From the Director's Desk
By Dennis Barlow
Issue 3.1 | February 1999
Information in this issue may be out of date. Click here to link to the most recent issue.
"Manila calling, Manila calling!" was a memorable from phrase from
World War II to indicate that there was still hope in the Philippines and
that the defenders were hanging on. While "Harrisonburg calling, Harrisonburg
calling" does not have the same ring to it, we are nevertheless proclaiming
that at the Mine Action Information Center (MAIC) at JMU is alive, well, and
full of hope!
The Humanitarian Demining Information Center (HDIC) indeed lives on under
the new banner of Mine Action Information Center. What’s changed? What remains
We’re still supporting the U.S. Department of Defense – and we’re doing it
through our core capability of processing information for the global demining
community. So in the most important way, things haven’t changed at all. We
are acting as a hub or clearinghouse for demining and mine action information.
We plan to host several demining conferences this year. We will publish three
electronic Journals - and maybe even a hard copy edition to boot! And of course,
we will continue to bring you the latest information on conference schedules
and news from around the world, which interests the mine action community.
So what’s changed? We plan to add many exciting activities to our list of
services. Within our web site we will soon have a demining employment exchange
page on which job needs and announcements will be posted. We will be developing
a "lessons learned" section, which is a need we have heard expressed
loudly and clearly almost everywhere we have gone. And we hope to develop
a methodology for collecting and "filing" mine action information,
which is available on hard copy, which will allow us to create a demining
We believe that the need for mine action coordination is even greater than
ever. To that end we will be reporting more on DoD humanitarian demining activities,
to include establishing pages on the web site specifically dedicated to information
from the regional commanders-in-chief. We will also report on special demining
support capabilities of the U.S. military.
But more than anything else, we will redouble our efforts to be a clearinghouse
for valuable mine action information. We will continue to coordinate with
the UN and the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining so as
to complement rather than duplicate efforts. We want your questions, comments,
and suggestions, which we research and answer via our switchboard operation,
and solicit features, articles, and profiles for the Journal of Mine Action.
The most obvious thing that has changed is our name. From the first, we at
JMU have stressed the integrative and interlocking nature of a host of activities
which make up "demining.’ But we have continually suffered from the reactions
of many people who identify demining activities specifically with mine clearance
and nothing else.
As an organization whose very core is a belief in the comprehensive nature
of "demining," we have taken the observation of Tore Skedsmo of
the UN Mine Action Service to heart; the term "mine action" conveys
the total challenge of landmine threat best. Hence the name, Mine Action Information
Center at JMU. By so doing we hope to send the clear message that to us, all
aspects of landmine operations should be countenanced to assure the greatest
chances of success.
Therefore, we are soliciting and providing information on: 1) marking and
monitoring of mined areas, 2) surveying techniques and operations, 3) GIS
applications to demining, 4) mine awareness or alertness activities, 5) short
term (medical) victim assistance, 6) long-term (rehabilitation, prostheses,
medical, psychological) survivor support, 7) logistical and administrative
support of mine action operations, 8) management and training issues, 9) innovative
applications of technology and industry to demining operations, 10) planning
and coordination procedures, and 11) the developmental and infrastructure
…And Something Blue
With the vision of attacking mine action problems in before us then, we dedicate
the first Journal issue of the year to an examination of programs and campaigns
which have implemented the concept of an integrated or comprehensive mine
action plan. Our "blue ribbon" commendations go to organizations
whose operations in Africa attempt to deal with the entire spectrum of challenges
and responses to the landmine threat in their areas of operations. They warrant
the close analysis of anyone who is interested in planning, analyzing, or
improving an approach to mine action.
We do not present these reports in an attempt to anoint them as universal
solutions to the demining problem. The way that Humanitarian Aid Medical Development
Response trains paramedics in Angola may or may not work for another organization,
another country. The method that the German Agency for Technical Cooperation
selects trainees for its mine awareness campaign may or may not work for another
organization, another country. What is important is that these groups, like
so many others, are in the field practicing techniques and procedures, which
they have observed and are now reporting. More importantly, they have been
conducting those activities in the context of a "mine action" or
comprehensive and integrated whole. Therefore their results, observations,
and evaluations provide a wealth of information about mine action activities
by which others can – and should(!) – benefit.
We request your feedback on these articles. Some concepts are revolutionary,
some are controversial, some are very smart, others need more thought and
discussion. We, and the organizations who we present, encourage your responses
to add to the dialog and assure that the body of knowledge we build will be
properly vetted, debated, and – when appropriate – included in the arsenal
of activities and procedures which are available to future mine action planners.
This is our first Journal that has a central theme. Africa, in all of its
geographic and cultural diversity, also manifests an unfortunate diversity
– the entire spectrum of landmine threats and scenarios. It is for this reason
that we have decided to spotlight it in our inaugural thematic edition. Africa,
from Capetown to Cairo, is deeply caught up in landmine problems – and solutions.
It is to the examination of these problems and solutions that we dedicate
this issue of the Journal of Mine Action.