Workshop Supports Public-Private Partnerships

For three cold days in February, approximately 50 public and private mine action organizations from Afghanistan to Vietnam gathered in the Washington, D.C., area to exchange ideas about their work. The Public-Private Partnership Program Workshop was hosted by the U.S. Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA). The workshop gave participants the opportunity to collaborate with PM/WRA representatives and fellow organizations in an effort to strengthen partner activities and communication.

During the workshop, representatives from partner organizations were given the opportunity to take the floor and make presentations explaining their efforts in mine action. Presentations ranged from the latest developments in mine detection and clearance to the current medical care and rehabilitation services provided by Walter Reed Army Medical Center for U.S. troops injured by improvised explosive devices and mines. Perry Baltimore from the Marshall Legacy Institute described the Children Against Mines Program (CHAMPS) initiative, which educates students about the work of mine detection dogs. The CHAMPS program gives students an opportunity to sponsor a dog and send it to a mine affected country. Between partner presentations and group discussions, Col. John Jordan from the Department of Defense spoke about his organization's support for mine action. The Department of Defense aims to establish sustainable indigenous demining programs through several training courses including mine risk education and demining technique demonstrations. Representatives from the U.S. government provided tutorials for applying for mine action grants and accessing additional U.S. government resources, and Bob Eaton from the Survey Action Center presented the latest findings from Landmine Impact Surveys, noting the most heavily mine-affected areas.

Partners were also given time to meet in small groups and discuss possible collaboration with other organizations. Representatives brainstormed ideas for how they could work together to advance mine action and what novel approaches they could use to achieve that goal. To improve partner communication, groups suggested a mine action chat room, an interactive webpage and an expanded newsletter that would include continuous and up-to-date mine-related information. These sessions provided a time for partners to note any upcoming outreach, awareness and fundraising events that involve their organization. The dates have since been combined on one calendar for all partners to access.

Suggested ideas to increase awareness of the landmine problem included implementing public service announcements and media blitzes, sponsoring art shows that highlight children and landmine survivors as well as hosting wine-tasting fundraisers. Some representatives proposed asking U.S. soldiers injured by landmines or UXO in Iraq to tell their personal stories and act as mine action spokespeople.

The Department of State and PM/WRA specifically take their relationships with their public and private partners seriously. To maintain this effective cooperation in mine action, organizations were asked to give feedback and ideas for how PM/WRA can better support partner operations. Groups suggested PM/WRA use its elevated profile to make press releases or media notes announcing mine-related events. Partner discussions also revealed that organizations would benefit from more sponsored workshops and opportunities to collaborate in person.

At the end of the workshop, Cindy Virdi from ROSEcharities, an organization that provides cost-effective rehabilitation, said that because of the workshop, "I learned a lot about the world of NGOs. I am a newcomer to this scene so I occasionally found it overwhelming but also very exciting. I am glad that there are so many people who are passionate about bettering the lives of others." Virdi appreciated the ample time allotted for networking with other participants.

Following the workshop, some partners have suggested creating a humanitarian mine action consortium that would facilitate organizations' operational and fundraising efforts while raising awareness of the global landmine problem. The HMA Consortium is now forming and the Mine Action Information Center at James Madison University is serving as initial Secretariat. The goals of the consortium are to raise public awareness of landmine issues, disseminate information on how private citizens and groups can help, and generate resources. For more information on the Consortium or other aspects of the Partnership Workshop, please contact Amy Burkhardt, Partner Relations Coordinator, at burkhaam@jmu.edu or (540) 568-2332. A press release from PM/WRA about the Workshop, including a list of participants, can be found at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2005/42321.htm.

Contact Information

Sarah Sensamaust
MAIC
E-mail: maic@jmu.edu