The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) is a division of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the focal point for mine action in the UN system. Its role is to ensure an effective, proactive and coordinated UN response to landmines and explosive remnants of war through collaboration with other UN departments, agencies, programmes and funds.
UNMAS chairs the UN Inter-Agency Coordination Group for Mine Action (IACG-MA), comprising representatives from the 14 UN departments, agencies, programmes and funds involved in mine action. It also chairs the Steering Committee on Mine Action, comprising representatives of the IACG-MA and nongovernmental organizations. In addition, UNMAS coordinates the United Nations’ input to the Standing Committees of the anti-personnel mine-ban treaty and meetings of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. UNMAS coordinates threat-monitoring and inter-agency assessment missions and the development and monitoring of all UN mine action policies and strategies.
Policies, strategies and guidelines
In 2004, UNMAS spearheaded a revision of the United Nations mine-action policy of 1998. On 6 June 2005, Mine Action and Effective Coordination: the United Nations Inter-Agency Policy, was approved by the principals of the IACG-MA. The objectives of the policy are to ensure that all UN mine-action team members are operating with the same purpose, to clarify the way in which decisions are made and coordination is achieved among UN players, and to describe the UN role in, and contribution to, mine action, including roles and responsibilities.
The principals of the IACG-MA adopted a new UN mine-action advocacy strategy, which is significant to the mine-ban movement because it draws on the comparative strengths of various UN-system partners and encourages initiatives that will inform or influence governments, the UN system, donors, the general public, non-state actors, nongovernmental organizations and national and regional mine-action organizations. This advocacy covers issues such as encouraging universal participation in the anti-personnel mine-ban treaty and “good humanitarian donorship” for mine action. UNMAS heads a working group that developed and now helps implement the new advocacy strategy.
UNMAS also led the development of new Gender Guidelines for Mine Action Programmes, which were issued in January 2005. The guidelines are intended to help UN mine-action policy-makers and field personnel incorporate gender perspectives into mine-action initiatives and operations.
The Voluntary Trust Fund was established by the Secretary-General in 1994 to provide resources for mine action where other sources of funding are not immediately available. It is used primarily to finance assessment missions to monitor the scope of the landmine/ERW threat in affected countries, support coordination and operations in UNMAS-managed mine-action programmes, bridge funding gaps in mine-action programmes and support UNMAS’ ability to implement its inter-agency coordination and global advocacy and outreach mandate.
In 2004, 23 governments, the European Commission and the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs together contributed about $44 million to the Voluntary Trust Fund for assistance in Mine Action, which UNMAS manages.
In addition, UNMAS received approximately $11 million in 2004 from the assessed budgets of UN peacekeeping missions and about $650,000 from the UN “peacekeeping support account.”
Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World
UNMAS coordinated substantive UN input into the first five-year review conference of the anti-personnel mine-ban treaty (Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World) in late 2004.
In the lead-up to the conference, UNMAS coordinated assistance to mine-affected countries to develop national plans to meet their mine-ban treaty obligations and to list priorities and budget requirements for 2005-2009.
The plan development process revealed wide disparities in the scope of the problem. Namibia’s national plan reflects only the need to address isolated cases of mines and explosive remnants of war while countries such as Malawi, Zambia or Guinea-Bissau can be cleared with limited investment. At the other end of the spectrum are nine countries where mines contaminate more than 80 percent of their provinces. This group includes Afghanistan, Angola and Mozambique, as well as Chad, Jordan and Yemen.
Programme management and project implementation
In specific peacekeeping, complex emergency and rapid response settings, UNMAS establishes and manages mine-action coordination centers and operations and is responsible for planning and resource mobilization. UNMAS also oversees surveys, prioritizes work and assigns tasks, sets technical safety standards, supports victim assistance initiatives, and provides technical advice on stockpile destruction and the removal of explosive remnants of war. UNMAS also conducts quality management and accident investigations.
UNMAS is responsible for the UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan, which coordinates the country’s mine-action programme on behalf of the government.
In 2004, the Centre focused clearance operations on 281 highly impacted communities and on reconstruction and recovery projects, such as major roads. As a result of these operations, about 78 million square metres of cleared land were returned to communities that year and reconstruction activities moved forward.
Clearance teams destroyed 10,252 anti-personnel mines, 526 anti-tank mines, 1,297,028 items of UXO and 2,530 other devices. Clearance teams supporting reconstruction projects destroyed an additional 291,482 items of unexploded ordnance (UXO).
Mine action helped improve access to land for housing, farming, markets, transport and reconstruction. It contributed to an improvement in personal security and provided employment to over 8,700 people.
The Centre is facilitating the transfer of responsibility for the national mine-action programme to the government.
As part of the UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB), established by a UN Security Council resolution in June 2004, UNMAS set up a mine-action coordination centre within one month of the mandate. In addition to supporting ONUB, the centre assisted the national authorities and other partners in coordinating and implementing emergency mine action to support humanitarian relief efforts, including the repatriation of refugees and internally displaced persons. Mines and UXO are a constant danger, hindering people’s movement and the resumption of normal economic activities. A total of 318 mine/UXO victims were reported from five of the 16 provinces in 2004.
Assisting the UN force in Cyprus, UNMAS provided technical support and oversight to the UN Development Programme’s European Union-funded demining project in the buffer zone in Cyprus in 2004. Demining began in November and has been conducted by Armour Group. The Mines Advisory Group has provided quality assurance. Through January 2005, the project had cleared 75,340 square meters of minefields, resulting in the destruction of 399 anti-personnel mines and 874 anti-tank mines.
Democratic Republic of Congo
UNMAS manages the Mine Action Coordination Centre of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC). In 2004, five implementers were involved in operations: MECHEM, Handicap International-Belgium, the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action, Mines Advisory Group and DanChurchAid.
In total, 607 dangerous areas have been registered on the Centre’s Information Management System for Mine Action.
Prioritisation of clearance operations focused on normalisation of socio-economic activities in affected areas and on route clearance to allow for the free movement of MONUC staff. In total, 636,780 square metres of land were cleared. The reopening of routes facilitated the free movement of people and goods between the Ituri district and North Kivu.
Operations in support of MONUC, carried out by MECHEM, focused on the verification of the Bunia-Beni road in Ituri District, as well as area clearance as required by MONUC. Survey activities by DanChurchAid identified 51 new mined areas and 58 new UXO-contaminated areas.
Ethiopia and Eritrea
The Mine Action Coordination Centre of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) coordinated mine-action operations in the Temporary Security Zone and adjacent areas. The Centre supported the mission’s overall objectives: the mobility and security of the peacekeeping force and the activities of the Ethiopian Eritrean Boundary Commission’s demarcation project. The Centre also provided assistance to the Eritrean Demining Authority.
Within UNMEE, the Centre, along with the Force Mine Action Centre, acts as an integrated military-civilian mine-action coordinating body. Military and civilian mine-action personnel plan, coordinate, implement and monitor all mine-action operations in the mission area.
In total, UNMEE assets cleared 769,593 square metres of land, involving the destruction of 1,108 anti-personnel mines, 10 anti-tank mines and 3,612 items of unexploded ordnance.
UNMAS transferred its lead responsibility for UN mine action in Iraq to the UN Development Programme in January 2004. However, UNMAS continued to support the National Mine Action Authority of Iraq through funding for two organisations that had commenced work under UNMAS auspices in late 2003. The adverse security situation in central and southern parts of the country significantly hampered the implementation of the UN-supported mine-action activities with no UN international staff member allowed to work inside the country. Mine Tech International continued to work in Iraq through 2004, in support of the National Mine Action Authority, clearing 372,367 items of explosive ordnance, including 2,972 anti-personnel mines, 722 anti-tank mines and 1,530 sub-munitions. Area cleared totalled 6,405,541 square meters. A project with InterSoS was begun in early 2004 to train Iraqis to create a national explosive ordnance disposal capacity for southern Iraq. But in April of that year, the deteriorating security situation caused InterSoS to suspend its activities.
The United Arab Emirates and UN-supported Mine Action Coordination Centre in southern Lebanon continued to support Operation Emirates Solidarity through task planning, prioritisation, monitoring, coordination and quality assurance in 2004. This facilitated the clearance of some 60,000 landmines in 24 months, thus releasing nearly 5,000,000 square meters of contaminated land back to the local communities. The most recent phase of Operations Emirates Solidarity began on 19 January 2004 and was successfully completed in May that same year. While individual mines and UXO will still be reported and dealt with for some time, the area of operations to date may now be considered free from the impact of landmines.
The Mine Action Coordination Centre continued to provide support to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, including landmine safety and mine-risk education, technical advice and coordination, and other support in 2004. Operation Emirates Solidarity addressed 66 dangerous areas, resulting in the clearance of over 91,000 square meters of mined land and the destruction of 1,461 landmines.
In late 2004, UNMAS’ mine-action programme took on additional responsibilities to support the UN Advance Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS), established by Security Council Resolution 1547 (2004). UNAMIS’ mandate was, inter alia, to bolster the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and the Government of Sudan. The UNAMIS mandate entailed the development of a mine-action programme to coordinate and conduct mine-action activities in the mission’s area of operations. In March 2005, Security Council Resolution 1590 established the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and called on it “to assist the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in cooperation with other international partners in the mine action sector, by providing humanitarian demining assistance, technical advice and coordination.” The resolution added that “The United Nations will, in addition, support the National Mine Action Office and the New Sudan Mine Action Directorate to plan and coordinate all mine action operations in Sudan after the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement and progressively assist in building a sustainable mine action programme to meet long-term mine action needs...”
The emergency mine-action programme continued to support the development of the National Mine Action Office for the north and the New Sudan Mine Action Directorate for southern Sudan in 2004. The programme coordinated the demining efforts of implementing partners: RONCO, DanChurchAid, Landmine Action UK, the Swiss Federation for Mine Action, MECHEM, Norwegian People’s Aid, and Mines Advisory Group.
The roles of the National Mine Action Office and the New Sudan Mine Action Directorate have been to ensure that all mine-action activities are planned in accordance with the humanitarian principles of impartiality and neutrality, and have the prior agreement of the government of Sudan and/or the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. The Nuba Regional Mine Action Office in Kadugli and the Southern Sudan Regional Mine Action Office in Rumbek continued to coordinate all mine-action activities in their areas. Mine-action sub-offices were established in Kassala, Ed Damazin, Malakal, Juba and Wau.
Several surveys identified 233 affected communities with 646 associated dangerous areas as of mid-2005. Also as of mid-2005, the programme had destroyed 167,485 items of UXO, 52,143 small-arms munitions, 475 anti-personnel mines and 464 anti-tank mines. In the first half of 2005 alone, the programme cleared 319,394 square meters of suspected dangerous area and destroyed 23,643 pieces of UXO, 51,298 small-arms munitions, and 132 anti-personnel mines and 64 anti-tank mines.
In the Nuba Mountains, road clearance, including that of the Kauda Heiban road, resulted in trade between villages and access to routes for delivery of humanitarian aid. Other road-clearance projects, including the Al Reila-Salamat road, resulted in improved trade and access to rural villages. Area clearance in Katcha opened land for villagers to plant additional crops and build homes. Clearance in Krongo resulted in the elimination of the mine threat in the vicinity of a water source, which created access to grazing land. These positive effects are also seen in southern Sudan where route clearance has opened the Lokkichoggio-Rumbek road as far as Kapoeta, the Yei road as far as Juba, the Kosti Road as far as Malakal, and has allowed access to land in Yei itself.
UNMAS develops and maintains technical safety standards for mine action and is the guardian of the International Mine Action Standards. The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining and UNMAS together regularly revise and update the standards. UNMAS also coordinates updates to a database of lessons learned in mine action. This database is managed for UNMAS by the James Madison University. In addition, UNMAS coordinates the analysis of a database of demining accidents to identify safety messages, which are available to mine-action practitioners.
UN Mine Action Service
Department of Peacekeeping Operations
Two UN Plaza, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10017
+1 (212) 963-1875