GICHD Linguistic Outreach Programs

by Faiz Paktian [ Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining ] - view pdf

The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) introduced linguistic outreach programs (LOP) to provide mine action training and information in multiple languages. The LOP also promote communication between countries and organize regional workshops and meetings. By providing non-English training and information exchange opportunities, GICHD improved outreach and broadened potential beneficiaries, as well as strengthened mine action centers and organizations worldwide.

The importance of languages for international organizations in today’s business climate is indisputable. As an international organization, GICHD’s objectives are to improve global clarity on explosive hazards and to enhance the capacities and performance of national authorities in states affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). Can this be accomplished by using only English as a communication medium whereas a majority of mine- and ERW-affected states communicate in other languages?

To effectively reach out to different segments of the mine action community, the GICHD, in partnership with national authorities, regional and international organizations, initiated the linguistic outreach programs (LOP) in Arabic, French, Persian (Farsi/Dari) and Russian. The program began in 2006 with the French-language outreach program, followed by programs in Arabic (2012), Persian (2013) and Russian (2014). In 2011, French LOP coordination and management was handed over to the Centre de Perfectionnement aux Actions post-conflictuelles de Déminage et de Dépollution (CPADD) in Benin.

Arabic linguistic outreach programs environmental impact workshop in Kuwait. 
All photos courtesy of GICHD.
Arabic linguistic outreach programs environmental impact workshop in Kuwait.
All photos courtesy of GICHD.


LOP goals vary and encompass what stakeholders in the respective language identify as their priorities. The overall goal is to promote best practices in the major languages spoken within the mine action community. Another goal is to enhance regional cooperation among affected states by sharing information and exchanging experiences. Moreover, the provision of advisory services and specialized training in a respective language permits different national mine action authorities and their national and international partners to learn from training sessions and develop capacity in all aspects of mine action, including strategic, operational, quality and information management.


The LOPs plan and implement activities in close consultation and partnership with mine-affected states as well as regional and international organizations. As a facilitator, GICHD designs and executes these activities in a gender-sensitive manner to help states meet operational and capacity-development objectives. GICHD also works closely with donors, national governments and regional institutions to provide required resources in order to meet these needs. After three to five years, GICHD entrusts the program to a well-established regional mine action entity. Existing GICHD-staff manage and implement LOPs, taking into account GICHD staff’s linguistic competencies. When programs require more resources, GICHD recruits additional personnel. Where possible, GICHD engages with potential donors in their respective languages to seek funding or in-kind contributions for the relevant linguistic program.


The following are a few examples of achievements in linguistic outreach initiatives:

Arabic linguistic outreach programs terminology workshop in Lebanon.Arabic linguistic outreach programs terminology workshop in Lebanon.


It is essential for mine action organizations to promote their services and products in local languages. Many qualified individuals holding important roles in national programs are unable to participate in training courses conducted in English. Mine action training and advisory services conducted in local languages enable a greater number of individuals to benefit from educational and exchange opportunities.

Regional events in local languages have a greater effect on raising subject-matter awareness, particularly when events include case studies from programs in the region that are delivered in the local language by a representative of the respective program. Beneficiaries of such events extend beyond mine action personnel within the affected states to military personnel and other humanitarian practitioners in non-affected states who engage in peacekeeping or humanitarian assistance operations.

Mine action is an increasingly demanding process, involving evidence-based decision-making; proper land classification and subsequent application of the land-release method; and quality, safety and environmental requirements. National authorities need to adopt improved policies and procedures to handle landmines/ERW safely and efficiently. Similarly, they need to build national capacity and keep their staff up-to-date on mine action issues and topics to better satisfy their local and international partners and donors. In this context, linguistic approaches and regional cooperation prove very effective.

Regional activities save costs and deliver better quality results, as illustrated in the IMAS translation process. Most national programs invest in the translation of IMAS and make it available for their own program’s use. When such documents are translated regionally in a consultative manner, quality of translation increases indisputably; when shared on a regional platform, they reduce costs and save time and effort at the national level.

Moreover, such initiatives boost regional cooperation and South-South cooperation.3 These collaborations benefit individuals, programs and countries in the region by understanding each other’s needs and strengths, and by sharing experiences and support. Good examples include training quality-assurance officers for the Egyptian demining teams by officers of the National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation in Jordan, and the review and revision of the national standards for Tajikistan by MACCA colleagues. c



Faiz PaktianFaiz Paktian is assistant director and head of the Standards and Linguistic Outreach Programmes Division for GICHD. He has been involved in humanitarian mine action for the past 24 years in a variety of positions in the field and at the senior-management level. He has worked for nongovernmental organizations, international organizations and the U.N. in several war-affected countries. Paktian holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in business and administration.

Contact Information

Faiz Paktian
Assistant Director and Head
Standards and Linguistic Outreach Division
P.O. Box 1300
Geneva, CH-1211 / Switzerland
Tel: +41 22 906 16 87
Fax: +41 22 906 16 90



  1. “Bibliomines.” Bibliomines. Accessed 15 July 2014.
  2. “Home.” The Arab Program for Mine Action. Accessed 15 July 2014.
  3. “South-South cooperation is a broad framework for collaboration among countries of the South in the political, economic, social, cultural, environmental and technical domains.” United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation. Accessed 29 October 2014.