Inclusive Data Management

Inclusive Data Management: Reporting, Storing, and Sharing of Information on Beneficiaries in the Mine Action Sector

Reporting, Storing, and Sharing of Information on Beneficiaries in the Mine Action Sector

CISR Journal

This article is brought to you by the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery (CISR) from issue 28.1 of The Journal of Conventional Weapons Destruction available on the JMU Scholarly Commons and Issuu.com.

By Maysa Hajjaj, PhD [ Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining ], Lauren Burrows, Teia Rogers [ JRNY Consulting ], Natalia Lozano, PhD, Sarah Kamal Elias, and Samban Seng

The mine action sector has witnessed transformative changes in data management practices, underpinned by international legal instruments such as the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC),1 the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM),2 and Protocols II and V of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).3 Despite advancements, transitioning from operational to people-centric data practices has presented challenges, especially about gender, diversity, inclusion, and protection. This study explored current data management methodologies, emphasizing sensitive data and its interplay with gender and diverse social identities. Grounded in case studies from Cambodia, Colombia, and Iraq, the research uncovered the state of data management in the sector and identified pathways for improvement. Key findings highlight variances in interpretations of gender and diversity, challenges in data collection due to security concerns and cultural complexities, the influential role of power dynamics in setting data standards, and the importance of ethical considerations in data sharing and use. This study accentuates the need for a contextually nuanced approach, informed by gender, diversity, inclusion, and protection perspectives, to advance toward more inclusive data management in the mine action sector.


The global mine action sector has witnessed significant advances in data management practices, which have underscored the crucial role of data management in supporting the core five pillars of the sector.4 However, the evolution of data management from operationally-oriented practices to a more people-centric approach has introduced new complexities and challenges, particularly in the areas of gender, diversity, inclusion, and protection.

The Lausanne Action Plan of 2021–2026,5 guiding the CCM, emphasized inclusive approaches. Action 4 urges states to account for the diverse needs and perspectives of all genders and ages and to promote gender-balanced participation in national activities and the CCM’s procedures. Similarly, the Oslo Action Plan (2020–2024)6 for the APMBC, in Action 3, underlines the importance of considering the needs and perspectives of all genders in both mine action programs and APMBC activities, aiming for a comprehensive approach. Similarly, International Mine Action Standards (IMAS), such as IMAS 7.40 on Monitoring of Mine Action Organisations,7 emphasizes that the success of a mine action program is dependent on its ability to reflect on the different needs of gender and diversity groups, thus recommending collection, analysis, and reporting of data relating to gender and diversity aspects including the use of sex and age disaggregated data (SADD) in monitoring systems which must be integrated into the information management system.8 Dedicated guidelines, such as the United Nations Mine Action Service’s Gender Guidelines for Mine Action Programmes also exist to support transitioning principles and theory into dedicated action for more inclusive data management.

Despite recognizing its importance across global conventions and standards, consistent collection and effective use of this data remains an issue. One significant issue is the inconsistent collection and use of disaggregated data, a crucial element for tailoring effective interventions. Additionally, the current lack of guidance on data protection, particularly in countries where such laws are absent, poses a considerable challenge to the “Do No Harm”9 principle, highlighting a need for enhanced security and privacy measures.

Addressing these gaps, this research investigated the current data management practices, focusing on people-centered data and how gender and social identities factor into these practices. It provides a comprehensive view of the state of data management in the mine action sector and reveals potential areas for improvement, contributing significantly to this critical yet under-explored area of study.

The research involved case studies in Cambodia, Colombia, and Iraq, each presenting unique cultural, socioeconomic, and political dynamics that influence mine action data management practices. The insights derived from these case studies aim to inform more effective, globally relevant mine action data practices, underlining the necessity of context-specific approaches.

Research Questions

The main research questions of this study were:

  1. What is the mine action sector’s current data collection, storing, sharing, and reporting approach? How does the sector consider intersecting gender and social identities and power dynamics?
  2. How are mine action organizations applying the Do No Harm principle in their data collection, storing, sharing, and reporting processes? What challenges can be identified, and why do they subsist?

The study also recommended more inclusive data management practices across the mine action sector.

Key research variables included data collection, reporting, storing, and sharing, all explored through gender, diversity, inclusion, and protection. The research underscored the significance of adopting a feminist lens and participation to enhance data management transparency, accountability, and ethical considerations.

Data Collection and Methodology

This research utilized a feminist and rights-based approach, considering power dynamics, promoting active participation, adopting a social justice lens, and ensuring cultural responsiveness. Co-design with researchers from across case study countries and engagement with stakeholders and mine action groups were integral to the approach, making the findings accessible, relevant, and actionable.

Data was collected through a comprehensive desk review using computer-aided analysis, semi-structured key informant interviews, and peer-learning sessions across Iraq, Cambodia, and Colombia. The key informant interviews sometimes expanded to group interviews where multiple staff members from the same organization participated. Peer learning sessions were vital for validating findings, knowledge exchange, and co-creating data management improvement strategies.

Four stakeholder groups were consulted: national authorities, national and international mine action actors, and external experts on gender, diversity, and inclusion. In total, thirty-five interviews were conducted. The sample was chosen using resources like the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor10 and a snowballing technique to ensure diverse perspectives. The diversity and experiences of the representatives were also considered.

The guiding quality framework was the United Nations Evaluation Group Norms and Standards for Evaluation. Quality control involved a collaborative research design, pilot testing of tools, establishing feedback channels, and conducting quality assurance checks during the interviews.

Limitations included a limited diversity of documents for review, English as the primary language, and limited beneficiary involvement. Mitigation strategies included seeking diverse input at local levels, leveraging public data, clearly presenting complex concepts, and recommending consultation with beneficiaries.

Feminist & Rights-based Approach

  • Data Collection
    • Desk review key informant interviews peer-learning sessions
  • Stakeholder & Sampling
    • Interviews conducted across national and international organizations and mine action experts
  • Gender Representation
    • Interviews conducted with people who identify as men and women across countries
  • Quality Control
    • UNEG norms and standards collaborative design pilot testing

Acknowledging the importance of reflecting on researchers’ placement and power dynamics. It involves understanding complex power and gender relations and the intersectionality of race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and past history.

In this research, positionality of the Western-based researchers was critically examined, acknowledging influence in data collection, analysis, and interpretation, and attempted to mitigate bias through participatory reflection and national researcher conducted data collection.


Promoting inclusivity and participation by co-designing and co-managing evaluations with a broad range of stakeholders, building trust, and understanding and promoting sustained ownership.

Active participation was embedded in this research through participatory data collection design with national researchers in Iraq, Cambodia, and Colombia, using Miro, in addition to inviting in-country Mine Action groups to comment on research design and actively participate in peer-learning sessions.


Encouraging targeted and robust data collection, making research findings accessible, and promoting engagement across a range of audiences.

The usability of learning and recommendations was prioritized in this research, evidenced through peer-learning sessions that invited mine action actors to reflect on findings and co-create recommendations. Focusing on what needs to change moving forward ensured the findings were relevant, actionable, and efficiently utilized by various stakeholders.


Recognizing that research and evaluation can be a form of activism and should identify and address systemic inequities contributing to the marginalization and oppression of vulnerable communities.

This research adopted a social justice lens, focusing on issues of inequity in the context of gender and diversity in mine action, aiming to bring these issues to the forefront and contribute to meaningful discussions and actions towards social justice in these contexts.


Regular reflection on one’s assumptions, biases, and positioning to promote self-awareness, critical thinking, and learning. Reflexivity was integral to the approach.

Mine action actors were invited to reflect during the peer-learning sessions, providing an opportunity for critical reflection on the research findings and their implications. This engagement facilitated learning and enhanced the validity of the research outcomes.


Prioritizing lived experiences, especially those from communities and populations of color, and recognizing the importance of socio-political, demographic, and cultural contexts.

Data collection tools were tailored to the cultural and socio-political contexts of Iraq, Cambodia, and Colombia.

Key Research Findings

Across the research, the following key findings emerged:

  • Interpretations of gender vary considerably across organizations within countries and internationally. A prevalent trend equates gender solely with women, thus bypassing its broader scope. Diversity tends to be anchored more in ethnicity than a wider spectrum of identities such as age, disability, and religion.
  • Data about beneficiary names, age, and gender is consistently gathered across case study countries (Colombia, Cambodia, and Iraq). However, data on religion and ethnicity is often omitted, presenting potential gaps in understanding diverse needs. These omissions may arise from concerns about possible misuse of sensitive data. Roles in data collection are adjusted according to contexts, exhibiting a degree of sensitivity to local nuances. However, selection criteria for community interviewees do not demonstrate consideration for how to reach diverse or marginalized groups, posing potential challenges for inclusive data collection.
  • Colombia and Iraq face significant obstacles in data collection due to security concerns, potential stigmatization, and fears of data misuse. Across all three countries, cultural nuances and entrenched gender roles introduce complexities. Additionally, fluid security concerns and population displacements, especially in Colombia and Iraq, necessitate regular reassessments.
  • International and national standards shape data collection in the mine action sector. However, setting these standards is primarily influenced by people with power and financial weight, often sidelining the communities they impact.
  • The Do No Harm principle application is inconsistent, although it is widely recognized. Strategies range from targeted community engagement to only collecting data if needed and if it will be used. Despite this, methods of gaining consent for data collection vary, and there’s a notable absence of intersectionality and power analysis in data collection practices.
  • Organizations adopt varied data storage methodologies, from digital databases to paper forms. The commitment to safeguarding personal information is universal, but mechanisms like tablets are not universally used. Storing sensitive data under single-person custody presents potential risks, and confidentiality practices differ in accordance with local laws and cultural privacy norms.
  • Data sharing is selective. National authorities shape data-sharing parameters, and organizations must comply for operational continuity within countries. Though there are stringent approval layers for data sharing, beneficiaries are seldom treated as primary rights-holders in decisions, pointing to ethical concerns.
  • Collected data finds use in diverse ways. For example, in Cambodia, gender and disability data primarily influence intervention strategies, while in Colombia, it has the potential to recalibrate government awareness about population vulnerabilities. However, there is a degree of vagueness regarding how the information about specific beneficiary demographics (such as gender, age, and ethnicity) directly impacts the planning and execution of mine clearance activities. Furthermore, the research identified a potential gap in beneficiary engagement post-data collection. While data is continually collected and analyzed, beneficiaries’ insights and feedback need to be incorporated into interpreting the data to avoid reinforcing assumptions and biases. When data is used in different ways outside of its original intention, organizations have an ethical and moral obligation to revisit consent and beneficiary agency in how data is used.


This section outlines a more in-depth reflection on how inclusive data management manifests in the mine action sector.

Understanding Gender, Diversity, and Do No Harm

The investigation into the definitions of gender and diversity within the mine action sector offers essential insights into prevailing organizational interpretations and their implications on data management.

Across various regions and organizations, the concept of gender merges as multifaceted and often influenced by local cultural nuances. While some view gender as a social construct, others adhere more closely to traditional norms and roles. This range of interpretations is further complicated when sex (biological attributes) and gender (identity and societal roles) are used interchangeably. Such overlaps complicate the accuracy of data interpretation and risk oversimplifying individual identities and experiences.

Internationally, bodies like the United Nations and the IMAS advocate for a clear distinction between gender and sex, especially when collating data. Yet, despite such guidelines, these terms are recurrently blended in practice. This conflation potentially misrepresents the lived experiences of individuals. However, it is essential to appreciate that in some contexts, dictated by societal norms and cultural sensitivities, direct inquiries into gender might be deemed inappropriate. This underlines the importance of creating region-specific data collection methodologies and recognizing the intricacies of local perspectives.

The research also indicated that gender is sometimes equated with women. This interpretation overlooks the rich spectrum of gender identities, including non-binary, transgender, and gender non-conforming individuals. Even in regions where the dialogue on gender is progressive, consistent acknowledgement of this spectrum is not always evident. Similarly, when considering diversity, the emphasis often tilts toward ethnicity, sometimes overshadowing other vital dimensions of identity. The concept of intersectionality, which examines the interaction of multiple social identities, is often underrepresented in organizational conversations. Only a few organizations integrate it comprehensively.

As the mine action sector refines its approach to incorporating gender and inclusion into data management, it is crucial to consider the question: What does gender signify, to whom, and when? This understanding would accommodate cultural norms and social structures that shape gender identities. Recognizing the dynamism and fluidity of gender identities, as highlighted by sociologist Dr Raewyn Connell,11 is essential for organizations operating in diverse contexts, necessitating constant adaptation to ever-changing realities. Feminist scholar Dr. Chandra Talpade Mohanty12 also cautions against adopting Western-centric interpretations of gender in non-Western contexts, underscoring the importance of respecting unique cultural constructs and understandings of gender. While it is beyond the scope of this research, the study suggests future consideration of beneficiary-led definitions, reflecting on where mine action takes place and whose interpretations take precedence.

The Do No Harm principle, stemming from medical ethics, holds significant weight in humanitarian activities, including mine action. It mandates that every part of data management, from collection to dissemination, should not inflict harm on individuals or communities. While universally acknowledged in principle, its application within the mine action sector varies across countries and organizations. The IMAS mention it, primarily in the context of data privacy, but more explicit representation is limited to specific technical notes. In all mine action contexts, there is a pronounced emphasis on physical safety, particularly in mine clearance. However, there is room to address data collection’s more nuanced psychological and emotional aspects. Understanding the potential trauma or mental health implications of revisiting certain experiences is crucial, emphasizing the importance of a sensitive approach to ensure the emotional well-being of participants.

In Iraq, the landscape is diverse, with some organizations prioritizing data anonymity and others underscoring participant consent. Colombia stands out with a focus on collaborating with local authorities and marginalized groups, likely influenced by its socio-political dynamics. This variance suggests the need to broaden the application of the Do No Harm principle, potentially through refined guidelines and enhanced training.

This information illustrates the pressing need for the mine action sector to increase understanding and application of gender, diversity, and Do No Harm concepts, ensuring that varied interpretation does not limit the opportunity to be more inclusive as the mine action sector evolves.

  • Advance consent process: Establish a clear and comprehensive consent process with multiple options for beneficiaries.
  • Share with beneficiaries & enhance transparency: Enhance transparency in data-sharing practices and inform beneficiaries of changes.
  • Implement a trauma-informed approach: Train data collectors in trauma-informed care, redesign tools, and assess their effectiveness.
  • Prioritize diversity: Treat diversity as crucial as gender, adapting tools as needed.
  • Expand gender categories: Include non-binary and transgender individuals where relevant, with updated tools and sensitivity training.
  • Recenter beneficiaries as key stakeholders: Reframe beneficiaries as ‘rights-holders’, encourage feedback, and involve them in decision-making.
  • Start with a conscious & critical approach to data usage: Approach data strategically, ensuring clear communication with beneficiaries and regular updates.
  • Enhance beneficiary engagement: Involve beneficiaries in data interpretation, use inclusive methods, hold feedback sessions, and train staff in participatory engagement.
  • Improve data utilization: Use demographic data for better mine action planning and cross-departmental collaboration.
  • Provide data analysis training: Focusing on gender, disability, and demographics.
  • Implement “Do No Harm” approach: Create a checklist to ensure data processes prioritize beneficiaries’ safety and well-being.
  • Adopt a conflict-sensitive data strategy: Regularly analyzing the context to avoid harm.
  • Incorporate intersectionality: Consider intersectionality in all project stages to better serve diverse communities with multiple social identities.
  • Design flexible frameworks: Design standardized frameworks with flexibility for diverse experiences and participant agency.

What Data Is Collected?

Core demographic data collected by mine action organizations include age, gender, and location, and are collected consistently across mine action activities. This data forms the foundation for understanding and assessing the needs of beneficiaries and monitoring representation.

For explosive ordnance risk education (EORE), the number of beneficiaries, their age, gender, and in some cases, location and name are recorded. This aids in understanding the differences in mine risk awareness and comprehension among different age groups, informing targeted interventions. However, collecting names necessitates some ethical questions about why this is needed. For victim assistance activities, data extends to beneficiaries’ familial status, economic situation, and life before and after injury. This provides a greater picture of the survivor’s life and helps in supporting effective assistance provision. In certain contexts like Cambodia, specific information is collected about the cause of disability, the status of the individual, and detailed information about the incident that resulted in the disability.

Despite the importance of inclusivity, current data collection practices often do not accommodate non-binary and transgender individuals. While some guidelines, for example, the United Nations Gender Guidelines for Mine Action Programmes,13 also suggest that data on ethnicity or religion could be useful, it is typically not collected. There is a need for an increased understanding of why collecting information on a person’s ethnicity or religion is necessary or how it could be used in supporting mine action activities. Only essential data, such as the number of participants, is recorded in sensitive security zones for safety reasons.

Organizations usually report to the National Mine Action Authority regardless of context. Sometimes this extends to standardized reporting requirements, for example in the case of Colombia, providing information via standardized forms that heavily influence the data collected.

The data types collected in mine action activities vary and largely depend on each activity’s specific requirements and the overarching security context. There are, however, areas for improvement, particularly in collecting data beyond the gender binary and on other diversity factors such as ethnicity and religion.

Who Collects the Data?

Data collection in mine action operations is typically carried out by dedicated teams or individuals explicitly trained for this task. The selection of these data collectors largely depends on the following:

  • Security considerations: The safety of data collectors and respondents is paramount. Individuals familiar with the terrain and cultural context are often chosen in areas with high-security risks.
  • Local cultural norms: Understanding and respecting local customs and norms is vital for effective data collection. This often determines the gender composition of the teams, as demonstrated in Iraq, where men and women are present in data collection teams depending on cultural acceptability.
  • Project requirements: Different projects have unique data requirements, influencing who collects the data. For instance, Cambodia’s Mines Advisory Group (MAG) reported using a specialized information management team for risk education, impact assessment, and victim assistance programs.
  • Community acceptance: The community must accept the role of data collectors to gather accurate and reliable data. Fundación Barco uses community staff managers to collect information in Colombia, leveraging their acceptance within the community.

Despite these practices, the research found that there needs to be more consideration for including data collectors’ insights and perceptions about the data collection processes, potentially missing out on critical perspectives. Furthermore, the need for explicit guidance on who should conduct data collection and training for sensitive topics suggests that further attention is required to enhance these teams’ capacity and ensure comprehensive and ethical data collection practices.

It is also worth nothing that all individuals involved in data collection carry assumptions and biases and, in future research, a deeper understanding of how these may affect data collection is needed. For example, if a certain group were viewed as powerholders, this could impact community members’ willingness to share information on sensitive topics.

Who is Interviewed?

Deciding who to interview in mine action interventions is a complex process that reflects cultural, societal, and operational factors across different communities.

In Cambodia, organizations reported that interviews are closely associated with the relevant activities being carried out in that community at the time. Authorities and direct beneficiaries are frequently consulted, yet women often defer interviews to men counterparts, suggesting traditional gender roles influence participation. There is a notable absence of defined criteria for ensuring diverse participation, implying that relevance, availability, and willingness often drive the selection process.

In Iraq, organizations shared a pronounced emphasis on gender inclusivity. Different groups, including men, women, and youth, are approached separately, ensuring a comprehensive range of perspectives. The specific objectives of projects play a key role in guiding interviewee selection. A more expansive list of stakeholders is consulted in hazardous areas, from government agents to people living near the danger.

An organization in Colombia stands out for its effort to incorporate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex (LGBTQI+) community leaders in discussions. The threat from mines is not the sole determining factor; instead, these leaders’ broader role in communities is acknowledged. However, to avoid potential stigmatization, specific orientations are not overtly highlighted.

Across the board, the influence of local authorities and community leaders is evident, but it comes with the potential challenge of overshadowing marginalized voices. While crucial, these choices in interviewee selection are still largely molded by existing cultural and societal norms, indicating room for more inclusive strategies. There’s a need for clearly defined criteria to guarantee the inclusivity of diverse groups in data collection processes and to incorporate the views of traditionally underrepresented or invisible groups effectively. This will allow for a more comprehensive understanding of community needs and thus facilitate more effective humanitarian interventions.

Data Collection Challenges

Data collection in mine action operations encounters many contextual challenges, ranging from socio-political dynamics to technical and logistical issues. These challenges impact levels of inclusivity within data collection. Following are examples from Colombia, Cambodia, and Iraq.

Security concerns: The security situation often influences data collection operations, particularly in conflict-affected regions. For instance, armed groups’ ongoing conflict and territorial control in Colombia often obstruct demining efforts and risk education initiatives. In Iraq, a similar situation exists, with concerns over physical safety making data collection a complex task.

Stigmatization and privacy concerns: Fear of stigma, potential misuse of personal information, or political affiliation can lead to underreporting. This issue is pronounced in Colombia, where people often hesitate to share information due to fear of identification by armed groups. Ensuring data privacy and trust-building within communities is vital to overcome this challenge.

Cultural diversity and gender issues: Cultural norms and gender-related issues can also impede data collection efforts. In Colombia, fixed government data collection forms that fail to accommodate the diversity of identities are a significant concern. In Iraq, societal norms often prevent women from interacting with outsiders, particularly men, which limits access to comprehensive data. On the other hand, in Cambodia, the perception of gender data is skewed toward women only, overlooking the balance and roles between men and women, boys and girls.

Language and communication barriers: In countries like Colombia with indigenous populations, language can become a significant barrier. This issue is particularly acute in cases where certain groups prohibit women from speaking in group settings unless women are on the working team.

Logistical challenges: Physical access to remote communities can be a significant challenge, especially in regions prone to environmental hazards. Cambodia, for instance, used to face difficulties accessing remote communities, although this has improved over the years. Seasonal factors like flash floods sometimes still hinder access to certain areas.

Fluctuations in target populations: The presence of displaced populations or demographic movements due to conflicts can complicate data tracking and evaluating intervention progress. This is a significant challenge in Colombia and Iraq, with large, displaced populations.

In examining challenges across different contexts, organizations attempt to integrate principles of conflict sensitivity and Do No Harm. However, the practical application of knowledge concerning conflict dynamics, especially in data management and beneficiary consultation, is often inconsistent and lacks depth. The Do No Harm approach is generally applied more reactively than proactively. Immediate security concerns may lead to altering or canceling actions, yet subtler issues, like fears of retribution for participation, are sometimes overlooked.

These reflections suggest that while there is an awareness of conflict sensitivity and the need to Do No Harm, applying these principles is inconsistent and often reactive.

Data Management Standards

Most organizations reported international, national, and organizational standards guiding data management practices. The IMAS was a central element recognized globally for setting foundational standards. The research indicates that these international standards are often viewed as adaptable frameworks, not rigid rules, enabling contextual adaptations. Alongside the international standards, the standard operating procedures (SOPs) of individual organizations and national standards also hold significant importance.

Donor requirements and government mandates significantly shape the standards for data management. For instance, the attention given to gender equality and inclusion by donors has a considerable impact on data collection methods. Some donors request data disaggregation by disability status, thereby actively promoting inclusivity within their funded projects. This approach aligns with a broader agenda, where the contribution of mine action to various priority areas such as livelihoods, food security, and the environment, including the “triple nexus” of humanitarian, peacebuilding, and development sectors, is acknowledged and illustrated through data.14

Power dynamics are influential in determining these standards. Standards are frequently defined by those wielding financial and structural power, such as international bodies, national policymakers, and donors. The extent to which community members or affected populations can influence these standards remains uncertain, though there are opportunities for influence, such as joining technical working groups. However, the accessibility of these groups and the languages in which they operate may limit participation.

The Do No Harm Principle in Data Collection and Use

In the research context, the Do No Harm principle guides how data should be managed to prevent negative consequences—such as breach of privacy, stigmatization, or any other form of harm to the people whose data is being collected and used. Understanding and applying this principle is critical for building trust and cooperation with local communities, ensuring data quality and accuracy, and upholding the rights and well-being of the people directly or indirectly involved in mine action work. Earlier, this research revealed a varied understanding of the Do No Harm principle within the sector across Cambodia, Iraq, and Colombia. While the principle is recognized, its interpretation and application could be more consistent, indicating a discrepancy between the theoretical acknowledgement and practical execution of the principle. Despite the inconsistency, the study also surfaced the following strategies in practices to adhere to the Do No Harm principle:

  • Organizations emphasize understanding community needs, vulnerabilities, and capacities before initiating activities. For example, the Colombian government mandates the need to assess a population’s needs before starting any activity, underscoring a policy-driven push for this practice.
  • Engaging local communities is a common practice. Fundación Tierra de Paz in Colombia and Tetra Tech in Iraq, for example, engage and consult with community leaders, pointing to the importance of trust building. However, the involvement of community leaders or persons of power could also have negative consequences if certain agendas dominate community consultation over others. This is a delicate balance of inclusion for mine action organizations in respecting local structures while ensuring that individual perspectives are not excluded.
  • Consent stands out as a universally acknowledged necessity. Organizations across the case studies all seek consent from respondents, though the methodology varies. While some rely on verbal confirmations, others have moved to more structured consent processes, reflecting an evolving understanding of its importance.
  • Training data collectors is prioritized by organizations. Both the Directorate of Mine Action in Iraq and The HALO Trust (HALO) in Cambodia emphasize the importance of comprehensive training for data collectors.
  • Following international guidance, some organizations highlighted that they collect only necessary data, placing emphasis on avoiding excessive data collection and ensuring the process is not burdensome for participants.

However, areas for improvement emerge upon examining data collection tools. For instance, while consent is sought initially, it is only sometimes reconfirmed at the end of an interview once the data has been collected. Additionally, there are concerns regarding handling sensitive questions and whether respondents or participants are provided with psychological support in recounting traumatic experiences.

Data Storing

IMAS 5.1015 details that data storage involves careful data management, protection against unauthorized access, and stringent data security policies. Given the potential for data misuse, such as a person’s name or location, particularly in conflict-affected countries, there is a legal and ethical obligation to safeguard personal data.

Mine action organizations approach data storage with varying methods yet share a commitment to protecting personally identifiable information (PII). Organizations in Cambodia collect data digitally and protect it via password settings and secure storage. However, the occasional reliance on paper forms due to technical malfunctions raises data security concerns. In Colombia, the most sensitive data, such as that from survivors, is stored on paper with access limited to a single individual, reflecting stringent security measures. Personal data remains confidential across organizations, securely uploaded to government systems in compliance with national policies.

Diverse data protection practices in Iraq include secure data storage, employee training, and data anonymization. Organizations are moving toward digital data storage with heightened security measures, potentially aiding future compliance with data protection regulations. Globally, data anonymization and secure server storage are common practices. In line with the Global Data Protection Regulation, Norwegian People’s Aid does not share data across different projects or countries, emphasizing cloud-based infrastructure for better protection.

However, the methods of achieving data protection vary among organizations. The heavy reliance on digital tools and databases in Iraq contrasts with the emphasis on personal responsibility for data custody in Colombia. While assigning data custody to a single individual could risk a single point of failure, organizations still adhere to IMAS. Some organizations, however, gather excess personal data against advisement, underlining a potential risk if such data falls into the wrong hands.

Data confidentiality is a shared priority across countries, varying due to local data protection laws and cultural norms around privacy. Understanding international and national standards is crucial for adequate data protection. In countries such as Cambodia and Iraq, which lack robust data protection laws, organizations shoulder the burden of data safety. Conversely, in countries with strict data laws, such as Colombia, organizations must comply with both local requirements and international standards. In such a multifaceted landscape, ensuring data protection requires a country-specific approach.

Data Sharing

Data-sharing practices within mine action organizations commonly embrace the principles of selective sharing, protocol adherence, and caution in external sharing. In Iraq, entities like the Iraqi Health and Social Care Organisation and the Danish Refugee Council tend to restrict data dissemination to instances directly benefiting the community or to comply with specific requests from other organizations or national authorities.

Similarly, in Cambodia, groups such as MAG and HALO retain data for internal use, sharing only when required and following multilevel approvals. Parallels can be drawn to the practices of Colombian organizations, which upload data directly to the national authority’s platform and rely on the latter’s discretion for subsequent data sharing.

Despite these safeguarding strategies, certain practices warrant closer scrutiny. The research found evidence of organizations acquiring consent before publicizing beneficiary-specific data. However, ensuring a comprehensive beneficiary understanding of potential data-sharing implications remains inadequately addressed. While protocols appear robust in Cambodia, there is a notable absence of explicit references to obtaining beneficiary consent during data-sharing. Equally, the data handling strategy in Colombia may inadvertently introduce a single point of failure risk due to its heavy reliance on the national authority for data access and distribution.

Reflecting the IMAS, these selective sharing, controlled access, and approval protocols appear generally adherent. Nevertheless, a more pronounced emphasis on beneficiary consent and comprehension of data-sharing practices may further endorse the Do No Harm principle. Notably, recognizing beneficiaries’ agency in data management must be more present. This concern invites critical reflection on the level of engagement of beneficiaries within the mine action sector’s data management processes overall.

  • Data Collection: The community itself identifies community liaisons to address sensitive topics and build trust. Women and people with disabilities are encouraged to apply. Data collection teams are sought to reflect the demographic majority of the population, for example, Afro-Colombian, indigenous, and women, among others.
  • Do No Harm: Forms must be filled out detailing population needs, vulnerabilities, and capacities. This is a government requirement in Colombia and suggests that higher policy mandates can influence good practice when considering vulnerable community needs.
  • Data Storage: Personal information is kept private across organizations, with access limited to a select few and data uploaded to government systems securely aligning with national policies.
  • Data Sharing: Standard practice includes uploading the information directly to the national authority’s platform. This information cannot be shared amongst the organizations, but permissions for sharing or information requests must go to the authorities for a final decision.
  • Data Reporting & Use: When needs or risks are identified within populations, the data collected can act as a catalyst, linking to other programs that can help meet these needs or take action toward risks. Additionally, this information can alert the government about specific population vulnerabilities, enhancing its potential for socio-political impact.
  • Data Collection: Comprehensive data collection system that includes tailored impact assessment and non-technical surveys across eleven forms.
  • Do No Harm: Data is only collected if required and with utilization in mind. This demonstrates an awareness of Do No Harm through the necessary time that can be taken from beneficiaries to collect information that will not be used, thus exacerbating the extractive nature of data collection.
  • Data Storage: Organizations collect data digitally using tablets, ensuring data protection through password settings and secure storage once data collection is completed.
  • Data Sharing: Organizations reported keeping data for internal use; when data sharing is required, it goes through multiple levels of approval.
  • Data Reporting & Use: Most beneficiary data is collected on gender and disability status and used for tailoring interventions, developing case studies, raising awareness about mine risks, informing target area selection, and developing vulnerability and risk maps.
  • Data Collection: Data collection sometimes focuses on specific groups, such as women landowners, widows, or families impacted by accidents.
  • Do No Harm: Community leaders are involved in identifying who to talk to in the communities. This is a delicate balance of inclusion for mine action organizations in respecting local or village structures while ensuring that individual perspectives are not excluded.
  • Data Storage: Organizations reported using a range of practices for data protection. These include secure data storage, access control, employee training, regular audits and assessments, and anonymizing data using age ranges instead of specific ages. Data is stored digitally, often instantly saved on servers with highly restricted access.
  • Data Sharing: Data sharing appears to be more selective and controlled. Organizations only share information that benefits the community and often only with national authorities or in response to specific requests from other organizations.
  • Data Reporting & Use: Organizations implement practices such as using age ranges instead of specific ages to anonymize data. Similarly, global best practices involve removing sensitive personal information when possible, thus minimizing risks to individuals.

Data Reporting and Use

Data reporting and use in mine action operations serve four purposes: planning and designing interventions; reporting; evaluating activities; and coordinating new interventions. This study reveals considerable variation in these practices across different contexts.

For instance, in Cambodia, organizations reported that data related primarily to gender and disability status is collected and used to tailor interventions, select target areas, and develop risk maps. However, some ethical questions arise from the re-use and re-sharing of data without additional consent, especially if the data’s subsequent use significantly differs from what was initially agreed upon.

In Iraq, organizations reported that data is essential for strategic planning and service provision. Despite this, demographic variables such as gender or ethnicity do not significantly impact mine clearance prioritization, suggesting an approach primarily based on immediate risk and threat without thorough and inclusive needs assessment.

Data also functions as an instrument of transparency and accountability, fostering trust with donors and authorities. However, the extent of beneficiary engagement beyond the data collection stage, as well as the influence of their feedback on data interpretation and subsequent actions is limited.

In Colombia, data plays a critical role in identifying needs or risks within populations, alerting the government about specific vulnerabilities, and planning future activities that account for these specificities. Information derived from victim assistance activities is utilized to devise complementary victim support plans.

Despite these varied data uses, the study found a degree of ambiguity regarding how demographic data directly impacts the planning and execution of mine clearance activities. Similarly, while data is continuously collected and analyzed, including beneficiaries’ feedback in interpreting this data appears to be insufficient.

These findings suggest the need for better utilization of Sex, Age, and Disability-disaggregated data (SADDD)—as IMAS 5.10 recommends—to design, prioritize, and implement interventions.16 Additionally, a more proactive role for beneficiaries in data management practices could strengthen the overall effectiveness and responsiveness of mine action operations.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Several key themes emerge in assessing the mine action sector’s data management practices. Notably, the sector’s approach toward beneficiary participation, trauma-informed methodologies, and the need for flexible frameworks stand out. This section reflects on these themes and the research questions whilst offering recommendations to advance toward inclusive data management.

Enhancing beneficiary participation. Central to effective data management is the positioning of beneficiaries as integral decision-makers. It is evident that beneficiary-generated data, if harnessed appropriately, can add significant value. Challenges arise, however, as seen in Colombia, where cultural barriers hinder data collection, especially with indigenous communities. Furthermore, the observed one-directional data flow risks perpetuating existing inequalities. The mine action sector must pivot from data collection to robust beneficiary engagement to address this, which can be achieved by integrating proven methods, such as community mapping and participatory learning action into operational strategies.

Incorporating a trauma-informed approach. The psychological dimensions of explosive ordnance (EO) survivors necessitate a trauma-aware methodology within data collection practices. Current approaches seem to lack an in-depth integration of this perspective. To enhance data quality and better serve affected communities, the sector must ensure that trauma-informed principles, emphasizing safety, trust, and cultural respect, are thoroughly embedded into data collection tools.

Adopting flexible frameworks with a feminist lens. While necessary, standardization must be balanced with the need to account for diverse experiences, particularly concerning gender and power dynamics. The sector’s frameworks, as they stand, risk sidelining these aspects. By infusing feminist theory insights into agency, power analysis, and participation, these frameworks can become more inclusive, accommodating a broader spectrum of experiences and challenges. This integration demands adaptable guidelines and procedures that allow context-specific adjustments while maintaining essential standards, ensuring that the sector’s data management is comprehensive and relevant.

Reflections on the Research Question

Research Question One. The mine action sector’s approach to data management, spanning from collection to reporting, indicates an evolving dedication to inclusivity. While there are robust efforts in capturing diverse identities, simplification of gender and binary interpretation prompts further reflections. Through further acknowledgement of the spectrum of identities and an understanding of power dynamics, the sector can enhance its engagement with diverse mine-affected communities. The goal is to ensure that every piece of data serves operational needs and respects and represents the rich mix of individual experiences and stories.

Research Question Two. The mine action sector’s Do No Harm principle application has genuine intent, but integration is inconsistent. Its application leans more toward remediation than prevention. Integrating a forward-thinking approach can contribute more toward increased effectiveness and empathy. Inconsistencies may not necessarily denote systemic failings but may reflect diverse cultural, socioeconomic, and political contexts. For example, beneficiaries’ involvement (or lack thereof) in data-sharing decisions underscores the ongoing conversation on ethics within the sector. These observations suggest a need for deeper dialogue, training, and flexible guidelines that resonate with varying realities.


Reflecting the research findings, the following recommendations are made in support of advancing toward more inclusive data management in the mine action sector:

  • Data usage and transparency: Adopt a conscious and strategic approach to minimize the extractive nature of data collection. Clearly communicate to beneficiaries the purpose, process, and rights associated with data collection. Ensure continuous updates and engagement with beneficiaries regarding their data.
  • Stakeholder engagement: Recognize beneficiaries as “rights-holders” and central decision-makers. Replace terms like “beneficiary” with “participant-affected persons” or “rights-holder.” Regularly seek and incorporate feedback from beneficiaries. Engage beneficiaries in data interpretation using participatory methods.17
  • Inclusive data collection: Broaden gender categories to encompass non-binary and transgender identities where contextually safe and culturally sensitive. Emphasize diversity as an important dimension in data collection practices.
  • Trauma-informed approach: Incorporate principles of trauma-informed care in data management. Provide regular training for data collectors on trauma sensitivity.
  • Beneficiary data sharing: Increase transparency and accessibility for beneficiaries regarding data sharing and changes.
  • Consent management: Ensure a comprehensive consent process, offering multiple options and ensuring clarity.
  • Optimal data utilization: Utilize demographic data for better planning and execution of mine action activities: Encourage interdisciplinary collaboration within organizations.
  • Capacity building: Strengthen data analysis skills, focusing on gender, disability, and other demographics.
  • Safety and dignity: Apply a Do No Harm checklist, emphasizing the potential impact on beneficiaries.
  • Conflict sensitivity: Implement a strategy that recognizes the potential interplay of data processes and conflict dynamics. Regularly reassess data practices to ensure they don’t harm individuals and communities.
  • Intersectionality: Infuse intersectionality across project stages to capture the nuances of multiple social identities, allowing a broader range of categories to capture each context-diverse social identity.
  • Flexible frameworks: Ensure standardization encompasses diverse experiences and allows for individual agency. Develop frameworks that are adaptive, participatory, and locally responsive.

See endnotes below.

Annex 1: Glossary

A note on terms used in this article:

  • Beneficiary: The term beneficiary is used throughout this article in line with how the mine actor sector currently uses this term, and its original use in the proposed research plan to represent those the mine action sector serves. However, the authors recommend that the sector should consider moving away from the term beneficiary toward other terms including citizens, participants, or rights-holders that better represent the agency of people the mine action sector serves.
  • Data: Data refers to numerical and textual information, not imagery or other forms.
  • Do No Harm: For this research, Do No Harm references “an approach which helps to identify unintended negative or positive impacts of humanitarian and development interventions in settings where there is a conflict or a risk of conflict.”18
  • Diversity: Diversity encompasses the full range of human differences including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, and other ideologies. It also includes diverse ways of doing and being, thinking, working, and communicating.19
  • Survivor: A direct victim who has been injured and/or impaired but not killed as a result of an accident with EO.20
  • Victim: In mine action, victims are persons, either collectively or individually who have experienced physical, emotional, and/or psychological injury; economic loss; whose recognition, enjoyment, or exercise of their human rights on an equal basis with others has been hindered; or whose full and effective participation in society has been restricted by an accident with a confirmed or suspected presence of EO.21
  • For activities and discussions related to support and aid, the article aligns with the victim assistance pillar in the mine action sector.22 In light of recommendations to elevate the agency of beneficiaries, the usage of these terms may warrant further reflection in future discourse.

We want to express our appreciation to all participants in this research. Your valuable insights and experiences can help to advance the mine action sector. We also recognize the significant contributions of Natalia Lozano in Colombia, Sarah Kamal in Iraq, and Samban Seng in Cambodia, who as researchers in their respective nations, brought their expertise and commitment to this study. Finally, we thank JRNY Consulting for managing this research. Your valuable contribution has been instrumental in this significant undertaking. 

A woman with long hair and glasses.Maysa Hajjaj, PhD, joined the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining in February 2021 as an Advisor on Gender and Diversity (G&D). Her work focuses on mainstreaming G&D in mine action programs and she is a member of the Inclusive Risk Reduction (IRR) Division, ensuring the GICHD implements processes and strategies for internal G&D mainstreaming. Prior to joining the GICHD, Hajjaj managed the Risk Education and Community Liaison unit with MAG Syria (2020) and MAG Iraq CL, NTS, and EORE teams in Mosul and several contaminated areas of Kurdistan Region of Iraq (2018 –2019). Previously she also worked with several organizations assisting displaced communities in Palestine, Syria, as well as Arab refugees and asylum seekers in Europe, and was an independent gender consultant with Civil Society organizations in Kenya, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and the European Union. Hajjaj holds a PhD in Public Policy Analysis—Gender and Feminist studies from the UCM University (Spain) and a Master of Management from the VUB (Belgium). She is also a Certified Participatory Gender Auditing Facilitator, ITC ILO.

A woman with a scarf sitting at a table.Lauren Burrows is a monitoring, evaluation, and learning specialist. With over nine years of experience, she has proven track record of designing and implementing effective monitoring and evaluation systems, particularly in fragile and conflict-affected environments. Burrows has worked in Afghanistan, South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria for international nongovernment organizations. She now focuses on drawing attention to the power dynamics in monitoring, evaluation and learning through a focus on feminist principles. Find out more about JRNY Consulting’s work at www.jrnyconsulting.com

A woman with black rimmed glasses sitting in a chair.Teia Rogers is a development professional specializing in organizational transformation, program quality and effectiveness, strategic planning, and change management. As the Managing Director of JRNY Consulting, she has been at the forefront of advocating for feminist and rightsbased approaches to organizational change, driving enhancements in program efficacy within complex environments. Rogers is deeply committed to embedding intersectional feminist and rights-based approaches and believes that transformative change is most effective when organizations and teams are aligned with power-sensitive values, deeply rooted in their visions for change.

A woman with a white scarf smiles.Natalia Lozano has a PhD in Philosophy, Art,and Critical Thought, a Master of Arts inPeace Studies, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Her main research interests are the Colombian armed conflict and the social, cultural, and environmental effects of violence, as well as the impacts that it has on women, children, and ethnic groups. She has worked for the Comisión Nacional de Reparación y Reconciliación, El Instituto Nacional de Medicina Legal, la Unidad de Búsqueda de Personas Desaparecidas among others. She has been a professor at the Universidad INCCA de Colombia and Universidad del Rosario.

A woman wearing makeup and white earrings.Sarah Kamal Elias is a highly experienced national consultant and researcher with seven years of experience in monitoring, evaluation, and research projects throughout Iraq, collaborating with organizations such as the International Labour Organization, UNICEF, and GIZ. Her key areas of expertise include women’s protection and empowerment, specialized mental health and psychosocial support services for children and adolescents, and addressing child labor. Elias has previously worked with the International Rescue Committee and the Danish Refugee Council, demonstrating her long-standing commitment to humanitarian causes and her substantial impact in the field.

A man with black rimmed glasses.Samban Seng  (he/him) is a specialized development, humanitarian emergency, and disaster risk reduction/climate change adaptation professional with over twenty years of experience in the sector in Southeast Asia and with organizations such as the Cambodian Red Cross, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Society’s regional delegation for Southeast Asia, Catholic Agency for Overseas Development Southeast Asia, and Save the Children International. Through these positions, Seng has actively promoted gender and other cross-cutting themes in the areas of data management and training, developing gender and inclusion mainstreaming guidelines, and conducting training of trainers.

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by Maysa Hajjaj, PhD [ Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining ], Lauren Burrows, Teia Rogers [ JRNY Consulting ], Natalia Lozano, PhD, Sarah Kamal Elias, and Samban Seng

Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 10, 2024

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