The following article highlights the recent activities of the Mine Action Support Group (MASG). This includes updates on the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Policy, Resource Mobilization and Information
The most significant recent policy development is the General Assembly’s adoption of its new Resolution on Assistance in Mine Action. This resolution reaffirms the particular role of the United Nations in mine action coordination and calls for a formal review of UNMAS’s five-year strategy in 2003. Additionally, the UN victim assistance policy is in its final stages of development. The draft policy was scheduled to be circulated by the end of January 2003, after final internal revisions.
Since November 2002, additional pledges within the Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action (VTF) have been received from Denmark, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. The funds received in the VTF for 2002 totaled $24.2 million (U.S.), which came from 16 donor countries. This is more than twice the amount contributed in 2001.
The first Workshop on Landmine and UXO Safety Training was held in Tehran on January 7–8, 2003. Representatives from the government, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and oil companies attended the workshop, which was organized by UNDP Iran. A series of landmine and UXO safety training workshops will be held in 11 mine-affected countries over the course of 2003.
Key staff from the Mine Action Center for Afghanistan (MACA) visited New York from January 6–11, 2003, for discussions with representatives of UN agencies. One result of this meeting was the decision to conduct a seminar in Kabul in March to produce supporting plans for implementing the multi-year strategy formulated in late 2002. The funding of operations for 2003 remains at a critical level, with approximately $20 million of outstanding pledges from various donors still to be deposited to support activities in the field.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), commercial mine clearance company MECHEM has recently completed a technical survey in Kindu airport to facilitate further deployment of the United Nations Mission in Congo (MONUC). Funding will only support part of the MACC core costs until the end of June 2003, and an additional $200,000 is required to continue these efforts. Furthermore, there is still an urgent need to deploy a core mobile emergency mine/UXO clearance capacity to respond to humanitarian requirements, which is estimated to cost $670,000 for a six-month period.
Plans continue for the demining work in support of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC), including manual clearance, use of mine dogs and quality assurance (QA). A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the United Nations and the UN Office of Project Services (UNOPS) has been drafted, and a formal request for assistance is being presented by the EEBC. The Mine Action Coordination Center’s (MACC’s) revised Work Plan, following the Presidential decree, has now been formally approved by the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Working in close cooperation with the Macedonian Mine Action Center, the Mine Action Office (MAO) is coordinating bilateral contributions to provide the national authorities with the full capacity to manage the mine/UXO problem. It is expected that by mid-2003, the Macedonian Mine Action Center will have the capacity to cope with the residual problem, when training of national staff and development of national standards are completed with the technical assistance of the United Nations. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has recently investigated WWII UXO and is considering funding clearance activities.
As of December 2002, “Operation Emirates Solidarity” (OES)—funded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—had allowed for more than 21,300 AP mines to be destroyed and over 2,500,000 square meters of land to be cleared and handed over to communities. It is now anticipated that OES will be completed by mid-2003, but efforts are underway to persuade the UAE to allow remaining funds to extend OES and expanding operations north of the Litani River. The UAE agreed to provide some support to the operation of the MACC, to cover the incremental costs relating to the OES initiative, in particular those relating to QA activities. Current funding for QA will only cover part of the core costs of the MACC through June 2003; an additional $400,000 is necessary to fully support the MACC in this effort.
Preliminary planning for mine assessment and clearance is in an advanced stage and funding is required. A three-person technical and operational liaison team has been established and $1,894,000 is now required to open a key logistic route. The explosive detection dog (EDD) evaluation/accreditation area in Kadugli is complete. A small team of Kosovo Albanian deminers has been temporarily deployed to enable the EDD teams to start working while local personnel are being selected and trained. Danish Church Aid (DCA) was successfully accredited as a mine/UXO clearance organization and licensed to conduct operations on January 9, 2003.
Demining activities in Albania wound down towards the end of November 2002. A planning group met on November 28, 2002, to review the current strategy and make plans for 2003. The following are the demining objectives for 2003:
Complete the impact surveys in and around Padesh, where the Albanian border meets the Montenegro border, by June 2003. This will conclude the impact surveys started in 2002.
Complete the technical surveys by November 2003, which will release an estimated six million square meters of land.
Clear an additional 500,000 square meters of land.
Demining activities will resume in March 2003, beginning with a refresher training course. Clearance activities for 2003 will require $5.42 million.
A mine awareness structure was also recently agreed upon. The Albanian Mine Action Executive (AMAE) will coordinate mine awareness efforts while UNICEF determines standards for both the activities and their funding. The Albanian Red Cross (ARC) will act as the focal point for implementing and facilitating mine awareness, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will provide advocacy and funding. Demining organizations are scheduled to implement specific activities, and the community liaisons will be the Victims of Mines and Weapons Association (VMA) and the Anti-Mine Committees (AMCs).
The new Chad National Demining Committee (HCND) strategic plan, which addresses all humanitarian demining activities through 2015, has been finalized. It is anticipated that this 12-year plan will cost $88 million; the Chad government will provide half this amount. Donor countries are being solicited to provide the remaining half. The government of Chad is planning to host a resource mobilization roundtable in Geneva during the first quarter of 2003. This initiative will focus on the “National Strategy Plan Against Poverty,” which includes the mine action program.
In December 2002, the Ethiopian Mine Action Office (EMAO) deployed two newly trained civilian demining companies to conduct survey, marking, clearance and mine risk education (MRE) operations in support of the Emergency Recovery Project (ERP), which is funded by the World Bank. EMAO is currently finalizing its contract with the World Bank for 2003. The funding will support the four demining companies that currently work in the country and enable EMAO to field rapid response teams and establish a national QA capability.
Also in December, the United Nations and the government of Ethiopia launched an appeal for assistance in dealing with a major humanitarian crisis facing Ethiopia: the ongoing widespread drought. Twenty percent of the population has been identified as being at risk of food and water shortages. The drought impacts mine action efforts because the displacement of the affected population into unfamiliar areas in search of water and grazing land increases their exposure to mines and UXO. The drought conditions also make the soil difficult to prod, significantly slowing down manual clearance operations and exacerbating logistics/re-supply problems.
Phase 2 of the UNDP project “Support to the Ethiopian Mine Action Program” has received $475,000 in contributions from Canada, Germany and Italy. An additional $1.5 million is required to continue the project beyond February 2003. Without these additional funds, the already limited technical advisor (TA) support will have to be reduced at the end of February 2003. International donor support is also being sought to establish a mine detection dog (MDD) capability and to introduce mechanical systems into EMAO’s program.
Based on reports provided to UNDP, approximately 8,017 mines and over 2,000 pieces of UXO have been cleared by mine action NGOs in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Army has cleared 58,000 mines and 6,700 pieces of UXO. UNDP records indicate that 806 civilian mine accident casualties (from 607 incidents) have been reported to date. The government established the National Steering Committee for Mine Action in August 2002. The Army has agreed to provide all minefield records and maps outside the High Security Zones. So far, more than 1,000 records of the estimated 3,000 records have been entered into the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) database. Once complete, the UNDP team will provide these records to all mine action, aid and other development organizations.
UNDP, in conjunction with mine action operators and other aid organizations, is currently helping local authorities design the second phase of the mine action program for Sri Lanka. A plan for this second phase should be completed by the end of February 2003.
Eight of Yemen’s 16 high-impact mine-affected communities identified by the Landmine Impact Survey (LIS) have been cleared and declared mine free. Sixty-six minefields have been cleared and more than 80,000 landmines and UXO have been found and destroyed. The first three sets of EDDs have been trained and are now operational, thanks to a bilateral German contribution. Six additional dog sets will be operational by March 2003.
The Victim Assistance Program is currently providing medical care (such as corrective surgery, prostheses, hearing aids and eyeglasses) to 115 people, a service made possible through Mine Action Program funding and management. New disabled people are added to the program at three-month intervals.
Thanks to sizable contributions through UNDP from the governments of Italy and the Netherlands, UNDP funding, and significant bilateral contributions from the governments of Germany, Saudi Arabia, and the United States, the UNDP Yemen Mine Action Support Program is fully funded for 2003. The Strategic Mine Action Plan is ahead of schedule going into the third year of the five-year plan.
The UNICEF Landmines Team has recruited a new MRE officer at the New York headquarters. Some of the new officer’s duties will be to develop MRE materials for use by UNICEF and others, develop technical notes and other guidance for UNICEF country offices in relation to MRE, and oversee the development of the MRE components of the International Mine Action Standards (IMAS). UNICEF released its Mine Action Strategy in Geneva on February 6, 2003, during the work of the Standing Committees.
UNICEF has seconded a national staff and hired an international staff for MACA. The two new staffs will work towards carrying out MRE via teachers, health workers, and community leaders and establishing a network of at least one community volunteer in each of 2,500 mine-/UXO-affected villages. In addition, they will work closely with other UN agencies, the government and NGO partners to develop an integrated interagency mine action response and a five-year strategic plan.
UNICEF also continues to work with partners to develop an active surveillance system for mine presence and accidents, so communities have a way of reporting mine problems and having their priorities taken into account. As part of this, MRE will be included in the forthcoming mine impact survey.
UNICEF continues to support national mine awareness NGOs in seven provinces:
Huambo, Bie, Moxico, Uige, Kuando Kubango, Hulla and Malanje. NGOs in these regions are assisting returning populations who are traveling to previously inaccessible areas. Their aim is to train local representatives, such as traditional leaders and community activists, in topics related to MRE before the end of the year. In other MRE news, the Italian government has recently pledged €1.8 million to UNICEF for its MRE activities in Angola.
UNICEF continues to develop its three-year MRE program (2002–2004), targeting 600,000 children between the ages of five and eight in all pre-schools, primary schools and secondary schools. The program is working on three levels: 1) technical support provided to the Bosnia-Herzegovina Mine Action Center (BHMAC) to ensure the effective coordination of MRE programs with national mine action plan; 2) the use of schools as an entry point for MRE programs in collaboration with the Ministries of Education; and 3) the development of community capacities to maintain an adequate level of mine awareness. Additionally, the Italian government has recently pledged €450,000 to UNICEF for its Mine Injury Prevention Program in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
A survey on mine victims has just been completed. A team composed of the staff from the Ministries of the Interior and Defense has now been trained on victim data analysis and mine risk assessment. Furthermore, UNICEF has deployed a TA to build the technical capacity of the government of Burundi, enabling it to implement MRE in at-risk provinces.
The UNICEF Country Office has started recruiting a TA for the period of February 8 to March 16, 2003. The role of the advisor will be to identify and prepare project proposals regarding the UNICEF Country Office’s role in mine action activities. UNICEF, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the MACC are currently working on an MRE project for Angolan refugees living in the DRC who should be repatriated to Angola in 2003.
A UNICEF MRE TA has arrived in Asmara to develop the new mine action technical assistance program in support of the Eritrean Demining Agency. Joint planning activities with UNDP continue to re-orientate the program.
UNICEF continues to support the development of EMAO, working closely with UNDP. Engagement with a national NGO, the Rehabilitation and Development Organization (RaDO), is under review, as the focus is now on support to the government. Discussions on how best to transfer the RaDO Regional MRE network in the Tigray region to EMAO responsibility are ongoing. Funding is urgently required to support EMAO capacity building.
UNICEF has been updating IMSMA and indicators’ reports on a monthly basis. A study that aims to identify inequalities in terms of gender, socio-economic status and health status among landmine survivors’ families is being developed. Also, UNICEF recently opened three counseling centers to provide support to landmine survivors.
UNICEF has recruited a consultant to develop its MRE program. Contingency planning is ongoing with the government. UNICEF will work through the government and the Iranian Red Crescent Society to ensure that, in the event of a crisis in the region, refugees would receive effective MRE at the border and in the camps.
MRE coordination is now fully functional in Khartoum with the establishment of the MRE Advisory Group consisting of the government of Sudan, the Sudanese Red Crescent Society and two national NGOs. The terms of reference for a needs assessment and analysis have been developed. The assessment will analyze at-risk groups and their locations. It will help focus MRE activities and will also strengthen the capacity of local national research institutions and will commence in the Nuba Mountains, Juba and Kassala state. Work is ongoing to adapt IMSMA forms to the Sudan context and to translate them into Arabic.
*The above information was compiled from the January MASG Newsletter. Further details on the above projects can be found in the latest MASG newsletter, posted on www.mineaction.org under “Documents.”
Chairman: Amb. Dr. Harald Braun
Secretary: Mr. Jochim von Marschall
Fax: 212-940-0402 / 0403