo(at)gichd.org
Website: http://www.gichd.org/lmad