Issue 6.1, April 2002
by Sayed Aqa and Josef Strebel, Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action
The vision of ANAMA is to make the territory of Azerbaijan free from the impact of landmines and UXO within the next 10 years. This is to be achieved in accordance with relevant national and international mine action and humanitarian standards.5
With a clear vision, ANAMA’s mission is to develop a sustainable national mine action capacity in order to alleviate human suffering caused by landmines and UXO, facilitate relief and developmental activities in support of IDP repatriation as well as to facilitate a conducive environment for resuming normal social and economic activities in areas currently affected by landmines and UXO.5
Six goals are set in the strategic plan for ANAMA:
For the purpose of the work plan of 2001–2002, 14 progress indicators were chosen to monitor the objectives of ANAMA, subject to availability of funds.
Due to the unique nature of humanitarian mine action operations, ANAMA, in addition to the customary humanitarian aid principles, is operating based on three main principles: safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness. They form a tripod on which we have to balance all humanitarian mine action activities.
In order to ensure that all mentioned principles are adhered to, the following criteria will be strictly enforced during selection of operational activities:
Areas meeting the afore-mentioned criteria would be considered for mine action operations by ANAMA. In order to further maximize effectiveness, the tasks would be prioritized based on the following guidelines:
ANAMA headquarters and one regional office have been established, and staff has been recruited for the Operations, Information Management and Support departments. The United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS) is the Cooperating Agency of the government of Azerbaijan to provide technical assistance to ANAMA in the form of international advisors and contracted services. Currently, a chief technical advisor and a regional technical advisor are working together to support ANAMA. The Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA), national standards and operating procedures have been established. A strategic plan and two work plans have been developed.
A national demining NGO, Relief Azerbaijan, was selected to carry out demining, survey and field operations. Skill development for its staff was achieved by contracting an international agency, Mine Advisory Group (MAG), who conducted initial training and supervised operations. Demining operations are carried out based on one-man drill procedures. RONCO, replacing Mine-Tech after fall 2001, is the international organization providing mine detecting dog (MDD) support for manual demining.
A Quality Assurance (QA) system has been implemented to maximize quality within the mine action program and to cover all program components. Quality Control (QC) is a part of the quality management to provide for the overall confidence levels in the process. A Monitoring and Training Team (MTT) became operational at the beginning of this year. All mine action components are carried out according to humanitarian standards as established in the Azerbaijan Mine Action National Standards. Close coordination is taking place with reconstruction and other aid and development organizations.
A local NGO, the International Eurasia Press Fund, was contracted to conduct the general survey, covering 11 regions. This task has been accomplished; the data is being processed; and the information is being used for further planning. A total of 50 million square meters of UXO and mine-affected areas has been identified. The survey of the remaining districts will be completed in the future.
Mine Clearance and Technical Survey
Demining began with the deployment of a 27-man team from the local NGO Relief Azerbaijan. The group is divided into two parts: the clearance team and the technical survey team. Currently, there are 38 deminers and six surveyors operating in the field. The demining operations took place mostly in the Fizuli region. With the support of six MDDs, a total of 806,713 square meters in high-impact areas have been cleared so far. The ARRA requested major mine clearance task in support of the rehabilitation of a power line in Fizuli region, which was funded by the European Union. This task was successfully completed. Other examples are a Battle Area Clearance (BAC) task enabling ARRA to reconstruct a school in Goranboy region and clearance of Alkhanly village requested by IFRC to reconstruct 40 houses for returning IDPs.
A total of 74,764 square meters of suspected area was checked, and 381,011 square meters were cleared manually, including battle area clearance. Seven mine fields were cleared and handed over to local authorities; five more are currently undergoing clearance, QA or handover. By the first of January 2002, ANAMA-sponsored teams had safely disposed of 1,208 UXO and 68 mines.
Due to lack of resources, technical survey teams had to be deployed to conduct emergency landmine and UXO clearance tasks until Fall 2001. Because of this, most tasks unfortunately had to be cleared without technical survey or area reduction. This has affected the cost-effectiveness of ANAMA operations. The productivity of demining substantially increased when MDDs were introduced into the program in early 2000.
Mine awareness (MA) in Azerbaijan has been an ongoing activity that has enjoyed the participation of many international as well as local organizations and agencies. It began in 1996 with the dissemination of information among IDPs and people returning to territories under reconstruction. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was the lead agency for MA in Azerbaijan. In Spring 2000, the ICRC handed MA over to ANAMA. Based on a reassessment of MA needs, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), funded by the U.S. government and working in close cooperation with ANAMA, decided to launch a major MA training operation. To ensure a multiplying effect and to institutionalize MA education, the Ministries of Health and Education became partners. In Phase One of the project, 15 master trainers were prepared to train 508 health personnel and 1043 teachers from war-torn areas and IDP settlements. New MA material based on their needs was produced, and about 30 tons of this material has been distributed all over the country. Additionally, the Republic Child Organization, under the instruction of ANAMA specialists, prepared an MA piece, which was performed in 18 districts and has drawn a significant amount of interest. Phase Two started in Fall 2001, when the 1551 teachers started MA education for their classes and personnel.
By February 2001, ANAMA was contributing to a mine victim needs assessment and was processing the gathered data of 500 victims. As a result, a project proposal for Mine Victim Support was developed and submitted to UNICEF to secure financial support. With the data received from ANAMA, the ICRC and the Azerbaijan Ministry of Health are working together with NGOs in the field of humanitarian mine action. The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection and the ICRC are running two orthopedic centers in Azerbaijan.
Developing more national capacity for mine action and the mine action operations in the field will be ongoing activities during 2002. The focus will be intensified on national capacity building. This unique approach is reflected in the progress indicators 3,4,5,6 and 12 of the work plan.
Overall, the approach is to build or expand the national management capacity, the training and monitoring capacity, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) capacity, the MDD capacity and the manual demining capacity. This nationalization is mainly on-the-job training with few international experts involved. Therefore, it is a cost-effective investment to create employment in rural areas. To facilitate IDP return and assist with resuming normal socio-economic activities, ANAMA aims to expand its operational capacity. Two other main activities to achieve this aim are U.S. military training of 90 demining and EOD staff in mid-2002 and conducting a comprehensive landmine impact survey funded by the European Union.
A comprehensive impact survey has been planned and will be executed during 2002 with funds from the European Union.
While on-the-job training by the UN technical staff will continue, the U.S. military will provide basic demining, EOD, mine awareness and information management training to ANAMA and relevant NGO staff in mid-2002.
The demining and QA work will continue with the limited resources available. ANAMA will intensify efforts to raise more funds for demining activities.
MA education will continue to be conducted in close cooperation with UNICEF. Furthermore, MA will be embedded in the syllabi of schools. The project under way will enter Phase Three in summer 2002, when a follow-up on the impact of the MA training held will take place with support from the U.S. European Command (EUCOM).
Donor Support in 2001
For 2001, UNDP/UNOPS provided primary technical support to ANAMA and other components. This support included mobilization of resources and provision of administrative support and training as well as four international technical advisors for specific project activities. UNDP/UNOPS support is provided with the clear aim of assisting a national mine action capacity building process.
UNICEF provided support in MA education. The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) assisted ANAMA with information management capacity building and training on IMAS and policy. Financial support for all components of the program was received primarily from the United States. Switzerland made an in-kind contribution. The government of Azerbaijan supported the program with financial and legal assistance as well as in-kind contribution of facilities. An overview of all donations is shown in Table 2 (above).
It must be mentioned that Norway contributed $133,000 (U.S.) in 1998, before a national mine action body was established and facilitated here with the Humanitarian Mine Action survey activity. ICRC’s appreciated work in initial MA training and ongoing mine victim support is a big asset for those suffering from the impact of mines/UXO in Azerbaijan.
Upon its establishment in 1998, ANAMA has worked hard to develop a thorough mine action program that is capable of addressing the landmine threat in areas that are no longer occupied by Armenian forces and areas that will become liberated in the future. Overall, ANAMA hopes to make the lives of Azerbaijan’s people as easy as possible as they return to their native lands. By surveying and clearing hazardous land throughout Azerbaijan, ANAMA can eliminate one more hardship for these people.
*All photos and graphics courtesy of the author.
1. Independent Azerbaijan, devoted to the 10th anniversary of independency. 18 October 1991 States Statistical Committee of Azerbaijan 2001.
2. According to information released on 1 October 1997 by the State Committee of Statistics of Azerbaijan (Goskomstat or ASSC).
3. UNMAS "Portfolio of Mine-related Projects," April 2001.
4. CD-ROM: Landmines: Clearing the Way. 2002 Huntington Associates. Published by The National Committee on American Foreign Policy.
5. ANAMA Work Plan 2001–2002.