As a contribution in kind towards the relief of the socio-economic catastrophe caused by millions of landmines, the Swiss Government has decided to create and fund an institution aimed at reinforcing international co-operation in the field of humanitarian demining: the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GIC). The overall aims of the GIC are to support the United Nations in their role as focal point for mine action and to exploit and further the expertise of all organisations working in mine action, in a fully supportive and non-competitive way. The GIC was formally established on April 28, 1998, and was given four main tasks, namely:
- the development and introduction of an Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) focused on the needs of the United Nations. The IMSMA will provide the UN with improved capabilities for decision-making and information policy related to mine action.
- the organisation and funding of annual meetings for mine action managers and other stake-holders in order to give the Chief of the UNMAS, in his capacity as focal point for mine action within the UN system, the possibility to address once a year programme managers, representatives of UN agencies and other field organisations, as well as to promote exchange on practical experience gained in the field.
- the development of management training in close co-ordination with the UN.
- the establishment of a study group, to examine and assess problems in mine action in four main areas of activity: the socio-economic, the analysis of operations, the development of management training and advances in technical equipment and technology.
The main guidance for the GIC is provided by the Council of Foundation. Seventeen governments actively involved in the field of mine action are members of the Council. The Council meets twice yearly, in order to define the strategy of the GIC and to endorse the work programme.
In addition, an advisory board has been set up to allow for a periodical dialogue with stake-holders other than government representatives.
Since the end of March 1999, the Centre has been established in its premises in Geneva. Some sixteen staff members are currently working with the GIC, including three experts seconded by France, Germany and the UK. In addition, a decentralized unit of three technical experts, dealing with the development of IMSMA, is based in Zurich, at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.
The GIC is mainly funded by the Swiss Government. Additional financial support has been provided by the foundation Pro Victimis, the Principality of Liechtenstein, and most recently, by a generous contribution from the Norwegian Government.
Activities and perspectives
The IMSMA consists of two modules:
- a Field Module to facilitate the acquisition and collation of information at field level, and the reporting of such information to UN Headquarters;
- a Headquarter module to facilitate information collation, processing and dissemination at UN HQ level.
The first version of the Field Module underwent successful trials in Somalia (Hargeisa and Burao) in late November 1998. The first release was verified by the UN in late January and the final version has been introduced in Yemen early March 1999. This version has been used for conducting Level 1 Surveys. In spite of additional requirements for the Level 1 surveys, the first Release of the Field Module has been available since April 1999 for general use and it is planned that the next Field Module will be delivered to the Canadian Government for use in Mozambique. After the first Release is finished, work will begin to add additional functionality and it is envisaged that the second Release of the Field Module will be available in autumn 1999. The initial requirements for the Headquarter Module will be defined by the UN in late Spring 1999 and development of the Headquarter Module will start immediately after the definition of these requirements.
The first UN/GIC meeting of Mine Action Managers and UN representatives was held in March 1998, in Geneva, with representatives of seven field programmes. The second meeting was held from 23rd to 27th of February 1999 with representatives of fourteen field programmes. Participation has been opened out to the ICRC and demining NGOs.
Regarding the management training, the tasks of the GIC will be defined acording to the results of the training needs analysis recently carried out by the UNMAS and the UNDP.
The study group has launched a first major study for donors and victim states on the funding of mine action programmes. The study aims at providing guidance for the assessment of proposals for mine action programmes. This topic was endorsed by the Council of Foundation during its first meeting, in November 1998. In parallel the Study group is currently conducting three smaller studies on the assessment and performance of mine action agencies, the cost-effectiveness of mine clearance equipments and risk reduction in mine affected areas. These short studies should be available by July 1999.
Fruitful contacts have been established with various stake-holders in the demining community (international organisations, ICRC, NGOs, field programme managers and advisers, commercial companies). The participation at numerous conferences and seminars have given opportunities to present the GICs activities and to enlarge the GIC co-operation network. The GIC has also been asked to join ad-hoc working groups such as the Level 1 Survey Working Group and the UN/US/EU Working Group on Technical Trials.
A GIC website was created in September 1998 and was temporarily hosted by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. The GIC homepage has now its own address(www.gichd.ch) and will be further developed this year. In addition to framework documents on the GIC, the website will disseminate general and specific information on mine action.