In recognition of the multi-disciplinary nature of mine action and of the requirement for enhanced coordination, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) was established in 1997 to serve as UN focal point for landmine-related issues and activities. The nature of this role requires UNMAS to play a central part in all aspects of what is a holistic activity and, as such, necessitates a proactive and focused response in terms of both policy formulation and implementation, as well as in the reporting of findings and activities to the broader community.
Policy development and coordination
In its capacity as focal point, UNMAS is responsible for ongoing policy development and coordination with regard to United Nations mine action activities. In 1998, in collaboration with ten UN departments, agencies, and other concerned UN entities, UNMAS prepared a comprehensive document entitled Mine Action and Effective Coordination: the United Nations Policy in order to provide appropriate guidance for UN activities worldwide. Within the context of this document, UNMAS has continued to further develop the principles of UN mine action through the preparation of additional guidelines, such as those published in 1999 pertaining to UN support to Government mine action programmes involving collaborative arrangements with the military. These policies are being further supplemented through the ongoing production of other complementary clarifying documents such as a five-year strategy paper.
In order to facilitate the ongoing coordination of UN mine action, both internally within the UN system and externally between the UN system and non-UN partners, two mechanisms have been established to maximise the focus of the international and UNMAS response. The Inter-Agency Coordination Group on Mine Action and the Steering Committee on Mine Action were both created to further this goal, and have achieved tangible results by providing opportunities for consultation and the exchange of ideas. These bodies are chaired at the senior management level by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace-keeping Operations, and at the working level by the Chief of UNMAS, with meetings taking place on a regular basis to best ensure effective communication. There is also a close working relationship between UNMAS and the Mine Action Support Group (MASG), a collaboration of major mine action donors which meets monthly to develop funding strategies and enhance international interaction with UN landmine-related activities. A reinforced MASG, including donor representatives from national capitals, also occurs on an annual basis with UNMAS providing updates and briefings on current and pressing issues.
As a result of the First Meeting of the States Parties (FMSP) to the Mine Ban Treaty in Maputo in May 1999, a programme of Inter-Sessional Work was established to enhance coordination of the five key elements of mine action that had been identified. UNMAS actively participates in this process, attending meetings of the resulting Standing Committees of Experts and providing technical briefings and other input as needed. This is seen as an ongoing responsibility throughout the FMSP process, with anticipated requirements being to provide expert advice both on implementation issues and their relationship with policy development.
Additional conference activities also occur throughout the year, including a UN meeting of mine action programme directors and advisors organised by UNMAS and held annually in Geneva with support from the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD). This meeting provides a key coordination opportunity by gathering key mine action practitioners in one location for effective and in-depth consultations. This facilitates better information sharing, comparison of techniques, lessons learned analysis, and news of innovations at the management level, as well as an opportunity for direct feedback between field personnel and those staff providing support at the headquarters level.
Commitment to these and other fora provides regular opportunities for reporting and coordination at many levels, ensuring a flow of information and varied input into the development of United Nations strategies and policies at the working and management level. UNMAS sees this as an ongoing and proactive activity, enabling a focused response to identified needs within the mine action community as well as in the development of future strategies and plans for effective implementation.
Assessment and monitoring of the landmine threat
One of UNMAS’ main responsibilities is to assess and monitor the global landmine threat, with a view to identifying needs and developing appropriate responses in a systematic manner. Towards this end, 1998 saw five inter-agency and multi-sectoral assessment missions conducted in Azerbaijan, Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen. In 1999, six additional missions were conducted to Kosovo, Lebanon, Jordan, Ecuador, Peru, Zimbabwe and Namibia. So far in 2000, assessment missions have been conducted in Egypt, Nicaragua, Zambia and Belarus, and additional missions remain under consideration. The aim of these missions is to define the scope and nature of the landmine / UXO problem in the affected countries, identify constraints and opportunities relating to the development of mine action initiative, and make recommendations for a comprehensive response, including institutional arrangements for the coordination and implementation of mine action activities. Technical missions have also been conducted on a more limited scale in support of new and ongoing operations, with visits in 1998 to Sudan, Iraq, and Guinea-Bissau, to Kosovo, Nicaragua, and Honduras in 1999, and to Sierra Leone and Mozambique after floods there in 2000.
Completed assessment reports are widely distributed among governments, non-governmental organisations, and other agencies and entities, as well as publicly via electronic media, to enable a better understanding of the landmine situation within the broader community. In this manner, potential donors and the wider concerned community at all levels are kept informed as to the scope of the problem and the particular needs created within affected countries, ensuring more focused funding and support.
The implementation of Level 1 impact surveys is often a natural follow-up to assessment missions, designed not only to identify the general location of mined or suspected mined areas but also to measure the humanitarian and socio-economic impact of landmine contamination. Such surveys focus on collecting information for clearance activities and for mine awareness and victim assistance programmes in support of a complete national response. The determination of priorities as a result of this process allows activities and resources to be concentrated on the areas of greatest need, in line with the UN policy of developing a comprehensive profile of the landmine problem at a global level.
Towards this end, in 1999 Level 1 impact surveys were initiated in Yemen, Mozambique and Chad, with a limited survey also being conducted in Kosovo in response to the humanitarian crisis in that province. Further impact surveys are projected for Thailand and Lebanon in the near future and in cooperation with the Survey Action Centre, and in Cambodia with the support of the Government of Canada. Funding is being provided by donor countries and the United Nations Foundation for International Peace (UNFIP).
Programme initiation and programme support
Since the initiation of the first humanitarian mine action programmes in 1988, UN field activities in support of emergency situations, peace-keeping operations and longer term, integrated mine action programmes have developed considerably. While direct responsibility for the latter rests primarily with UNDP, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) coordinates activities in Afghanistan, while the Iraq “Oil-for-Food” Programme does so in Iraq. In this context, UNMAS is tasked with ensuring global coordination of all activities and assisting in the establishment of programmes in a growing number of situations. For all of these activities, UNMAS remains involved in an advisory and monitoring capacity, acting as the repository for central reporting and providing oversight of elements such as standards and quality assurance.
At the country and regional level, UNMAS has maintained its role in terms of coordination and integration, as well as implementation where required, to ensure the global oversight of UN mine action. Within Croatia, UNMAS continues to be directly responsible for the mine action programme, with the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) acting as implementing partner. It is planned to transfer this responsibility to UNDP this year, in conformity with the agreed principles of the UN mine action policy for development of indigenous capacities. Concurrently, humanitarian emergencies in areas like south Sudan, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Abkhazia require careful monitoring and contingency planning.
In Kosovo, UNMAS has demonstrated the transition undertaken from policy formulation to implementation, playing an early and key role in support of the humanitarian operations launched there in 1999. A Mine Action Coordination Centre was established at the commencement of relief operations, with personnel deployed directly from the UNMAS Headquarters to provide a start-up team and ensure a coordinated and integrated response with UNOPS acting as the implementing agency. The MACC has since exercised responsibility for the planning and coordination of all mine / UXO-related activities, information management aspects, the development of technical and safety standards, quality assurance, and resource mobilisation for all entities active in the region, including providing co-ordinating support to KFOR forces. These tasks have been carried out in close co-operation with those international, non-governmental and commercial organisations in country, enabling all to function successfully within a coordinated work plan developed by the MACC.
UNMAS also continues to support mine action in the context of peace-keeping operations as these requirements arise and forces are deployed, while also maintaining a contingency planning role for any future crises. This has seen support being dispatched to Sierra Leone and the coordination of assistance within Tajikistan, while potential operations within central and sub-Saharan Africa and within eastern Europe also remain under constant consideration. Assistance for flood-related mine action within Mozambique has also been facilitated with UNMAS support in 2000, as a result of the impact of heavy flooding in many contaminated areas around the country. The inherently short notice and unknown scope of such operations, however, continue to place pressing demands on the limited resources available for such activities.
Additional planning commitments are also maintained for activities in Western Sahara, where approximately 100 demining specialists were originally deployed between May and November 1998 to verify and clear MINURSO deployment sites and prepare the repatriation of refugees. As the political process there stalled, however, the mine action force was subsequently reduced to an information cell. This cell continues to collect and disseminate mine-related information, and coordinate EOD and mine clearance operations conducted by Moroccan and Polisario forces. The UN peace-keeping presence in Lebanon and Kuwait (UNIFIL and UNIKOM) also pose similar planning difficulties, with EOD and clearance teams needing to be available in support of the deployment of peace-keeping troops.
Given the scope of the landmine problem, the wide spectrum of factors needing to be taken into consideration and the number of actors involved, the development of an appropriate information management system has been a priority for UNMAS. It has been apparent that such a system will greatly support and enhance monitoring, planning and programme implementation throughout all mine action activities, and will serve the needs not only of the United Nations but also of other partners by providing a better picture of the worldwide landmine threat. The initiative to create this Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) has been facilitated through an agreement between UNMAS and the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining.
Initial steps in the development of the IMSMA field module have been completed and the module has been successfully deployed in Kosovo and Yemen, providing a theatre-wide tool for the collection, maintenance and dissemination of data on landmines and their impact. UNMAS is also providing ongoing support to the provision of training courses to IMSMA users, while actively demonstrating and advocating the use of this system to selected organisations, national governments and other mine action partners. The IMSMA field module is being made available to new and existing mine action programmes, with a view to providing a benchmark system for the consolidation and use of landmine data in affected countries throughout the world.
The development of the complementary IMSMA headquarters module is also underway, incorporating both information processing and dissemination modules, with additional tools such as the recently-developed Database of Mine Action Investments also being included. The adoption of such a modular approach in the development of the IMSMA system means that the product can be maintained as a living and developing asset to the mine action community, with scope for improvement and adjustment as the situation requires. In the same manner, valuable secondary benefits are also making themselves apparent in the development of enhanced headquarters databases and country profiling systems, resulting in improved information processing mechanisms within the Mine Action Service.
In addition to these projects, UNMAS is also in the process of re-developing its World Wide Web presence in order to better serve the wider mine action community and provide a clearer and more user-friendly interface with the growing number of electronic media users. This will provide enhanced opportunities for consciousness-raising and advocacy efforts, while also providing better information to all levels of the international community. In such a manner, information relating to UN mine action activities can be made accessible to a larger, more diverse population.
Quality management and technology
UNMAS has remained committed to the development, maintenance and promotion of technical and safety standards for mine action, expanding the scope and coverage of available literature in order to ensure that coherent and clear reference sources are available for guidance. These standards provide a benchmark for future UN supported mine action operations, while also being openly available to other users to ensure a clear understanding of internationally accepted procedures and standards on all relevant issues.
Key among these efforts is the review of the International Standards for Humanitarian Mine Clearance Operations, which were produced originally in 1997 as a result of working group consultations in Denmark the previous year. This review process, conducted every two years, will see expert user-focus groups providing input into a re-drafting of the document, reflecting new technologies, experience gained and ongoing developments in the field. Commitment to such a process will ensure that this effort remains current and applicable to clearance operations both now and in the future.
To complement activities related to the development of standards, UNMAS is also devising a policy framework for the overall standards and guidelines process in order to ensure a coordinated and coherent direction for the numerous projects underway. These include activities relating to clearance, surveys, use of dogs, mechanical equipment, mine awareness, victim assistance and social reintegration, as well as quality management. This document, to be created in active consultation with all concerned partners and entities, is intended to augment related policy documents and provide a further link between policy formulation and implementation.
In this context, the training of personnel is also considered to be an essential component of overall quality management. In a 1997 study, the United Nations observed that “middle and senior level management skills are one of the biggest challenges facing training programmes, and are central to the task of developing an indigenous mine action capacity.” In collaboration with UNMAS, UNDP subsequently conducted an assessment of the training needs of national and local mine action managers in January 1999, with workshops being developed to target appropriate participants.
With regard to mine action-related technology, there is growing acceptance that a more universal application of existing equipment could enable activities to be conducted more effectively, efficiently, and with less risk. UNMAS has been called upon to take an important role in this regard through the collection and dissemination of appropriate information and the development of applicable standards, where required and practical. With the support of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), UNMAS has drafted International Guidelines for the Procurement of Mine action Equipment, with results being discussed with all partners concerned. Future UNMAS directed projects, implemented through the GICHD, will compliment this work and provide a more coordinated approach to the ongoing development of new technology while also ensuring that items currently in existence are assessed and utilised appropriately.
Advocacy and consciousness-raising
Advocacy and consciousness-raising activities are integral parts of the international effort to rid the world of landmines. In the past two years, UNMAS has taken a lead role in support of a global ban on landmines and in the development of materials that stigmatise the use of these weapons. More than 250,000 consciousness-raising materials, including posters, bookmarks, books, videos and stickers with anti-landmine messages, in addition to the quarterly United Nations Landmines Magazine, have reached up to 50,000 institutions, decision-makers and concerned individuals worldwide.
UNMAS has also developed minefield simulators and significant travelling exhibitions as extremely effective awareness-raising tools, especially in countries with little or no experience with landmine contamination. These items, initially created for a conference in Tokyo in 1997, have since travelled throughout the world, to London, Glasgow, Athens, Geneva, Vienna and New York. An improved simulator is also under development, as well as a mine action CD-ROM to be used as both an instrument of advocacy and a teaching tool. Grants are also being provided to selected mine action programmes to develop public service announcements for national broadcast.
UNMAS staff is also repeatedly called upon to support public conferences, media occasions and educational activities throughout the world. These occasions provide a key opportunity to interact with a broad and attentive audience, to spread awareness of the issue and generate local grass roots interest in achieving a solution.
UNMAS sees this role continuing and expanding through the use of developing media and the global reach of current technology, while also remaining committed to nurturing lower level development of consciousness raising activities. Close partnership with the larger UN body has also offered opportunities to expand this capacity through a number of joint high profile fora.
The vast majority of UN mine action activities are funded from voluntary donor contributions, making resource mobilisation instrumental to the success of these endeavours. As UN focal point, UNMAS coordinates these resource mobilisation efforts and manages the Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action, which acts as the central funding mechanism for many UN projects. Each year a consolidated Portfolio of Mine-related Projects is prepared to support this process, providing brief descriptions and budget requirements for all UN mine action programmes and projects, including those implemented by UNDP, UNOPS, UNICEF and other UN agencies or programmes. UNMAS also actively liases with the donor community through a variety of regular and ad hoc meetings and consultations to discuss priorities and funding gaps and to ensure continued support of projects.
The Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action (VTF) was established in 1994 to support the overall coordination of UN mine action, to finance the initiation of new mine action projects and activities, and to bridge funding gaps in ongoing programmes. Contributions received in the VTF amounted to $300,000 in 1994, $16.3 million in 1995, $11.6 million in 1996, $8.1 million in 1997, $11.1 million in 1998, $11.9 million in 1999, and $4.09 million in the first four months of 2000. Support has been provided by forty-two donor governments and the European Union, with disbursements being applied to programmes in nineteen severely affected countries.
Reporting on the use of these funds has remained a key issue for all concerned parties to ensure the required level of transparency and to instil confidence in UN funding mechanisms. This has been achieved through the publication and distribution of regular updates and feedback on funds usage, particularly in mission areas, which saw eighteen reports issued in 1999 to seven countries, and an anticipated coverage of approximately sixty other contributions in 2000.
Even as lives continue to be saved and valuable assets returned to productive use through the elimination of landmines, the success of mine action endeavours remains dependant on the political commitment of the parties involved, on the overall security situation, and on the effective co-operation of all other parties willing to provide assistance. In its capacity as UN focal point for mine action, UNMAS stands ready to facilitate and support all international efforts in this regard.
Annex: List of United Nations Resources Relating To Mine Action
General Assembly Resolutions
- Assistance in mine action. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly at the 84th plenary meeting on 17 December 1999, A/RES/54/191.
- Assistance in mine action. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly at the 60th plenary meeting on 17 November 1998. A/RES/53/26.
- Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly at the 79th plenary meeting on 4 December 1998. A/RES/53/81.
- Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and On Their Destruction. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly at the 79th plenary meeting on 4 December 1998. A/RES/53/77[N].
Reports of the UN Secretary-General
- Assistance in mine action. Report of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly at the 54th session on 6 October 1999. A/54/445.
- Assistance in mine clearance. Report of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly at the 53rd session on 14 October 1998. A/53/496.
- Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects. Report of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly at the 53rd session on 16 June 1998. A/53/159.
- An international agreement to ban anti-personnel landmines. Report of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly at the 52nd session on 6 August 1997. A/52/268 + Add.1.
Policy, International Standards and Guidelines
- International Guidelines for Landmine and Unexploded Ordnance Awareness Education. United Nations, 1999.
- United Nations and the Use of the Militaries. United Nations, 1999.
- Mine Action and Effective Coordination: the United Nations Policy. United Nations, 1998.
- International Standards for Humanitarian Mine Clearance Operations. United Nations, 1998.
- Study Report, the Development of Indigenous Mine Action Capacities. UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs, 1997.
- Anti-Personnel Land-Mines. A Scourge on Children. UNICEF, 1994.
- Burundi. Inter-agency Assessment Mission Report. August 1998.
- Ethiopia. Inter-agency Assessment Mission Report. June 1998.
- Jordan. Inter-agency Assessment Mission Report. May 1999.
- Lebanon. Inter-agency Assessment Mission Report. May 1999.
- North-West Somalia. Inter-agency Assessment Mission Report. June 1998.
- Azerbaijan. Inter-agency Assessment Mission Report. November 1998.
- Yemen. Inter-agency Assessment Mission Report. September 1998.
- Ecuador. Inter-agency Assessment Mission Report. November 1999.
- Peru. Inter-agency Assessment Mission Report. December 1999.
- Sierra Leone. Technical Assessment Mission Report. February 2000.
- Zimbabwe. Inter-agency Assessment Mission Report. February 2000.
- Namibia. Inter-agency Assessment Mission Report. March 2000.
- Landmines. Demining News from the United Nations. Magazine. Vol. 1.1 January 1996, Vol. 1.2 April 1996, Vol. 1.3 July 1996, Vol. 2.1 January 1997, Vol. 2.2 May 1997, Vol. 2.3 October 1997, Vol. 2.4 December 1997, Vol. 3.1 April 1998, Volume 3.2 Fourth Quarter 1998, A Special Issue April 1999.
- Portfolio of Mine-related Projects. United Nations. April 1999.
- UN Terminology Bulletin 349, Humanitarian Demining, 1997.