Issue 5.2 | August 2001 | Information in this issue may be out of date.
Geneva Diary: Report from the GICHD
by P. M. Blagden, Technical Director, GICHD
GICHD Activities in Latin America
The Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) is increasing its contacts with Central and South America, mainly through briefings and seminars. The seminars that took place on the International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) in Managua in January 2001 and in Lima in March 2001 were typical. There have also been presentations on the International Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA), the most recent of which have been to the Organization of American States (OAS) in Nicaragua, followed by a successful briefing in Bogota, Colombia, in June 2001. The GICHD also organized a Stockpile Destruction Seminar in Argentina in December 2000. We conducted a country case study in Nicaragua on the roles of agencies involved in mine action and victim assistance. We anticipate that our contacts in the Latin American region will increase considerably over the next few months.
Support for the Mine Ban Treaty
The reports for the last Standing Committees will be available on the GICHD website in early July 2001. We are now preparing for the Third Meeting of States Parties in Managua next September.
Support for Field Operations
Version 2.0 of IMSMA is now being distributed, and IMSMA training continues.
Enabling Research Studies
The socio-economic study has been published, and copies are available from UNDP and the GICHD. Thirty-one IMASs have been passed to the United Nations for endorsement and publication in October 2001. We have started the Mechanical Equipment Study, a study into the Afghan Dog Program, and an evaluation of Military to Military Training for the U.S. State Department.
The discussion topic for this issue is the study into the Afghan Dog Program. The use of dogs for demining purposes in Afghanistan was initiated in 1989, and the project passed to full local control in 1994. Since that time, the Afghan demining NGOs have maintained an ongoing breeding and training program, and they currently have more than 130 operational dogs—the largest such program in the world. The United Nations Mine Action Program in Afghanistan has requested that the GICHD manage a research program with two main objectives: to determine the capabilities of dogs to detect mines in Afghan soil and to set up mechanisms for testing all the dogs in Afghanistan as part of a future accreditation system.
The primary beneficiary of this study will be the mine action program in Afghanistan, which is looking for a considerable improvement in operational procedures and cost effectiveness. The study will also provide a detailed assessment of the causes of variation in the ability of dogs to locate mines. That information will interest and benefit all mine clearance programs using dogs. Donors to these programs will also benefit from the increases in cost effectiveness. The ultimate beneficiaries will be demining teams and mine-affected communities, who will benefit from quicker, safer and more reliable mine clearance.
Although dogs have now been used in demining for 60 years, there has been almost no investment in research and development on the use of dogs for demining purposes. This study represents an important step forward in improving the understanding of the relationship between a dog’s nose and the availability of the odor from a mine. By attempting to understand why dogs sometimes miss mines, the study will help improve the operational efficiency of dogs and will potentially validate the use of dogs as mine detection tools. Improved understanding of the capabilities and limitations of dogs will ensure a more objective assessment of the role of dogs in mine action. With the increasing success of dog programs, this assessment will mean that the full potential for increased efficiency of mine action operations will become more generally realized, which in turn will mean that scarce donor resources will be used to obtain the maximum value for the available money.