undp-uk-minefields-ukraine
Minefields sit adjacent to a sunflower farm in Eastern Ukraine. Photo: Olaf Juergensen/UNDP


In 2018 UNDP launched its new 4-year Strategic Plan which is designed to deliver integrated solutions to the complex challenges of ending extreme poverty, reducing inequalities, and achieving the 2030 Agenda. The Plan has been shaped in response to many of the emerging issues of our time, one of the most compelling has been related to migration and refugees. In the context of the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, observed around the world on 4 April, it would be appropriate to delve into how mine action and migration are connected.

The Somali-British poet Warsan Shire has been a literary voice for displacement and loss. Her poem ‘Home’ speaks for many migrants that have taken the decision to risk the treacherous voyage across the Mediterranean from North Africa.  In part her poem reads:

You have to understand,

that no one puts their children in a boat,

unless the water is safer than the land.

In recent years we have become accustomed to reports of crammed unseaworthy boats capsizing and taking the lives of undocumented migrants as they flee towards what they perceive is a better life.   As conflicts around the world continue to displace millions, difficult and dangerous decisions are also being made on a when to return home.  Internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, northern Nigeria and elsewhere are taking matters into their own hands and with little information on what awaits them, begun to explore moves home.  Similarly, refugees that linger in hosting countries such as Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon which collectively provide succour to over 6 million Syrian refugees, are eager to return as a fear of a ‘lost generation’ grips families as the war rages into its 8th year with no end in sight.
 

A tractor in a field
Along the Turkey-Iran border and elsewhere around the world, UNDP supports mine removal so that communities can rebuild after conflict and get back on the road to development. Photo: Olaf Juergensen/UNDP

 

On this International Day for Mine Action Awareness and Victim Assistance, we should reflect on what awaits the refugees and IDPs who dream of return and contemplate taking matters of survival into their own hands. As with the migrants heading north to Europe by sea, the ‘choice’ to return will be fraught with the danger in the very landscapes they cherish most. To put this in perspective, in the case of Syria, the level of explosive hazardous contamination posed by landmines and unexploded ordnances is staggering. In 2018 OCHA reported that there was an explosive incident inside the borders of Syria every 10 minutes and over 8 million Syrians are at risk.  In Ukraine, there has been an uptick in incidents as displacees informally return to farm in the 50-km wide zone-of-conflict separating the two-warring sides.   As we are reminded in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the legacy of conflict can take decades to over-come and despite the on-going efforts of UNDP and the international community, over 2 percent of its territory remains blocked from full productive use.

There has been significant international attention on understanding the local drivers of out migration (i.e.: conflict, natural disasters, poverty, governance, etc.), but less attention has been placed on the challenges of voluntary return; the most desirable durable solution as captured in the Secretary General’s 2011 Framework on ‘Ending Displacement After Conflict’.  Through a mine action-migration lens, the protracted nature of conflict we are witnessing today has exposed millions of people to risk and vulnerability that are both immediate in terms of the physical dangers posed by mines and unexploded ordnance, and long-term in relation to achieving the 2030 Agenda which notes the need to provide ‘safe, orderly, and regular migration with full respect of human rights’ as one of its cornerstones.   

In over 15 countries UNDP supports mine action so that local communities can (re)build after conflict and put their communities back onto the road to development.  Without the safe spaces created in mine-affected communities, launching emergency job programmes, local area development initiatives, reconstruction of damaged infrastructure, implementation of repatriation plans, and rebuilding trust and the social contract would not be possible.  I believe we can learn from Warsan Shire’s poem and work towards making life safer on water and land.

About the author
Olaf Juergensenis 
a development and mine action specialist with the UNDP Istanbul Regional Hub. Follow him on Twitter: @OlafJuergensen
 

On this International Day for Mine Action Awareness and Victim Assistance, we should reflect on what awaits the refugees and IDPs who dream of return and contemplate taking matters of survival into their own hands. As with the migrants heading north to Europe by sea, the ‘choice’ to return will be fraught with the danger in the very landscapes they cherish most. To put this in perspective, in the case of Syria, the level of explosive hazardous contamination posed by landmines and unexploded ordnances is staggering.   In 2018 OCHA reported that there was an explosive incident inside the borders of Syria every 10 minutes and over 8 million Syrians are at risk.  In Ukraine, there has been an uptick in incidents as displacees informally return to farm in the 50-km wide zone-of-conflict separating the two-warring sides.   As we are reminded in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the legacy of conflict can take decades to over-come and despite the on-going efforts of UNDP and the international community, over 2 percent of its territory remains blocked from full productive use.

There has been significant international attention on understanding the local drivers of out migration (i.e.: conflict, natural disasters, poverty, governance, etc.), but less attention has been placed on the challenges of voluntary return; the most desirable durable solution as captured in the Secretary General’s 2011 Framework on ‘Ending Displacement After Conflict’.  Through a mine action-migration lens, the protracted nature of conflict we are witnessing today has exposed millions of people to risk and vulnerability that are both immediate in terms of the physical dangers posed by mines and unexploded ordnance, and long-term in relation to achieving the 2030 Agenda which notes the need to provide ‘safe, orderly, and regular migration with full respect of human rights’ as one of its cornerstones.   

In over 15 countries UNDP supports mine action so that local communities can (re)build after conflict and put their communities back onto the road to development.  Without the safe spaces created in mine-affected communities, launching emergency job programmes, local area development initiatives, reconstruction of damaged infrastructure, implementation of repatriation plans, and rebuilding trust and the social contract would not be possible.  I believe we can learn from Warsan Shire’s poem and work towards making life safer on water and land.

About the author
Olaf Juergensenis
 a development and mine action specialist with the UNDP Istanbul Regional Hub. Follow him on Twitter: @OlafJuergensen

On this International Day for Mine Action Awareness and Victim Assistance, we should reflect on what awaits the refugees and IDPs who dream of return and contemplate taking matters of survival into their own hands. As with the migrants heading north to Europe by sea, the ‘choice’ to return will be fraught with the danger in the very landscapes they cherish most. To put this in perspective, in the case of Syria, the level of explosive hazardous contamination posed by landmines and unexploded ordnances is staggering.   In 2018 OCHA reported that there was an explosive incident inside the borders of Syria every 10 minutes and over 8 million Syrians are at risk.  In Ukraine, there has been an uptick in incidents as displacees informally return to farm in the 50-km wide zone-of-conflict separating the two-warring sides.   As we are reminded in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the legacy of conflict can take decades to over-come and despite the on-going efforts of UNDP and the international community, over 2 percent of its territory remains blocked from full productive use.

There has been significant international attention on understanding the local drivers of out migration (i.e.: conflict, natural disasters, poverty, governance, etc.), but less attention has been placed on the challenges of voluntary return; the most desirable durable solution as captured in the Secretary General’s 2011 Framework on ‘Ending Displacement After Conflict’.  Through a mine action-migration lens, the protracted nature of conflict we are witnessing today has exposed millions of people to risk and vulnerability that are both immediate in terms of the physical dangers posed by mines and unexploded ordnance, and long-term in relation to achieving the 2030 Agenda which notes the need to provide ‘safe, orderly, and regular migration with full respect of human rights’ as one of its cornerstones.   

In over 15 countries UNDP supports mine action so that local communities can (re)build after conflict and put their communities back onto the road to development.  Without the safe spaces created in mine-affected communities, launching emergency job programmes, local area development initiatives, reconstruction of damaged infrastructure, implementation of repatriation plans, and rebuilding trust and the social contract would not be possible.  I believe we can learn from Warsan Shire’s poem and work towards making life safer on water and land.

About the author
Olaf Juergensenis
 a development and mine action specialist with the UNDP Istanbul Regional Hub. Follow him on Twitter: @OlafJuergensen

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