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Issue 7.2, August 2003

The Albanian Mine Action Programme

The Albanian government, working in conjunction with various governments and organisations, is slowly working its way towards establishing a stronger national mine action programme and, eventually, a mine-free Albania.

by Jab Swart, CTA, Albanian Mine Action Programme

The Mine Action Problem

The mine and UXO threat in northeast Albania emanated from the Kosovo conflict; it extends across a 120-km border between Albania and Kosovo, from Shistavec to the Montenegro border in the north, to up to 20 km inside Albania. After the Albanian Armed Forces’ (AAF’s) Level One Survey in 1999, 102 areas were identified, representing 15,250,000 sq m. The threat includes AP and AT mines laid by Former Yugoslav Republic (FYR) forces, UXO and sub-munitions from FYR rocket artillery and at least six North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) cluster strikes within Albanian territory. An added complication is that no records of minefields are available for Albania. None of this has been caused by Albania. As a matter of fact, NATO requested that the AAF not get involved in the conflict, and Albania had to look on helplessly while its territory was contaminated.

Socio-Economic Impact

The population of the Kukes prefecture (almost 120,000—of which 75 percent live in rural areas) is among the poorest in Albania, if not in all of Europe. Landmines and UXO directly affect 39 villages. The average size of a farm is 1.5 ha, and main activities consist of grazing, farming, gathering firewood and other subsistence livelihoods. Poverty and the pressure for land are further exacerbated by the fact that 75 percent of the terrain in the north is mountainous, not including land contaminated by mines and UXO. Although most people have been informed and educated about the threat of mines, some still risk getting killed and injured by working in mine-infested areas because of economic pressure. From 1999 to January of 2003, 202 mine/UXO accidents happened. Twenty-seven people were killed and 216 were injured in northeast Albania. Approximately one-third of these victims were of the economically active age group (15–30), and half of them were injured or killed while farming, grazing cattle or going to school.

The mine problem has also had an impact on infrastructure development. In 2002, 88,379 sq m had to be cleared by Danish Church Aid-Action by Churches Together (DCA-ACT) and the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD) for the construction of a critical road connection between Bajram Curri and Gjakova. The impact of mine contamination on the social environment should not be underestimated. Some water sources in northeast Albania are still blocked by mined areas. The entire Albania/Kosovo border, prime land for eco-tourism development, is a wasteland because of mines and UXO.

Impact on Border Management

A grave consequence of mine contamination is the added difficulty of patroling borders between Albania and Kosovo, where trafficking and other crimes take place on a cross-border basis. Since the end of the Kosovo crisis, 13 police officers have already been wounded or killed by mines and UXO while executing their duties. Patrolling is almost impossible because it takes one to two hours to respond to a border incident due to mine/UXO contamination. This is a weak point regarding integrated border management in southeast Europe. It was reported from the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) that criminals have identified and cleared lanes in minefields through which they pass unfettered to and from Kosovo where police cannot reach them and respond effectively. In September 2002, two border control posts had to be opened in Shistavec and Orgjost. The proposed positions were found to be on land suspected of being mined. A total area of 6,162 sq m had to be verified by the FSD before it could be declared safe for use.

Albanian Response and Commitment

During the Albanian crisis in 1997, at least 15 government ordnance depots were destroyed and looted, leaving tons of dangerous munitions scattered around and threatening the lives of civilians. Up to 2,000 persons were reported killed or seriously injured as a result of this emergency. The AAF started clearing up these 15 so-called “Hot Spots” in 1998 and is still in the process of mopping up the last remnants of that situation.

After the Kosovo crisis in 1999, the Albanian government responded swiftly in conducting rapid surface clearance, which drastically reduced civilian casualties. However, this was not done according to International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) and all the areas had to be re-cleared. Shortly after the re-clearing, the AAF conducted a Level One Survey, which indicated that most of the border area is still contaminated.

Albania ratified both the Ottawa Treaty and Amended Protocol II (AP II) in accordance with the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). Towards the end of 1999, the Albanian government decided to adopt IMAS and established a structure to implement humanitarian mine action. In order to adequately coordinate mine action, an inter-ministerial body, the Albanian Mine Action Committee (AMAC), was formed in October 1999. This body is the overall executive and policymaking body for mine action in Albania. The Deputy Minister of Defence chairs this committee with a membership drawn from the Ministries of Environment, Local Government and Decentralisation, Health, Public Order, Foreign Affairs, Finance and Economy; the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative; the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); and other major donors. The terms of reference for the AMAC include the following:

At the same time, an operational body, the Albanian Mine Action Executive (AMAE), was established to carry out a mine action programme under the direction of the AMAC. Its functions are to:

Material and in-kind support from the Albanian government from 1998 until 2003 for mine action and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) programmes will total $1,583,600 (U.S.) (see Table 1).


1998 1999 2000 2001 2002



Level One Survey

  $25,640         $25,640

Surface clearance

  $38,460         $38,460

Stockpile destruction project

    $41,525 $83,050 $41,525   $166,100

Support to AMAE

  $3,700 $3,700 $3,700 $3,700   $14,800

Support to demining


Clearance of mines and ordnance at “Hot Spots”

  $101,700 $101,700 $101,700 $101,700 $101,700 $508,500

Assistance to humani-tarian demining

      $500 $600 $31,000 $32,100

Assistance to mine victims and victims of “Hot Spots”

$133,000 $133,000 $133,000 $133,000 $133,000 $133,000 $798,000

Grand total

$133,000 $302,500 $279,925 $321,950 $280,525 $265,700 $1,583,600

Table 1: Support from the Albanian government to the Albanian Mine Action Programme.

APM Stockpile Destruction Programme

Albania ratified the Ottawa Treaty on 29 February 2000, and the Stockpile Destruction Project commenced 15 January 2001 with Canadian assistance. Demilitarisation was based on reverse assembly, and recycling was a major aspect. The last of 1,683,860 APM were demilitarised on 4 April 2002, two years ahead of the obligatory period in terms of the Ottawa Treaty. The benefits of this project to the region are:

Policy, Strategy and Advocacy

A national workshop was held in June 2002, formulating a vision, mission, some priorities and a three-year plan. The decisions of this workshop are:

  1. A vision for an Albania free from mines and UXO by 2010.
  2. A mission to develop and implement a sustainable mine action programme in order to eliminate the effect of mines and UXO in northeast Albania by 2005.
  3. Goals for the Albanian Mine Action Programme to:

In 2003, the policy-level priorities will be to regularise the activities of AMAC formulation, to ratify a comprehensive mine action policy and to pass national legislation in terms of Article 9 of the Ottawa Treaty.

Capacity Building

A two-year UNDP capacity-building programme commenced in April 2002, funded for 18 months by UNDP, the International Trust Fund (ITF) and the Department for International Development (DFID) to assist AMAC with the formulation of policy, strategy, a national mine action plan and priorities for mine action. Assistance to AMAE entails the establishment of a sustainable structure capable of coordinating all mine action in Albania.

The UNDP employs two Technical Advisors, one Chief Technical Advisor and an Information Advisor from the Swiss General Staff, to assist the AMAC with advice on policy, strategy and legal structures. Priorities for mine action to achieve the mission were implemented. A fully functional AMAE was established with UNDP, European Union (EU) and ITF assistance, including an integral Quality Management (QM) section with a regional office in northeastern Albania. These assisting groups introduced a complete set of AMAE Technical & Safety Standards (TSSs) based on IMAS.

The Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) capacity-building priorities for this year are to optimise operations integration and conduct further in-service training of the QM Team on quality assurance and quality control. Management training of the AMAE staff is also a high priority, including middle management training of managers, exchange of managers with other Mine Action Centers (MACs) and study tours to neighbouring MACs. Lastly, AMAE will be assisted to effect the completion of the impact and technical surveys of northeastern Albania, as well as with the monitoring of clearance and training standards.


DCA-ACT and the FSD have been deployed for demining since 2002, mostly with the U.S. State Department, ITF, EU and Germany. The ICRC and the American Red Cross (ARC) assisted actively in creating an atmosphere conducive to demining. More than 70 percent of the impact surveys were accurately redone and technical surveys initiated by the end of 2002 with internal resources. With increased coordination and more efficient utilisation of demining assets, more than 7,000,000 sq m of formerly contaminated land were released through survey and clearance during 2002.

In 2003, the demining assets of FSD and DCA were expanded to three survey teams, eight manual demining teams, a Bozena I mini-flail and one mine detection dog team (MDDT). With these resources, they are planning to complete more impact surveys (releasing a further 1,990,000 sq m) and clear at least 350,000 additional sq m. The clearance of all contaminated areas in northeastern Albania will then be 61 percent completed (see Table 2).

Year 2000–2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 Total Reduction 2002–2005

Contaminated Area (sq m)








Reduction by Impact Survey (sq m)




9,821,000 sq m

Reduction by Technical Survey (sq m)





3,253,000 sq m

Reduction by Clearance (sq m)






1,995,000 sq m

Total Reduction (sq m)






15,069,000 sq m

Table 2: Past, present and estimated contaminated and reduced area in Albania.

Technical Survey

UNDP will implement a 21-month EU-funded technical survey project by August 2003. The aim of the Technical Survey Project is to accurately delineate all of the minefields and battle areas in northeastern Albania and thereby contribute to the overall mission of the Albanian Mine Action Programme of freeing northeastern Albania from mines and UXO by 2005.

A technical survey organisation will be established, consisting of six manual technical survey teams, two MDDTs and one mechanical survey team. The technical survey will be managed by the management team of the UNDP mine action programme and coordinated by the AMAE. The technical survey organisation will be converted into a national demining organisation by the end of 2004. When funding is secured, demining priorities will be determined and demining tasks will be issued.

By completing the technical survey project, minefields and battle areas will be accurately defined. These areas can be marked, and communities will be informed of their proximity and dangers. Resource mobilisation can be focussed on accurate estimations of the threat, and scarce clearance resources can be tasked to clear according to priorities and suitability of assets. This will lead to the following benefits:


A functional IMSMA Cell was established in 2002 with ITF and Swiss support, and the database was populated with up-to-date mine action information. Albanian maps were geo-referenced from a Krasovsky projection to a Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) 35 projection with EU and ITF support. An Albanian IT Chief was appointed, an internal information QM system was implemented and IMSMA was updated to Version three. In the regional context, the Albanian government and the ITF reached an agreement regarding information exchange. In the year ahead, efforts will be focussed to ensure full operations, database management training and the formulation of internal standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Mine Risk Education (MRE)

Most of the 39 communities directly affected by landmines and UXO were reached by the end of 2001, but people were still being killed and injured by mines and UXO as recently as January 2003. The physical delineation of known mine- and UXO-contaminated territory along the Albania-Kosovo border has been problematic due to:

AMAE and CARE International completed a survey of MRE activities in the fall of 2002. It was carried out in the three districts of Kukes and covered all the priority villages identified by AMAE. The survey covered 4.5 percent of the population of the selected villages and attempted to sample all relevant population groups. The overall results show a good level of MRE coverage throughout the area. The following were the main findings of the survey:

Deminer training during 2001 by HELP in Tropoja, Northeast Albania. c\o Arben Braha, Albania Mine Action Executive

The MRE strategy was therefore revised in the fall of 2002. The framework of this strategy is:

  1. A vision to prevent all mine and UXO incidents in northeastern Albania.
  2. A mission for AMAE/AMAC to direct and coordinate the implementation of an MRE Strategy in northeastern Albania forthwith as an integral part of the AMAP in order to effectively reach all targeted groups by 2005.
  3. Goals for:

Target groups were readjusted and it was decided to concentrate on the following in 2003:

Victim Assistance

The Tirana Orthopaedic Centre was upgraded and is operated by the Albanian government with support from the EU and Handicap International (HI). Fourteen prosthesis technicians from the centre trained with Italian and ITF support. With ICRC assistance, 147 victims were treated and prostheses fitted in Albania. Sixty-two victims received advanced treatment and fitment of prostheses at the Slovenian Rehabilitation Institute with ITF assistance. Twelve victims were assisted by the ICRC to set up small enterprises. Several laws now afford the disabled special privileges. The Albanian monthly disability pension was recently increased. A broad integrated victim assistance strategy was adopted in Albania. The goal of this strategy is to build a sustainable Albanian mine action capability by 2005. Its objectives are to:

The main goal of victim assistance planning from 2003 is to establish an Albanian capacity by 2005 (see Table 3).


 Activity  Duration Total Budget
 1. Implementing the victim assistance strategy 2003
 2. Providing advocacy for victims 2003–2005  $3,000

Treating 30 upper-limb amputees per year, including three sight-impaired victims abroad 2003–2005  $300,000

Provision of raw materials to the Tirana Orthopedic Centre with ICRC support 2003–2005  $15,000

Treating 30 lower-limb victims in Albania per year with ICRC support 2003–2005  $21,000
 6. Training three doctors from northeastern Albania in advanced surgical procedures (trauma and amputations) over three years 2003–2005  $30,000
 7. Improving surgical facilities in northeastern Albania 2003–2004  $92,000
 8. Training six orthopedic technicians in upper-limb prostheses and orthoses 2003–2005  $15,000
 9. Training of six doctors/nurses in basic physiotherapy 2003–2005  $15,000
 10. Conducting a survey to determine further areas of economic integration of the families of 243 victims 2003  $5,000
 11. Providing micro-finance to assist with reintegration of victims, basically bee-keeping and animal husbandry 2003–2005  $150,000
 12. Transitional strategy implemented to ensure a sustainable Albanian victim assistance capacity is in place by 2005 2003–2005

 13. Management 2003–2005  $65,000

Total   $711,000

Table 3: Victim Assistance Planning.

Transition Strategy

The Albanian government will assume almost full responsibility of its mine action programme by the end of 2005. After 2005, there will be a reduced mine action programme allowing for a leaner structure with only low-impact areas left to demine. An Albanian capacity for demining and victim assistance will be fully established by 2005; the MRE objectives will mostly have been reached and a solid resource mobilisation base will have been established.


Previous and current donors include the UNDP, EU, DFID, ITF, ICRC and the Canadian, Danish, German, Swiss, Turkish and U.S. governments. In June 2002, the EU reached a consensus to fund mine action in Albania “as far as possible” through the CARDS programme (Integrated Border Management Project). Of the $5.068 million budget for 2003, $4.49 million has already been funded, leaving a shortfall of $0.578 million. The total budget for the ensuing years until 2005 will be around $3.9 million per annum.


Funding 2002

 Budget 2003



Capacity Building and Coordination of mine action (Implemented by UNDP)

UNDP: $119,000
EU/ITF: $27,000
DFID: $125,000
Total: $271,000


DFID: $225,000
UNDP: $90,000 (2002)
ITF: $5,000 (2002)


Technical survey


EU pledge: €2 m

Demining FSD

EU/ITF: $330,000
Switzerland: $330,000
Germany/HELP: $300,000
FSD; $70,000
Total: $1,030,000


EU, Germany and ITF: $1,000,000


Demining DCA-ACT

ACT Holland: $350,000
DCA-ACT: $363,700
Danida: $297,895
U.S.: $43,500
Luxembourg: $48,000
Other: $158,900
Total: $1,261,995


$1,000,000 mostly from EU and matching funds from ITF


Victim Assistance

ITF: $100,000
ICRC: $35,000
Total: $135,000


$140,000, pledges from ITF and ICRC



UNICEF: $71,000



$63,000 (UNICEF pledge?)






Table 4: Funding 2002–2003.


There is a significant mine and UXO threat in northeastern Albania, but there is also an increased awareness and commitment to solving the problem. The year 2002 was the turning point for the Albania mine action programme, and 2003 will be crucial. Albania can now set the pace in the region on issues such as stockpile destruction. The focus this year will be on accurately determining the extent of the mine and UXO problem and initiating the transition strategy to realise the strategic objective of making Albania free from mines and UXO by 2005.

Contact Information

Jab Swart
CTA, Albanian Mine Action Programme
UNDP Albania
Dëshmorët e 4 Shkurtit street, no. 35
Tirana, Albania
Tel: +355692094627