Information within this issue may be outdated. Click here to view the most recent issue.
Issue 7.2, August 2003

Hierarchic Approach to Mine Action in Croatia

by Nenad Mladineo and Snjezana Knezic, Faculty of Civil Engineering, University of Split and Damir Goršeta, SEEMACC


The Republic of Croatia is one of the 10 most mine-contaminated countries in the world. There are almost 750,000 mines on 1,630 sq km of mine-suspected areas. About 170 sq km are actual minefields, while the rest of the area is contaminated with individual explosive ordnance. Mine-affected areas that have not been used for years, pose a huge economic problem and obstruct infrastructure development, reconstruction, and return of displaced persons to their normal lives. They also pose a significant safety problem. In particular, any activities carried out in mine-contaminated areas significantly threaten human lives and material assets. It is estimated that removing all the mines in the Republic of Croatia would cost approximately $1.473 billion (U.S.) and would require 10 years of intensive work.

Recent experiences indicate that the demining process is a “complex, slow and expensive job.” Nevertheless, efforts have been aimed at increasing the efficacy of demining activities, while still avoiding human casualties. Even small demining cost reductions present big savings, in an absolute sense, and on numerous occasions, overvalue investment and eventual methodological improvements. A good example is an initiative for implementing a new methodological approach based on geographic information systems (GIS) and multicriteria analysis for planning and operation of human demining. Lack of finances influences the definition of priorities for mine removal—assessing which territories offer the greatest potential benefit if the mines are removed. Clearly, such territories should be de-contaminated first.

The international community noticed that humanitarian mine action in Croatia presents problems and has been offering help. In 1996, it established the United Nations Mine Action Center (UNMAC) with the mission of implementing humanitarian demining in Croatia and collecting data on detected and suspected minefields. By the end of 1998, the mandate of UNMAC in Croatia ended, but almost immediately the Croatian Mine Action Center (CROMAC) was established. CROMAC developed intense and efficient counter-mine action. By the end of the 1990s, Croatia became the primary donor for humanitarian mine action operations. It contributes almost 80 percent of total funds for annual “Demining Plans” with its own finances from the state budget and World Bank loans. In order to satisfy ever-growing stakeholders’ interests and due to the lack of finances for demining operations, CROMAC’s management was forced to divide demining projects. At that time, the lack of priority coordination and the failure to meet the needs of stakeholders was also noticed, namely frequent conflict situations that were sufficient motive to start research for new methodological approaches.


As stated in a 2002 report, the existing system for developing the national mine action plan and for identifying priority tasks in Croatia has evolved over time.1 In the immediate post-war period, mine clearance was seen as an integral part of the reconstruction effort and priorities for survey and clearance were determined by plans for reconstruction, the return of refugees and displaced persons and special projects to upgrade the national infrastructure (such as clearing the Sava River). Mine clearance was “demand-led” in its initial phases and, in general, the priorities were clear. However, the problem of identifying priorities became more difficult once the most pressing issues were addressed. The report states that “to some outside observers, including donors, it was unclear how priorities were being established within each county, whether politicians in the different counties were setting priorities based on similar criteria, and the degree to which socio-economic factors were considered when setting priorities.” Conflicts among human demining objectives occur often, and they usually involve outside objectives conflicting with objectives generated within the system. The conflicts are then transferred to the criteria. This inconsistency of the criteria led to the implementation of multicriteria analysis because “classical” methods, including intuitive decision-making, cannot determine the optimal solution for the humanitarian demining problems. Therefore, in 2001, CROMAC, in collaboration with the Faculty of Civil Engineering at the University of Split, developed a hierarchic approach for the demining problem in Croatia. Within the pilot project for Sisacko-Moslavacka County, a multicriteria analysis method was applied in order to provide an objective approach to humanitarian mine action in Croatia, which is characterized by the fact that 14 of its 21 counties are endangered by minefields (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Layout of mine-contaminated counties in Croatia.

Hierarchic Approach in Priority Assessment for Humanitarian Demining

In developing a hierarchic approach in humanitarian demining, participants must consider different approaches at different decision levels. Due to the problem characteristics of humanitarian demining, in Croatia, the multi-level approach is developed. For different problem levels a special algorithm for criteria and actions (solutions) evaluation is developed. This means that for the each decision level a separate “action set” is created (projects for demining of socio-political units, such as counties, municipalities, villages, etc., minefields, homogenous areas, etc.). Such sets are evaluated by applying multicriteria analysis. This means that:

For the different problem levels a particular “criteria set” for multicriteria evaluation has to be evaluated. However, for each decision level, expert teams from the Mine Action Center (MAC) have to make the criteria set more detailing tailoring it to the characteristic demands for that particular level, as well as to the “partners” in the decision process. For example:

For each decision level, the relevant data within GIS are being generated, or expert teams are being formed for evaluation of those parameters that cannot be evaluated with GIS (for example, estimation of number of refugee that will come back if the area will be demined, or estimation of costs or benefits from demining operation, etc.). Figure 2 shows a schematic layout of the hierarchic approach, so the situation of money distribution at the strategic level for demining 14 mine-endangered counties can be simulated using results from multicriteria analysis. At the tactical level, the county distributes finances to the endangered municipalities, again based on multicriteria analysis. At operative level, the municipality distributes approved funds to particular projects for settlements or infrastructure based on its own criteria and results of multicriteria analysis.

Figure 2: Layout of the hierarchic approach in demining operations in Croatia.

Within the pilot project for Sisacko-Moslavacka County, the multicriteria analysis was applied at the tactical level. Namely, ranking mine-endangered municipalities was performed in order to check the above-mentioned approach in practice, and to judge its convenience for other decision levels. In the following section, the same basic extractions from the pilot project, “Application of Multicriteria Analysis to the Humanitarian Mine Action Problem,” are given.

Continue -->