Jordan first Arab country free of landmines

Apr 24, 2012

Working to clear mines in Jordan (PHOTO: NPA)

Today, Jordan marked a historical milestone. It is the first country in the Middle East to meet the deadline set by the Ottawa Mine-Ban Treaty and declare itself free of landmines.

The Northern Border Clearance Project, which celebrated its completion today, succeeded in clearing an estimated 136,000 landmines (anti-personnel and anti-tank) in a mine belt of approximately 10.5 square Km in area, stretching 104 Km along the Jordan-Syria border

“This impressive mine-clearance programme, does not only remove the physical risk to the population,” said Amat Alsoswa, Regional Director for the Arab States in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “it also releases precious land that can now be available for development.”

After securing the cleared minefields, the Jordanian army will be handing over 7 square Km of highly fertile land that is presently in the buffer zone between the minefields and the local farms to its original owners.

Reclaiming this vast area for agricultural use and livestock herding will benefit 50,000 people living in the border area.

In addition, removing the risk of landmines will allow other large-scale development initiatives to proceed, including the establishment of a free trade zone around the city of Mafraq and the completion of Al-Wihda Dam.

UNDP has continuously supported the efforts to free Jordan of landmines through mobilising funding agreements with donors, the provision of technical advice to support the local partners in their demining efforts, and supporting quality control of the project management of the demining projects,

The Jordan National Committee for Demining & Rehabilitation (NCDR) and the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) have been the implementing partners of the project. They mainly employed people from the local mine affected communities spread along the border zone to work as deminers, including an all-female demining team, which had performed exceptionally well, thus positively challenging prevailing culturally-defined gender roles

The expertise that those demining teams have acquired alongside that gained by their counterparts through their involvement in clearing the minefields in the Jordan Valley and Wadi Araba in the South since 2006, has contributed to Jordan’s leadership as a regional and international hub of expertise in mine-action programmes. Jordanian expertise has already been contributing to demining efforts in Iraq, Mauritania and Libya.

Moreover, the Jordanian National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation, the national institution mandated to coordinate all mine-action efforts in Jordan has conducted internationally renowned, high quality training programmes annually, since 2009,in all areas of mine action operations and management for professionals and senior managers of similar programmes from all around the globe.

Since its establishment, over four years ago, under the leadership of HE Prince Mirad, UNDP has provided a full time Chief Technical Adviser to NCDR. This technical advisory support resulted in developing a joint donor programme of action for demining the northern border with Syria and undertaking extensive measures to raise donor funds. It also included extensive technical training to all NCDR staff to strengthen their capacities to assure quality and monitor demining work.

By the end of 2011, NCDR and NPA raised in excess of 18.5 m USD, with UNDP providing 6.5 m USD through support from EU, AusAid, Norwegian Aid, and the Canadian Government.

“I cannot wait for the day to be able to enter my land safely, invest in it and raise my livestock and cultivate crops… which is the only thing I am good at,” Salman Awad told The Jordan Times. Salman is a 68-year-old farmer from the village of Jaber located near the border with Syria. He has been unable to cultivate his land for the past 35 years because of landmines.

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