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Meeting Report

Co-Chairs: Netherlands and PeruCo-Rapporteurs: Germany and Yemen


  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 in Geneva, convened in Geneva for its second meeting on 8-9 May 2001.

  2. The meeting was well attended with increased and active participation by representatives of mine-affected countries. It included inter alia representatives of 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.

  3. The meeting of the SC received highly appreciated administrative support from the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) for its planning, preparation and implementation.

  4. The simultaneous interpretation from and into French and Spanish on the first day allowed participants speaking these languages to take a more active part in the proceedings.
  1. Standards and criteria 

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

UNMAS announced that, as a result of the Copenhagen conference in 1996/97, standards for mine action had been developed for the first time and that these are to be revised every two years. GICHD was charged with revising these standards in 2000. The resulting International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) are to be approved as a UN document on 1 October 2001 and then adopted by interested countries. It is intended to translate IMAS into all official UN languages during the course of 2002. 

The representative of GICHD explained that a standard in mine action is a documented agreement containing technical specifications or other criteria to be used consistently as rules, guidelines, or definitions of characteristics to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are suited to their purpose. He mentioned that each IMAS is to be reviewed and revised every 3 years, and that the first ones to be reviewed during 2002 will be those that have taken most time to develop (Survey and Sampling). Reviews will take place under the guidance of UNMAS. 

GICHD described the elements making up the IMAS documents and the importance of the choice of words (e.g. shall/shall not, should/should not, may/need not, can/cannot) as normative factors. It was pointed out that international standards cannot take the place of national legislation and that they are only binding if they are incorporated into the relevant nationally applicable documents. 

IMAS is a living document which can be changed at any time. All representatives of the mine-infested countries and the donor states were urged to participate and to give their comments. 

Looking to the future, it was announced that the IMAS 12 series on Mine Awareness (handled by UNICEF) and the IMAS 14 series on Victim Assistance (handled by the World Health Organization/WHO) were in the works now. 

Participants were also informed that Technical Notes had been prepared on certain topics (e.g. PROM Detection Warning - Depleted Uranium) and that these are available on the GICHD website.

The presentation of the Standards provoked a lively discussion, in the course of which the mine-infested countries and the ICBL - mine action working group - made not only approving but also critical comments about introduction in the countries concerned. There were fears that procedures would become more complicated and that additional unplanned costs would ensue. 

In the end it was generally recognized, however, that the elaboration of these Standards marked an important step towards improved quality in mine action. A positive view was also taken of the fact that, unlike earlier attempts, IMAS had been presented during regional workshops in various continents. This meant that those responsible could get a thorough introduction and had sufficient opportunity to enter into discussion and suggest improvements.

Points for action:

    • Given the different views and degrees of support for the IMAS review process, further and wider consultation is needed. A bottom-up approach received considerable support.

    • The results of the workshops should be fed into the IMAS document. It should be noted that comments must be submitted by the beginning of September at the latest if they are to be taken into account (the document is to be presented to the UN on 1 October 2001).

    • It is particularly important that the Standards be translated into the official UN languages as quickly as possible.

    • Even after its official introduction in the field, IMAS will be a living document which can be revised as necessary (field tests).
  1. Measures of impact and benefit

Brief presentations were given by UNDP, the International Peace Research Institute (PRIO) and the Survey Action Centre (SAC) on the "Study of Socio-Economic Approaches to Mine Action", on Assistance to Mine-Affected Countries, and on the Landmine Impact Survey.

UNDP presented the "Study of Socio-Economic Approaches to Mine Action". The Study was begun in November 1999 by the GICHD; printed copies were distributed to the participants following the presentation. During the presentation it was pointed out that mine action is understood to mean more than just the clearance of mines and UXO.

According to the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), mine action comprises "all the activities geared towards addressing the problems faced by populations as a result of landmine contamination. It is not so much about mines as it is about people and their inter-actions with a mine-infested environment. Its aim is not technical - to survey, mark and eradicate landmines - but humanitarian and developmental - to recreate an environment in which people can live safely, in which economic, health and social development can occur free from the constraints imposed by landmine contamination, and in which victims' needs are addressed."

The core of the study is its three case studies produced with information gathered in Kosovo, Mozambique and Laos to represent post-conflict emergency, transitional and development contexts for mine action. The Study offers a number of valuable insights into correlations and interdependencies. It finds that undertaking mine clearance has economic benefits for a community. Mine action programmes have improved productivity, safety, quality assurance and technical standards, and have helped to develop local capacities to assume responsibility for these aspects of mine action. Although a few organizations still focus on the number of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) they have destroyed, the majority now talk about the area and types of land cleared, reductions in accident rates, and the number of development projects assisted.

So far the Study is only available in brochure format. In order to make it usable in practice, as well as user-friendly, it will be revised as a "Field manual" containing the most important information.

The project "Assistance to Mine Affected Communities" (AMAC) presented by the International Peace Research Institute is being tested in the field in Mozambique as a "Manica Pilot Study". It was described as a community approach to mine clearance, where community involvement is considered a priority for ensuring a positive impact of mine clearance and for capacity-building at the local community level.

The representative of the Survey Action Center (SAC) again pointed out the particular significance of the Landmine Impact Survey both for the mine-infested countries and for the donor countries. The joint planning by the Survey Action Centre and UNMAS for surveys envisaged for the coming years was presented.

The particular importance and great benefit of the Landmine Impact Survey was wholeheartedly confirmed by the participants in the meeting. The SAC was called upon to carry out as many surveys as possible. The positive results are obvious:

      • The donors rationally apportion the funds to places of the greatest human need as defined by impact on communities.

      • The surveys permit national authorities to develop national plans focussing on the regions and areas of greatest impact.

      • They give implementers baseline impact data that will provide success indicators for mine action programmes.

The Coordinator of the High Committee for Demining from Chad outlined the results of the recently-completed survey in Chad and the resulting further steps to be taken in his country.

Points for action

      • Completion of a handbook on "Socio-Economic Guidelines" containing the most important principles and information for daily use in the field.

      • Presentation of the conclusions of the Manica Study once all field results have been collated.

      • Continuation of Landmine Impact surveys.
  1. Technologies for mine action

Presentations were given by representatives of the European Commission, TNO Physics and Electronics Laboratory (Netherlands), the Institute for Systems, Informatics and Safety of the Joint Research Centre, the Director of CCMAT, as well as by members of the Forum on how to improve integration of technology and demining actions in the field, and how to improve cooperation between R&D/industry people and deminers.

The representatives of the participating institutes and laboratories reported on the current state of research and development in their fields and pointed out that the challenges they face, though major, can certainly be met.

However, attention was also drawn to industry's lack of interest in this not-very-lucrative market, and also to the problems users may have in defining Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs).

The situation following almost five years of R&D effort was depicted as follows:

      • no advanced detection tools have been fielded,

      • no multi-sensor system has been tested in the field, and

      • no "artificial nose" which could replace dogs has been developed,

      • minefields surveys still use classical approaches, but make use of information and management tools (IMSMA, GIS),

      • R&D does not improve existing technologies (e.g. mechanical),

      • R&D is not linked with operational clearance projects,

      • MACs, deminers, and mine-infested countries are sceptical about "new technologies",

      • NGOs, mine-infested countries, and commercial companies are not able to afford new technologies.

In the course of the presentations it was pointed out that practical, easily manageable technology that can be used in the field increases safety on the ground and speeds up mine clearance significantly. In order to meet the deadlines laid down in the Mine Ban Treaty, the affected countries would have to be

      • mine-free within 10 years

      • impact-free within 10 years,

which means that a new approach is needed for the future. This would require

      • closer integration between mine clearance and R&D,

      • R&D driven by demand from the field, but the field should also react to the offers from R&D (bottom-up and top-down approach),

      • a new initiative on identifying existing technologies.

There is an urgent need for a so-called business plan based on a coordinated strategy and a holistic approach.

The lively discussion also addressed practical problems with the various technologies. Many participants, mostly those working in the field, expressed a preference for simple equipment or for the adaptation of simple technology that is useable. Technologies should take into account three factors: safety, productivity, and cost.

There was a call for an improved exchange of experience in the future between the field and R & D institutions. The two sides were urged to work together and to learn from each other. 

The mine-infested countries should not have technology imposed on them because of economic considerations in the donor states; rather, the standard of technology used should be adapted to the local conditions.

The status, structure, goals and planning of the International Test and Evaluation Programme (ITEP) were outlined. Following the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding in July 2000, a Secretariat was established in October 2000. Besides the 7 countries which have already signed the MOU, other countries (France and Germany) are in the process of joining ITEP.

There were calls for available technologies to be tested in accordance with uniform guidelines prior to introduction in the field, and for ITEP to play a significant role.

Points for action:

      • It was proposed to nominate at the national level a "technology expert" for mine clearance to the Geneva Centre, who will be given sufficient authority and responsibility. Under this proposal these experts could together form a kind of network, reporting inter alia to the Standing Committee, and could function as a liaison between the field and the R&D locations. At this respect, it was recommended to further discuss this proposal during the next intersessional year.

      • It would seem useful to bridge the gap between mine clearance and technology more decisively.

      • Serious consideration should be given to how to implement Article 6 of the Ottawa Treaty in order to ensure access to technology.

      • An operational connection between the "business plan" and the UN "strategic plan" is recommended.

      • Uniform parameters should be developed for the implementation of tests.
  1. Coordination, Planning and prioritization

Representatives of the GICHD, the Landmine monitor report, UNMAS, the Mines Advisory Group, ICBL, Peru, Yemen and the Russian Federation gave brief presentations.

a) The Information Management System Mine Action (IMSMA) is currently being used in 13 mine action programmes across the world and will be used in further programmes in the next few years. The advantage of IMSMA is that it is not primarily just a database, but a management tool which project managers should use intensively for planning, prioritization, etc. IMSMA is revised regularly and is currently available in versions 2.0 and 2.1.

b) The Landmine Monitor Report 2001, which this year again will appear in book and CD form, will be distributed in the run-up to the third meeting of states parties in Managua. The 2001 report assumes that there are still 87 mine-infested countries (not including the countries of Western Europe).

c) UNMAS reported on the Fourth International Meeting of Mine Action Programme Directors in Geneva in February 2001 and outlined the financial situation (statistics) of mine action activities in general and the donor states' expenditure on mine action in particular (e.g. mine clearance, R&D, victim assistance).

The upcoming UN five-year strategic plan for mine action will assist coordination and planning in the framework of UN mine action activities. It should be supplemented by planning instruments coming from other stakeholders.

d) The importance of the UN consolidated appeal process (CAP) for the coordination and integration of country/programme-specific appeals and the integration of mine clearance programmes into post-conflict strategies was stressed.

e) The representatives of Peru and Yemen gave convincing overviews of the mine infestation in their countries and of the necessary strategies, programmes and projects being launched.

f) The Russian Federation presented the possibilities it can offer in support of humanitarian mine clearance. It was emphasized that Russia can provide experts and material to assist states, NGOs and commercial mine clearance operations.

Points for action:

      • UNMAS appeals for further funding for the Voluntary Trust Fund (VTF) for mine action.

      • The survey action centre, the NGOs and the affected countries appeal for strategic funds, money for areas where the UN cannot operate, and financial assistance to realize national plans.

      • There must be continued support for updating the UN Database on Mine Action Investments, the UN Portfolio of mine-related projects, the Report of the Landmine Monitor and the compendium document of NGO projects.

      • For practical reasons it is vital that IMSMA (handbook, questionnaires) be translated into the languages of the countries in which the system is being introduced.

E. Summary

  1. A coordination group should elaborate proposals to be presented to the third Conference of States Parties in Managua (19 -21 September 2001) on a modified, clearer agenda for the future Intersessional Work Programme on Mine Clearance and Related Technologies. The proposals should take more comprehensive account of the specific provisions of the Mine Ban Treaty.

  2. It was recommended that the Managua conference consider and decide whether the issue of mine awareness should in future be part of the work of the Standing Committee on Mine Clearance and Related Technologies rather than of the Standing Committee on Victim Assistance.

  3. Consideration should be given to providing simultaneous interpretation into French and Spanish throughout the Standing Committee's meetings. This would give representatives from French- and Spanish-speaking countries the chance to participate more fully and more effectively.