• Mine Clearance
HOME > Intersessional Meetings > Dec. 2000 > Mine Clearance > 

Meeting Report



  1. The Standing Committee (SC) on Mine Clearance and Related Technologies, established in accordance with the decisions and recommendations of the Second Meeting of the States Parties (SMSP) of 11-14 September 2000, met in Geneva on 5/6 December 2000.

  2. At the SMSP, it was agreed in accordance with part I, paragraph 28 of the final report of the SMSP and its annex II that the Netherlands and Peru would serve as Co-Chairs, with Germany and Yemen serving as Co-Rapporteurs of the merged Committee on Mine Clearance and Related Technologies.

  3. Representatives of 77 states, 7 United Nations bodies, the Organization of American States (OAS), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) and numerous other relevant organizations were registered as participants in the meeting.

  4. The meeting of the SC received administrative support from the GICHD.

  5. The Chair thanked the Co-Chairs of the former Standing Committees of Experts on Mine Clearance and on Technologies for Mine Action for their achievements. He referred to the SMSP President's Action Programme as forming the basis for the work and objectives of the SC.

A. Standards and criteria
1. Standards

The UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) gave presentations.

UNMAS and GICHD reported that the first draft of the International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) had meanwhile been prepared and published on CD-ROM and on website. This is a milestone in the process which began over a year ago of reviewing and revising the standards which were first drawn up by UNMAS in 1997. Agreement was reached on this first draft by UNMAS, GICHD, the participating User Focus Group, Mine Action Centres and the Mine Action Support Group. Initially, there are some twenty standards, but more are to follow. Given ongoing developments, the standards will have to be revised regularly, perhaps every three years or so. The standards are intended to change attitudes, procedures and patterns of behaviour. Although they are not as such standards binding in law, the aim should be to ensure their application as far as possible, for instance, through inclusion in contracts.

There is now an opportunity to discuss the first draft of the IMAS with the Mine Action Community as a whole. Comments and proposed amendments should be addressed to UNMAS or GICHD by 10 February 2001. A second draft will then be prepared and published. Thereafter, consultations will be held in a series of workshops on specific topics at regional level and among donors. The final version of the standards is to be ready at the end of summer 2001. ICBL expressed its satisfaction in principle with the first draft and with the procedure and coordination applied in compiling it. In ICBL's view, the distinction between standards and guidelines remained an important one. In future the priority would be to ensure that the standards are applied. There would have to be incentives for this. The donors bore a particular responsibility in this regard. The application of the standards necessitated training and additional resources.

Discussion: The need to translate the standards into languages other than English so as to facilitate and ensure participation in the discussion and subsequent implementation of the standards was emphasized by several sides. The importance of taking account of practical experience of work in the field when discussing the draft and later when revising the standards was also underlined. Standards to be drawn up in future should also cover victim assistance and mine awareness.

Points for action:

  • The first draft of the IMAS (International Mine Action Standards) prepared by GICHD on behalf of UNMAS is available on CD and website.

  • All stakeholders are invited
    - to study the draft and
    - to comment on the draft before 10 February 2001.

  • After the review of the comments submitted, UNMAS/GICHD will disseminate the second draft, again subject to discussions in a number of regional and other workshops and in the field. The final version will be published by the end of the summer of 2001.

  • Initiatives by interested stakeholders to translate the drafts into other languages are welcome. However, the UN will only translate the final version of IMAS into official UN languages.

  • The IMAS are a living set of documents. After the current (twenty or so) standards are finalized, additional ones will be drafted. In future, an IMAS review should be considered approximately every three years.

  • Though the IMAS are not legal documents, steps will be examined as to how to ensure their widest possible application (i.e. integration into contracts). The new standards should also be included in training programmes as soon as possible.

2. Guidelines

Brief presentations were given by Handicap International/ICBL-MAWG on Conducive Operating Environment for Mine Action and the German Initiative to Ban Landmines on guidelines and principles for mine action.

The aim of a conducive environment is to save time, cut costs and improve impact. The following principles must be observed:

- orientation to the needs of the affected population
- involvement of the affected population from the outset
- consideration for the cultural sensitivities of the population
- traditional procedures and methods must be taken into account
- development of national capacities, training of local personnel
- rejection of quick fix solutions in favour of longer-term solutions, particularly in respect of project financing.

Discussion: While there was agreement on the abovementioned principles, the question of whether and to what extent the violation of or non-compliance with obligations by governments of mine-affected states should meet with sanctions remained open. The view was expressed that a mine-affected population must be helped even if its government does not create the necessary conducive environment for mine action.

Points for action:

  • From the experiences of the NGOs it is crucial to involve the affected communities in the planning and implementation of mine action operations from the very beginning.

  • Long-term (funding) commitments are needed in order to achieve sustainable solutions, including training of local staff to deal with the mine problem and its socio-economic impact.

B. Measures of impact and benefit

Brief presentations were given by UNDP, GICHD, the Survey Action Centre (SAC) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

UNDP and GICHD reported on the evolution and status of the "Socio-economic Analysis" study and on experience with earlier studies from Afghanistan and Cambodia. The study is in the final phase and will consist of two parts: an analytical section and an operational handbook. The first version of the handbook will be available in February 2001 and will be an important tool for all programme managers.

SAC outlined the importance of a Level-I Survey for the planning and coordination of work in the country programmes. The status of work in the various countries was described in depth. The benefit of this study for the various stakeholders was established.

Using the Southern Africa region as an example, IDRC described the development of a new Integrated Mine Action Development Strategy and outlined the importance of data processing in this field.

Discussion: The need to translate the handbook on the study into different languages was emphasized by some states. UNDP requested financial support for this either via the Voluntary Trust Fund or on a bilateral basis.

The discussion on the Level-I Survey looked at the possible role to be played by regional organizations in implementing assessment missions. The OAS briefly outlined its possibilities for providing support. UNICEF emphasized that the bottom-up flow of information is of great significance for setting expedient priorities and for involving the local level.

The real benefit and the real possibilities for application with comprehensive reliance on data processing in a number of affected countries were analyzed.

Points for action

  • The work on the socio-economic analysis study is in the final phase. It is envisaged that the handbook will be distributed in February 2001. It is considered a very helpful tool for all programme managers and will be presented during the next Standing Committee Meeting in May 2001.

C. Coordination

Brief presentations were given by ICBL, UNMAS, UNDP, OAS and MAG.

ICBL described the status of work on Landmine Monitor 2001 and its relevance for mine action. It was announced that the 3rd Report on the Global Mine Situation would be published at the 3rd Conference of States in Managua in 2001. The methods used to draw up the country reports, the funding situation and the possibility of accessing the reports on the Internet were discussed.

UNMAS reported on the status of the implementation and further development of the IMSMA data management system as an important tool in practice.

UNMAS and UNDP explained the procedures and possibilities for the worldwide coordination of mine action programmes both within the UN system and in cooperation with other organizations and national agencies.

Using the example of Central America, the OAS described the possibilities for coordination within a regional organization.

Discussion: Various sides emphasized the close incorporation of all mine clearance programmes into a country's general reconstruction and also the close cooperation with local bodies. It was also suggested that the significance of mine clearance as a peacekeeping/building element in post-conflict situations should be given more detailed consideration.

The benefits of the data information system IMSMA which has been introduced were acknowledged. However, various weak points were also mentioned:

- lack of possibilities for changes by the end-user
- no recognition of double entries
- quality assurance data cannot be entered adequately
- insufficient account is taken of incident reports
- other languages versions - besides English - are needed.

UNMAS announced that a revised version is to be presented in May 2001.

Points for action:

  • Basic information tools for the coordination process are already available, in particular:
    - ICBL Landmine Monitor
    - UN Portfolio of Mine-related Projects
    - UN Database of Mine Action Investments
    - Compendium of International NGO Projects.

The SC encouraged all stakeholders to continue develloping their tools. All stakeholders are requested to pass on all available information to allow regular updates.

  • Several improvements of the IMSMA were suggested, including a mechanism to avoid duplication of data entry, more quality control, more fields for incidental data and the need for IMSMA to be translated into user languages. IMSMA will continue to be adapted to include these suggestions and an updating briefing will be given to the next SC in May 2001.

D. Planning and prioritization

ICBL, SAC, the Yemen Mine Action Program, UNDP and UNMAS gave brief presentations on the Landmine Impact Survey, the development of a national programme taking Yemen as a good experience, and transparency in financing.

The presentation on the Landmine Impact Survey in Yemen demonstrated convincingly the benefits for planning and drawing up a national programme which can be achieved with adequate foundations. The realistic work plan of the Yemen Mine Action Program is focussed on the areas of high social and economic impact. A specific technical problem - the movement of sand - prevents the clearance of minefields in the region of Aden.

The question of the extent to which mine clearance is possible, affordable and necessary in a country was aired. There was discussion on whether 100% clearance is feasible. The term "mine impact free" as an alternative to "mine free" was mentioned in this connection and it was proposed that this be discussed in greater depth.

The role of the UNMAS Database for Mine Action Investments as an effective instrument for coordination amongst the various donors was emphasized and it was requested that the states continually update the data. Only an up-to-date, fully informative database can provide the information needed for coordination among the donor countries. The Portfolio on Mine Action Projects offers useful information on ongoing and planned UN projects. ICBL presented the Compendium Document (compilation of NGO projects) as an additional source of information.

All information is also available on website.

Discussion: There is a need for further discussion of the extent to which mine clearance in a country is possible and reasonable and of the links with obligations under the Ottawa Convention.

The practical benefit of the databases and of fundamental information on ongoing and planned programmes was emphasized by various sides. The prerequisite is, however, that all data are made available. An electronic link between information in the UN files and that in the NGO database was regarded as sensible.

The procedure for the implementation of emergency aid in Afghanistan (UNOCHA) was given as an example of transparency and effectiveness and it was requested that possibilities for transferring it to mine action programmes in other countries be examined.

Points for action:

  • Based on the experience gathered in Yemen, similar programmes could be established in other mine-infested countries.

  • To declare a country "mine free" implies formally a clearance of all mines. Since the achievement of this goal may have to be weighted in relation to other important development priorities and financial constraints, it is advised that further discussions on this matter be conducted, taking into consideration the term "mine impact free" for practical purposes, notwithstanding the political commitment to clear all mines.

  • After a discussion on the need to better integrate mine-clearance programmes into post-conflict strategies and to prioritize the different actions needed, it was noted that other UN experiences of coordination, such as the OCHA Consolidated Appeal Process, could be used as an example of how to tackle such issues in a transparent and efficient way. UNMAS was requested to give its view on this question at the next meeting of the SC.

E. National capacity building

UNDP and ICBL gave brief presentations on management training and Finland reported on a specific contribution to mine clearance.

The status of the Cranfield University Management Training Programme, the course material, target groups, experience gained with completed courses, planned courses and criteria for participation were presented in detail. META reported on experience of indigenous capacity building.

Discussion: The UNDP/Cranfield University Management Course was praised and recommended as an important step forward for higher-level national capacity building. The course material will be published early in 2001. There was a consensus view that national capacity building is the prerequisite for the success of any mine action programme and further discussion is needed for how to improve the capacity of national programmes.

F. Technologies for mine action

The Integrated Test and Evaluation Programme (ITEP), the status of the UNMAS/GICHD study on the use of dogs, technology trends and a new French mine detector were presented in brief.

The status, structure, goals and planning of ITEP were outlined. Following the signing of the MoU on 17 July 2000 the programme began work and has obtained first results with a detector test. Further states are invited to participate.

Initial results have been obtained from the GICHD study on the use of mine detection dogs. The final results are expected in mid-2001. Provisional standards for the use of dogs have been included in the new international standards. Although the use of dogs has proven its worth in several programmes, there are no clear scientific findings. In order to make improvements in this area, a further-reaching study is needed on the dogs' way of working.

Basic timetables for the development of equipment, particular difficulties (e.g. adequate map material) and the absolute necessity of effective test procedures were presented in the Belgian Royal Military Academy's contribution.

Discussion: Several sides emphasized the need for close links between scientists and end-users so as to achieve workable results. There are differing views on the use of live mines in tests. In contrast, there was universal recognition of the great importance of test procedures in keeping with reality and practice. An improved exchange of test results was regarded as very desirable. Altogether there was agreement that the subject of technology must be considered more intensively at future meetings.

Points for action:

  • To achieve the aim of the Ottawa Convention it is essential to develop further appropriate technology for practical mine detection and mine clearance purposes.

  • Some delegations emphasized the importance of closer cooperation between the R&D agencies and the end users. The SC is a good forum in which to bring these different stakeholders together. The next meeting of the SC should be more focused on this matter.