The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) was formed in October 1997 to serve as focal point for mine action in the United Nations and to support the UN’s vision of “a world free of the threat of landmines and UXO, where individuals and communities live in a safe environment conducive to development, and where mine survivors are fully integrated into their societies.”
UNMAS is responsible within the UN system for policy development and coordination, assessment of the landmine threat, programme initiation and support, information management, quality management and technology, advocacy and treaty implementation, and resource mobilization. To this end, UNMAS coordinates the work of the 14 UN offices, departments, programmes and funds involved in mine action. UNMAS also manages or supports mine action operations in humanitarian emergencies and peacekeeping operations.
The Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action (VTF), established by the Secretary-General in 1994, finances missions to assess the scope of the landmine threat in affected countries, to support UN-managed or supported mine-action programmes, to bridge funding gaps in UN mine-action programmes, and to support UN mine action coordination and advocacy. In 2003, 20 donors contributed a total of $56.8 million to the VTF.
UN Mine Action Strategy
Through resolution 57/159 in December 2002, the General Assembly requested a formal review of the UN Mine Action Strategy for 2001-2005, taking into account the "views of the member states and taking into consideration the impact of the landmine problem on rehabilitation, reconstruction and development, in order to ensure the effectiveness of assistance in mine action by the United Nations.” In the first half of 2003, UNMAS launched a review and invited UN and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), representatives of donor and mine-affected countries to reassess priorities for the next two years. The result was a revision that reflects recent progress made in the sector and guides the United Nations in dealing with new or continuing challenges.
Gender and Mine Action
The revised UN Mine Action Strategy states that, “Just as women, girls and boys tend to do different work, have differing mobility patterns and contribute to family and community life in diverse ways, their possible exposure to landmines and UXO and the impact upon them will vary considerably...The unique needs and distinct perspectives of women and men, girls and boys must be taken into consideration in the design, implementation and evaluation of mine-action programmes.” In November 2003, UNMAS contracted a consultant to lead the development of guidelines for integrating gender considerations into all aspects of mine action. Although the guidelines are intended for UN staff, they are also expected to benefit other organizations.
In 2003 UNMAS led the development of an inter-agency advocacy strategy to ensure that UN system partners are contributing to advocacy for and with persons affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war in ways that exploit the capacities and comparative advantages of each agency or department. The new advocacy strategy aims to inform or influence the general public, non-state actors, NGOs, and UN, national and regional mine-action organizations. The strategy’s goals include calling on all states to take legislative, political and financial steps to combat the effects of landmines and explosive remnants of war; raising the public’s awareness of landmines and explosive remnants of war and of efforts to combat the problem; and making donors aware of funding needs.
In December 2003 UNMAS, in collaboration with UNICEF and UNDP, published the 2004 edition of the Portfolio of Mine Action Projects, which featured more than 300 project proposals from civil society, NGOs and UN agencies, departments, and funds. The record number of projects and combined budgets of $280 million—up from the previous year’s $200 million—resulted largely from increased participation of field operators, especially NGOs. Preparation of the 2004 edition involved, for the first time, country portfolio coordinators, who were responsible for convening mine-action partners—from the United Nations, NGOs and other organizations—to identify priorities and ensure that projects support national mine-action strategies.
Support to Field Operations
Central to UNMAS-managed operations in 2003 were mine-action coordination centres, or MACCs, which coordinate the work of international organizations, NGOs, commercial companies, military organizations, donor-country representatives and other actors. MACCs collaborate with stakeholders to establish priorities; collect and disseminate data; prepare mine-action strategies integrated with humanitarian, peacekeeping or development strategies; coordinate accreditation and quality assurance; and assign tasks.
UNMAS continues to manage the UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (UNMACA), which is responsible for planning, coordination and oversight of mine action on behalf of the Government of Afghanistan. UNMACA coordinated the development of a 10-year strategy for making Afghanistan free from the effects of mines in consultation with more than a dozen government ministries, donor representatives, the NGO community and UN partner agencies in the field and at their headquarters. The plan aims to clear all high-priority mined areas by 2007, with lower-impact areas cleared in the following five years. The plan also integrates reconstruction and humanitarian tasks in order to ensure appropriate assets are available to each, while also reflecting the ongoing production of information through an updated national landmine impact survey still under way. Implementation of the plan will be facilitated by the Mine Action Consultative Group (MACG), established by the government in 2003. The group, chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, includes officials from several ministries and departments, donors, UN representatives and national and international partner organizations. It is a mechanism for planning, policy development and resource mobilisation. A Task Force of the MACG has been specifically established to develop the framework plan for the transition of responsibility for the Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan from the UN to the national authorities.
In 2003, UNMACA strived to integrate the mine action with the government’s development and reconstruction efforts, with funding from sources such as the Asian Development Bank, the European Commission, Japan and the World Bank. One key achievement last year was the clearing of mines from the Kabul-Kandahar road, which reopened in December. UNMACA and UNMAS made considerable effort to mobilize funds to support these initiatives. In 2003, Afghanistan received more than $30 million through the Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action. These funds supported the activities of the implementing NGOs throughout the country.
Democratic Republic of Congo
UNMAS established the Mine Action Coordination Centre in Kinshasa (under the auspices of the UN Organization Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo—MONUC) and one regional office in Kisangani in 2002. Since then, the Centre has provided mine-action expertise to MONUC, the humanitarian community and national authorities and agencies, directed emergency landmine-impact surveys to be used in the development of a national mine-action plan, implemented emergency mine/UXO clearance, and assisted UNICEF and other organizations in a nationwide risk-prevention campaign. In 2003, the Centre completed technical surveys, cleared mines/UXO from the Bunia, Kindu and Manono airfields and from the road connecting Bunia to Marabu.
In 2003, a newly combined UNMAS-managed Mine Action Coordination Center and Peacekeeping Force Mine Action Center (MACC/FMAC) in the Temporary Security Zone between Ethiopia and Eritrea became responsible for prioritizing and assigning mine-action tasks within UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE). The MACC/FMAC has coordination and operational functions in mine-risk education, explosive ordnance disposal, medical services, clearance operations, marking and mapping, and emergency response. The MACC/FMAC has overseen UNMEE’s coordinated mine-action response in the mission area. Through the deployment of the peacekeeping force’s demining assets, more than 12 million square metres of land were cleared in 2003. This situation is significant in that it represents the first occasion where both peacekeeping force and humanitarian mine action assets have been fully integrated to work together under the auspices of a single coordination mechanism. In addition, the MACC has provided support to the Mine Action Capacity Building Programme of the UN Development Programme, which took over responsibility for UN-managed mine-action capacity building efforts in the country.
Before the war in Iraq, the United Nations had implemented a new rapid-response plan to lay the groundwork for post-conflict mine action in the country. After the worst of the fighting was declared over, UN officials were deployed to the country and established a Mine Action Coordination Team (MACT) in Baghdad and an Area Mine Action Coordination Team in Basrah to oversee, prioritise and assign mine-action tasks. In May 2003, when the UN Security Council approved Resolution 1483 authorizing the United Nations to work with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the MACT and AMACT reoriented their work toward advising Iraq’s National Mine Action Authority. But the attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003 forced the United Nations to evacuate its staff. Through a memorandum of understanding signed in January 2004, UNMAS agreed to transfer lead responsibility for UN mine-action assistance in Iraq to the UN Development Programme as soon as circumstances permit the United Nations to return to the country.
The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) established a Mine Action Coordination Cell within the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in June 2000 to coordinate operations in the southern part of the country. The UNIFIL cell gathered and analyzed minefield data to assist Lebanon’s National Demining Office (NDO) in setting priorities for mine clearance. The cell also promoted coordination of operations among the National Demining Office, the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL. In 2002, UNMAS collaborated with the Government of the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon’s National Demining Office (NDO) to establish a Mine Action Coordination Centre in Southern Lebanon (MACC-SL). Since then, the MACC-SL has been implementing Operation Emirates Solidarity (OES), a mine-action programme funded by the United Arab Emirates. Services provided through the MACC-SL include technical support, training to some OES and NDO staff, and contracting of companies and NGOs. Since the start of the OES through December 2003, a total of 4,841,000 square metres of contaminated land have been cleared and returned to communities in southern Lebanon. About 70,000 landmines and items of UXO were located and destroyed.
Serbia & Montenegro (Kosovo)
In Kosovo in 2003, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Management Team served as focal point for all UXO and mine-clearance activities for the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). The section also continued developing the mine- and UXO-detection and clearance capacities of the Office of the Kosovo Protection Corps, clearing remaining dangerous areas, and carrying out a community-level mine-risk education and public-information campaign. The Explosive Ordnance Disposal Management Team also continued coordinating the clearance efforts of the Kosovo Protection Corps and Handicap International, which were funded in part through the Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action.
In Sudan, the National Mine Action Office (NMAO), established in 2002 by the Emergency Mine Action Programme, which UNMAS manages, continues to ensure that mine-action is coordinated, planned and carried out in accordance with the principals of impartiality and neutrality and with prior agreement of the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. In 2003, the Emergency Mine Action Programme further developed two regional offices: the Nuba Mountains Regional Mine Action Office (NRMAO) in Kadugli and the Southern Sudan regional Mine Action Office (SSRMAO) in Rumbek. The SSRMAO will co-ordinate mine action throughout SPLA-controlled southern Sudan. Assistance to survivors of landmines and UXO is central to the Emergency Mine Action Programme’s work. The NMAO and the SSRMAO are gathering and analyzing casualty data, which are shared with the World Health Organization and others to guide the provision of emergency medical care and the development of rehabilitation centres and prosthetic facilities.
In January 2003, UNMAS led an inter-agency assessment mission to Tunisia. The group found that the most significant antipersonnel and antitank mine threat lies within nine marked and fenced areas along the borders with Libya and Algeria. Some threat of UXO exists throughout the country. The mine-affected areas are sparsely populated with little economic or social development. Consequently, the overall impact of mines is limited, and the number of casualties from both mines and UXO is small. A number of minefields, however, are hampering the construction of a highway and oil pipeline along the main road from Tunis to Tripoli. Tunisia’s desire to address its mine and UXO problem today stems from the country’s participation in the antipersonnel mine-ban treaty. The mission recommended that mine-risk education would further reduce casualties and that the government and the United Nations together explore establishing a small-scale mine-action programme.
In August 2003, UNMAS also led an inter-agency mission to Malawi that found landmines affect the 1,000 kilometre border with Mozambique and stem from a conflict in Mozambique that spilled over into Malawi in the early 1990s. In addition, 33 defunct training camps of the paramilitary Malawi Young Pioneers are thought to be contaminated. Recurrent flooding in Malawi has caused mined-areas to shift over the years, exacerbating the problem. The mission recommended that the government and the United Nations explore options for a more detailed assessment of affected areas. The group also recommended that a national awareness campaign and mine-risk education programme be launched as soon as possible.
An UNMAS official traveled to Monrovia in September 2003 before the deployment of the UN Mission in Liberia to assess the extent of the landmine and UXO problem stemming from the 1999-2003 conflict. Drawing on information from government and peacekeeping officials in the capital, the UNMAS official identified no serious threat from landmines to the civilian population, the peacekeeping operation or humanitarian aid workers but did, however find that UXO poses a threat, which could be mitigated through mine-risk education and by tasking peacekeeping engineering units to conduct explosive ordnance disposal.
UNMAS continued to manage the Landmine and Unexploded Ordnance Safety Project (LSP). While mine-risk education is intended to reach the general public in mine-infested communities, the LSP targets institutions working in hazardous settings to minimize mine-related accidents. In 2003 UNMAS convened eight "train-the-trainer" workshops for 150 participants working in 60 different organizations from 12 countries/territories, exceeding the original target of 10 countries. These workshops covered Burundi, Chad, Chechnya (Russian Federation), Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Myanmar, Tajikistan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Western Sahara (Morocco). The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) participated for the second time. The workshops were conducted by Handicap International-France.
Point of Contact:
United Nations Mine Action Service
Department of Peacekeeping Operations
Two UN Plaza, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10017
+1 (212) 963-8495