More than 600 delegates are gathered this week at the UN Headquarters in Geneva to discuss an issue that is still of concern to at least 60 countries: mine action.
This is the 23rd International Meeting of Mine Action National Directors and United Nations Advisers (NDM-UN), and it has been interesting to follow how the agenda has evolved over the years, from focusing on technical matters related to the risky job of demining a single square metre of land to addressing challenges of information management and finding best ways to build lasting national institutional capacity to oversee the mine action industry and ensure it operates in a way that is both safe and efficient. Another interesting area of concern lately is around the environmental impact of mine action.
Although the international community’s attention remains on the release of land and clearance of mines and explosive remnants of war across thousands of square kilometres in more than 60 countries, what has been most scrutinized in recent years is how these devices are being removed. The large-scale excavation of soils, clearing of vegetation, and use of explosives to destroy discovered munitions and stockpiles represent a new area of concern as we strive to do things better and find balanced solutions that are cognizant of the planet and of the millions of people living in the long shadow of war.
These new challenges led to the recognition from within the industry that the impact of mine clearance must also be viewed as altering the geographies in which it takes place. This is the reason why the NDM-UN will have its first session on mainstreaming environment and climate change into mine action planning and operations, an initiative by the Norwegian People’s Aid, a long-standing partner of UNDP.
UNDP has been a strong advocate for including mine action into the development debate and, more recently, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Together with the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, we are working on tools and methodologies that allow the integration of mine action planning and reporting into broader national development processes, particularly those involving SDG frameworks.
The impact of landmines and explosive remnants of war has grown in scale and complexity over the past 23 years. There has been a proliferation of hard-to-detect improvised explosive devices and an intensification of warfare in urban areas, particularly in the Middle East, which made the challenge of rendering areas safe a much more complex endeavour than the traditional demining of the past.
Mine action is heavily dependent on the use of accurate detailed evidence. When this doesn’t happen the results can be deadly. Our work to link mine action to the SDGs relies on the technical data and information management systems used by the mine action centres that we support around the world to help ensure that prioritization and planning are based on expected human development outcomes and expanding the development opportunities of war-torn societies.
Clearly the important humanitarian work of mine clearance must continue apace and supporting the release of land so countries and communities can further develop is also UNDP’s focus. But what is becoming more evident is that through a greater appreciation for the 17 SDGs and their interlinkages, the mine action sector is moving towards closing some of the policy and operational gaps between delivering humanitarian support and building the foundations for sustainable development.
Read more about UNDP’s work on mine action here. A detailed agenda of the 23rd International Meeting of Mine Action National Directors and United Nations Advisers, that ends on 14 February, can be seen here.