CISR Wraps Up Latest Mine Action Course for Leaders

From: Public Affairs

For the past few years, JMU's Center for International Stabilization and Recovery (CISR) has been providing a leadership-training program to senior managers from landmine-action organizations all over the world. The program, known as the Senior Manager's Course (SMC), offers five weeks of residential training through a combination of lectures, workshops and guest speakers focusing on various aspects of management and mine action.

Course participants see equipment demonstration.
Course participants are introduced to equipment and methods for landmine removal.

Geary Cox, Special Projects Coordinator at CISR, is part of the team of JMU faculty, staff and students running the course.

"The SMC provides critical, practical management and planning skills to leaders of landmine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) programs in impacted countries around the world," said Geary Cox, special projects coordinator at CISR and part of the team of JMU faculty, staff and students who run the course. "Hopefully it will help these leaders promote best practices not only in mine-action-specific topics, but also in financial accountability and transparency, human resourcing and strategic planning."

From 2004 to 2007, CISR conducted six courses with funding from the United Nations Development Programme, which had identified an international need for such training. After the sixth course in 2007, there was a brief hiatus before the U.S. Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs recognized a continued need for training. They contracted CISR, and in 2009, the SMC restarted at JMU under U.S. Department of State sponsorship, this time with an additional emphasis on ERW and small arms/light weapons contamination.

Originally founded as the Mine Action Information Center in 1996, CISR is a public policy center with over 15 years experience serving organizations and individuals in humanitarian crises and post-conflict environments. In addition to the SMC, CISR also develops landmine and ERW training materials, maintains an internationally recognized website for mine action, and publishes The Journal of ERW and Mine Action, the longest-running and leading international publication sharing research on landmines and ERW. Under its new director, Dr. Ken Rutherford, a landmine survivor and co-founder of the Landmine Survivor's Network, the Center is also expanding its programs in the realm of victim assistance, especially the psycho-social rehabilitation of survivors and the use of peer support methods.

"What CISR does to facilitate international development is truly unique," Cox said. "This year's SMC is the perfect example of that. We have 16 managers representing 14 countries, all of which face daunting challenges in clearance and recovery. By fostering existing talents and knowledge bases in national programs, the SMC is a sustainable way to promote development and leadership."

In addition to the SMC's success in training senior managers to make policy decisions, it has also offered a unique form of international diplomacy. By providing an immersion in U.S. history and culture through trips to Montpelier, Shenandoah National Park and Washington D.C., many of the participants claim the experience completely changed their perceptions of the United States.

Nibras Fakhir Matrood, Director of Iraq's Regional Mine Action Center, is one such participant. "I was scared to come here at first," he said, "but it's perfect. This city and the Southern hospitality—I love it. It feels like family. I'm going to be sad to go."

By Eric Wuestewald, Center for International Stabilization and Recovery

Published June 17, 2011