The “Comprehensive Action against Antipersonnel Mines” (AICMA) program of the Organization of American States (OAS), is an integrated effort to assist OAS Member States in addressing the continuing problems caused by the existence of antipersonnel landmines. The Program developed from the Assistance Program for Demining in Central America (PADCA), which was created in 1991 at the request of the mine-affected countries of Central America. Since its initiation, AICMA has incorporated the previously existing demining program into its structure, while serving as the focal point for the OAS on all landmine issues throughout the Americas. Through its mandates, the OAS General Assembly has extended the goals of the Program to include the total elimination of landmines and the conversion of the Western Hemisphere into an antipersonnel-landmine-free zone. It has also called on the component organizations of the Inter-American System to participate in the development of programs to support mine risk awareness and preventive education, the physical and psychological rehabilitation of victims, and the socio-economic reclamation of demined zones.
Since May 1995, responsibility for the general coordination and supervision of the Program has been assigned to the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy (UPD), with the technical support of the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB). The main responsibilities of the UPD include fund raising in the international community, financial management, political and diplomatic coordination, and ensuring that all essential components of each national demining project are available and functioning properly. The IADB is responsible for organizing the international team of about 30 supervisors from OAS Member States that provide technical support, training and certification of demining procedures in the beneficiary countries in accordance with international standards.
A distinctive feature of the Program is its multilateral nature, with the participation of countries that include Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, El Salvador, France, Germany, Great Britain, Guatemala, Holland, Honduras, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, the United States, and Venezuela, providing either financial or personnel support. During 2000, contributions from the international community amounted to approximately US$ 6 million.
The Program also relies upon a significant level of coordination with international and non-governmental organizations. In the past year, cooperation with the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) on several projects enhanced coordination and execution. Among these were the establishment of the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) database and a user focus group review of the revised International Mine Action Standards. In both cases, the Program worked directly with the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), which handled the detailed execution of these projects for UNMAS. The Program established and broadened contact with other organizations, including UNICEF, Pan American Health Organization, Trust for the Americas, Center for International Rehabilitation, Guatemalan Rehabilitation Association, Center for the Promotion of Integrated Rehabilitation, Cooperative Association of the Independent Group for Total Rehabilitation, Central American Bank for Economic Integration, Landmine Survivors Network, Canadian Landmine Foundation, Survey Action Center, Mines Advisory Group and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.
Costa Rica. By May 2001, Costa Rican deminers had destroyed 327 mines and UXO and had cleared more than 131,000 square meters of land along the border with Nicaragua. However, the pace of operations slowed in 2000 due to the lack of a medical evacuation helicopter, forcing demining units to work only in areas that are accessible to evacuation by light airplane. Based on this situation, the Ministry of Public Security, which is the national mine action authority, revised the projected completion date to June 2002.
Guatemala. Operations continued with the participation of the Volunteer Firemen’s Corps, the Guatemalan Army, demobilized members of the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union (URNG) and international supervisors from the IADB. In accordance with the Guatemalan National Plan for Demining and Destruction of Unexploded Ordnance, demining activities were concentrated in the Department of Quiche, one of the most seriously affected areas of the country. Because the primary threat comes from the heavy concentration of UXO in many parts of the country for which no documented registry exists, extensive efforts are required to identify hazardous areas through an integrated mine risk awareness campaign. To date, some 235 unexploded devices have been located and destroyed, and clearance of all high-priority areas is programmed for completion in 2005.
Honduras. Operations have entered their final phase along the border with Nicaragua. During 2000, two general surveys were conducted along the border with El Salvador and at a former military base in Olancho Department. In both cases, there was no indication from local authorities or inhabitants of the existence of mines, confirming that the conclusion of the current six-month module in September 2001 would complete the demining program in Honduras. However, international supervisors will continue to assist with quality control inspections using mine detection dogs in areas that were cleared prior to the start of the canine program in 1999.
Nicaragua. In January 2001, the Nicaraguan Army reported that of more than 135,000 mines originally emplaced in the country, about 73,000 remained to be destroyed. The OAS Program funded the demining activities of two 100-member demining units (Operational Fronts 3 and 4), plus the formation of two additional units. In June 2000, operations were initiated by 100 deminers of the newly-organized Operational Front 5 in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region. In January 2001, a 60-member Independent Demining Platoon, was trained and placed into operations, to assume responsibility for landmine stockpile destruction, minefield marking and immediate reaction to mine hazard reports from communities. Two hundred deminers assigned to Operational Fronts 1 and 2, although funded through bilateral arrangements with the Government of Denmark, also came under the supervision of the IADB international team in 2001. These changes brought the number of deminers working with AICMA to about 635 and extended clearance operations to all mine-affected regions of the country. The goal of the Nicaraguan Government is the completion of its National Demining Plan by the end of 2004.
MINE AWARENESS EDUCATION.
Mine awareness programs supported by the OAS aim to reduce the risk of death and injury by promoting safety and facilitating solutions to high-risk behavior among the affected communities. The benefits of these programs are two-fold: the community members learn about the danger of landmines, while in specific cases where no landmine records exit, the communities are a primary source of information about hazardous areas. In addition, community-based preventive education campaigns have been reinforced through national radio messages and school programs. The Program supports efforts to transmit mine awareness messages using communications media and local radio stations in affected areas. In October 2000, PADCA Guatemala received an award from UNICEF for its public awareness campaign “No juguemos con la muerte” (“Let’s Not Play with Death!”).
Recently, AICMA worked with the Nicaraguan Government and UNICEF to develop a coordinated approach to mine risk awareness and preventive education in Nicaragua. A national workshop was conducted in Managua in May 2001 to bring together national and international entities involved in preventive education and to explore possible standardization of procedures and materials. The Nicaraguan Red Cross, Christian Medical Action, Nicaraguan Coalition for Humanitarian Demining, Center for Strategic Studies of Nicaragua (CEEN), Joint Commission of Disabled Persons of Madriz, Center for International Studies, Nicaraguan Army, Government of Nicaragua Ministries of Defense, Health and Education, Pan American Health Organization, UNICEF and AICMA participated. The workshop developed recommendations and agreements that will serve as a baseline for coordinated, prioritized action on mine awareness and preventive education.
The "Program for Care to Victims of Mines and Explosive Devices," which was initiated in Nicaragua in 1997, continued to grow in the past year with the assistance of the Government of Sweden. Since its inception, the program has addressed the specific needs of victims who have no social security or army benefits by providing transportation from their communities to the rehabilitation center, lodging, meals, prosthesis, therapy, and medicines. The program maintains victims’ records, including information concerning personal identification, home community, injuries, prosthesis, accident details, and photographs of the victim. This program has an overall budget of $275,000 and has provided care for about 300 persons who otherwise would be left with no chance of rehabilitation and reintegration into productive life. Limited, immediate medical support has also been provided to mine accident survivors using medical personnel and resources assigned to each of the Nicaraguan demining units until victims can be assisted through the OAS Victim Assistance Program. Last year, the program provided medical treatment, prosthesis and meals to two mine victims from Costa Rica.
In Guatemala, AICMA has also supported a program operating an independent living center, that currently houses several disabled young people from ages 14 to 35. They receive basic medical treatment, counseling, vocational and educational training, as well as training in independent living. The program also provides counseling and case management services, peer support groups and a resource library to the disabled community.
During this period, the Center for International Rehabilitation, Guatemalan Rehabilitation Association, the Center for the Promotion of Integrated Rehabilitation, the Cooperative Association of the Independent Group for Total Rehabilitation, the Landmine Survivors Network, and the OAS jointly edited and distributed the Regional Directory of Rehabilitation Resources, which provides information on rehabilitation facilities in Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador.
The role of AICMA in promoting the elimination of stockpiled antipersonnel mines in the Western Hemisphere expanded significantly over the past year. In collaboration with the Canadian Government, the program worked to raise US$ 1 million from international donors, to fund the "Managua Challenge," a project that supports efforts of requesting OAS Member States to destroy their stockpiles and to finalize and present of all reports required under Article 7 of the Convention prior to the Third Meeting of the States Parties in Managua in September 2001
To that end, the Honduran Government completed the elimination of its entire inventory of 7,741 mines in November 2000 with financial support from AICMA and technical advice from the IADB and the Canadian Government. The Nicaraguan Government also continued its efforts, initiated in 1999, to destroy the original 130,000 stockpiled mines. To this date, 68,859 mines have been destroyed. Nicaragua has programmed the remaining stocks for phased destruction to be completed as soon as possible.
ADVOCACY FOR THE LANDMINE BAN.
The Program continued to promote the interest expressed by OAS General Assembly resolutions in the universalization of the Ottawa Convention throughout the Americas. In preparation for the Third Meeting of the States Parties to the Convention, the Program advanced a working agenda focused on disseminating information about activities undertaken towards converting the Hemisphere into a mine-free zone as soon as possible.
The Program provided presentations at meetings dealing with the Ottawa Convention, such as the November 2000 Regional Seminar on the Destruction of Stockpiled Mines in the Americas, in Argentina, the February 2001 Seminar on the Ottawa Convention and Antipersonnel Mines in Colombia, and the March 2001 annual meeting of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines in Washington, DC.
PERU AND ECUADOR
Based on the mandate set forth by OAS General Assembly resolution 1745, an agreement to support a mine action program in Ecuador was signed in March 2001 and a similar program agreement between the OAS and the Peruvian Government was finalized in May 2001. The initial phase of activities in both countries will focus on accelerated mine stockpile destruction, aiming for completion by the Third Meeting of the States Parties. Ecuador and Peru have reported possession of approximately 154,000 and 335,000 mines in their stockpiles, respectively.
Following the initial stockpile destruction phase, the programs in both Ecuador and Peru will focus on other mine action tasks: humanitarian demining, mine risk awareness and preventive education, victim assistance, and restoration of demined areas. To support these activities, the OAS has maintained a specific fund for Ecuador and Peru, using contributions from the Canadian Government, totaling US$ 471,000, and from the United States, totaling US$ 1.5 million. The projected annual budget for each country program is approximately US$ 2 million.