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Effective coordination is an essential part of mine action efforts worldwide. The author discusses the United Nations Mine Action Service’s (UNMAS) coordination strategies, focusing on examples from Mine Action Coordination Centres (MACCs) in Africa .
by Sarah Campbell, UNMAS
Given the range of activities and the number of players involved in mine action, coordination is a prerequisite to the effective implementation of mine action programmes in the field. MACCs are therefore a central component of most mine action programmes. Support for their establishment and development has been at the core of UN mine action ever since the first such centre was established for Afghanistan in 1989.
MACCs are normally initiated and developed under the direct auspices of local authorities. The role of the United Nations is to provide them with the assistance they need and to support international cooperation. This assistance is provided through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for long-term capacity building programmes, and through UNMAS for programmes developed in the context of peacekeeping operations or in response to immediate humanitarian needs.
The main principles under which MACCs supported by the United Nations operate are outlined in the policy document of 1998, “Mine Action and Effective Coordination: The United Nations Policy.”1 This document has been further refined with the formulation of guidelines clarifying the role of the military in mine action, and a sectoral policy on information management.2 This year, additional guidelines will be circulated defining the role of MACCs in relation to victim assistance.
While the responsibilities of MACCs vary from country to country, they typically include:
In Africa, the United Nations system, through UNMAS, UNDP
and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF),
is involved in mine action in Angola, Burundi, Chad, the Democratic
Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Eritrea, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania,
Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan. The source and scope of the
landmine and UXO problem in each of these countries is unique, and
therefore the mine action activities undertaken vary from country to
country. UNMAS, working with the United Nations Office for Project
Services (UNOPS), as its executing partner, is currently directly
responsible for supporting MACCs in the DRC, the Temporary Security Zone
(TSZ) between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and Sudan.
Under Security Council resolution 1291 of 2000, UNMAS recently established a MACC as part of MONUC. The primary objectives of the MACC are the following:
As soon as the situation allows, the ultimate goal of the MACC will be to
assist the national authorities in developing a medium-to-long-term mine
action plan to establish a national capability to coordinate and conduct
mine action and to clear the country of mines and UXO. In the immediate
future, the MACC will also assist MONUC in implementing urgent survey
operations of suspected mined airfields that are a threat to further
deployment of the Mission.
The UN response requires a collaborative and closely coordinated effort by UNMAS, UNDP, UNICEF and the other mine action partners to ensure a well-linked and continuous transition from the current emergency operations to the long-term developmental activities, as well as to ultimately provide a clear and coherent exit strategy. UNMAS, UNDP and UNICEF carry out their responsibilities based on an agreed and integrated workplan, which will evolve over time as required by changing circumstances and needs.
In June 2000, the UN Emergency Mine Action Project in
Sudan was in its third month and was making steady progress. The Mine
Action Coordination Office in the Nuba Mountains was operational and
detailed cooperation and liaison mechanisms with the Joint Military
Commission (JMC) were fully functional. The UNMAS Technical Advisor (TA),
in close cooperation with the JMC, the government of Sudan (GoS), the
Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA)
commanders and the local community, is now rapidly building a
comprehensive picture of the mine/UXO threat in the country. The IMSMA
system is now capable of receiving and displaying such data.
To be successful, MACCs rely primarily on two things: the
commitment of national governments to mine action and the strength of the
partnerships they build with a variety of partners, including donors,
operators—in particular, non-governmental organizations
(NGOs)—humanitarian agencies and the local communities themselves. The
United Nations aims to play a supportive and catalytic role in this regard
and will continue to be an active advocate of the importance of
coordination in the field of mine action.