Mine Action Program
The Organization of American States (OAS) Mine Action Program, known formally as “Comprehensive Action against Antipersonnel Mines” (or AICMA by its Spanish acronym), has undergone significant growth since its initiation more than twelve years ago. Originally conceived as an assistance program for mine clearance in Central America, the AICMA Program currently supports a wide range of mine action activities in six Member States, including:
- Support for humanitarian demining activities, including survey, mapping, marking, and clearance;
- Mine risk education for people living in affected areas;
- Victim assistance, including physical and psychological rehabilitation and the socioeconomic reintegration of cleared zones;
- Supervision and assistance for the destruction of stockpiled mines;
- Development of mine action databases; and
- Support for a total ban on use, production, stockpile, sale, or transfer of antipersonnel mines.
The Program functions under a series of General Assembly mandates. The most recent of these include:
- AG/RES. 1995 (XXXIVI-O/04) “Support for the Program of Integral Action Against Antipersonnel Mines in Central America;”
- AG/RES.2002 (XXXIVI-O/04) “Support for Action Against Mines in Peru and Ecuador; and”
- AG/RES. 2003 (XXXIVI-O/04) “The Americas as an Antipersonnel Land Mine-Free Zone.”
The Unit for the Promotion of Democracy (UPD) of the General Secretariat provides overall coordination and management of the Program, including solicitation of financial contributions from the international community. The Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) provides technical assistance through teams of international supervisors and monitors in the mine-affected countries. The progress achieved by the AICMA Program is, in large measure, due to the generous support of several Member States (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, Venezuela, and the United States), who have provided demining trainers and supervisors through the IADB. The financial contributions of major international donors (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, the Russian Federation, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States, among others) have made the work of the Program possible. Finally, the Member States supported by the Program continue to provide substantial human and material resources, based on their individual abilities and needs.
Between June 2003 and June 2004, the Program made significant progress in its efforts to eliminate the threat of antipersonnel mines in the Americas. During 2003, with the support of the AICMA program, a total of 29,047 mines and unexploded ordnance were destroyed and a total of 641,867 square meters cleared in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Peru. Military trainers and other technical experts provided by the IADB conducted training courses for national deminers from mine-affected countries benefiting from the program. Noteworthy activities in each recipient country include:
- In Guatemala, demining activities were completed in the departments of Quetzaltenango, Totonicapán and Retalhuleu, in addition to the previously cleared departments of El Quiché and San Marcos. The Guatemalan program continues toward projected completion in early 2005.
- Demining operations in Honduras concluded in June 2004. The final stage of demining was supported using heavy equipment provided by the United States Government to facilitate enhanced clearance procedures in an area of the department of Choluteca, where mines had been discovered at a depth that surpassed normal detection measures.
- During 2003, Nicaraguan demining units destroyed nearly 10,000 mines and cleared more than 400,000 square meters of land, as the Nicaraguan program reached 75 per cent completion of the clearance of more than 135,000 mines that were originally emplaced. Nicaragua is projected to complete mine clearance work by the end of 2005.
- In Ecuador, demining operations were concluded in the province of El Oro in December 2003 and were projected for completion in the province of Loja by mid-2004. Much of the work in these areas was done in close coordination with Peruvian authorities. Correspondingly, mine clearance activities in the Peruvian departments of Tumbes and Piura were completed in late 2003.
- In 2003, Peruvian National Police deminers completed a project to remove mines around high-tension electrical towers in central Peru, clearing a total of over 19,000 mines from 415 towers.
- The AICMA program opened a coordination office in Colombia in November 2003 which has begun collaboration with national authorities and other international entities on the development of projects to survey the impact of mines in several affected areas in the country.
Mine Risk Education
The mine risk education programs supported by the AICMA program aim to reduce the risk of death and injury by promoting safe behavior and to facilitate solutions to the high risk behavior that is observed in some of the affected communities. The program recognizes the importance of increasing the involvement of affected communities in mine awareness initiatives. It is particularly important to highlight the double benefit obtained by the participation of the affected communities in the landmine awareness activities. Not only do community members learn about the danger of landmines, but also, in specific cases where no landmines records exist, the communities are the main sources of information for the location of the mined areas and explosive devices. Mine risk education campaigns have been carried out through community visits, a variety of national radio messages and school programs. Additionally, national personnel and AICMA staff have been trained to provide mine risk education in schools and communities in affected areas. In each of the recipient countries, these campaigns are closely coordinated with demining operations.
The Program has assisted over 590 landmine victims since it was established in Nicaragua with the assistance of the Government of Sweden in 1997. To address the specific needs of affected communities, the Program has provided victims who have no social security or military benefits with transportation from their communities to the rehabilitation center, lodging, meals, prostheses, therapy, and medications. In collaboration with the National Technological Institute of Nicaragua, the AICMA program has developed an innovative project for training and job placement for landmine victims. Since its inception, the project has provided technical job training for 106 landmine survivors in trades including auto mechanics, computer skills, carpentry, shoemaking, tailoring, and cosmetology. The Program has solicited donor support and has begun to train an additional 70 victims during 2004. In Ecuador and Peru, the Program has developed a database in order to identify all victims of landmine related accidents. Thus far, the Ecuadorian program has provided five victims with prostheses and surgical care and has provided partial funding for the training of an Ecuadorian prosthetics technician in El Salvador. Finally, in November 2003, the AICMA program co-sponsored a regional seminar on victim assistance in Bogotá, in collaboration with the Colombian Government and the Mine Action Information Center at James Madison University. This event was attended by more than 125 representatives from across the Hemisphere for the purpose of sharing victim assistance program experiences and evaluating possibilities for new partnerships.
The AICMA program continues to support the elimination of stockpiled antipersonnel mines in OAS Member States. In September 2003, the Government of Chile met its obligations under the Ottawa Convention by finalizing its destruction of 275,637 mines in its national stockpiles, with the AICMA program providing financial assistance to the final phase of the Chilean effort. With the support of the Program, the Government of Argentina also completed the destruction of its 89,604 stockpiled mines in December 2003, as these two nations joined Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru as stockpiled mine-free countries in the Hemisphere. In June 2003, the Government of Colombia also initiated a stockpile destruction program for some 22,000 antipersonnel mines remaining in stock, with the possibility of completing the process before the November 2004 Review Conference of the Ottawa Convention to be held in Nairobi, Kenya. Each of the past year’s efforts was made possible through contributions from the Government of Canada totaling approximately US$ 220,000.00.
Mine Action Database
The database of the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) has been established for each of the beneficiary countries with the help of national AICMA coordinators and technical support from the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD). IMSMA has taken on an increasingly important role in each of the programs with respect to recording and tracking data on landmine victims; on suspected, confirmed and cleared minefields; and on areas where mine risk education campaigns are conducted. During the second half of 2004, the GICHD is projected to provide training to AICMA and national personnel in Ecuador and Peru on the use of an integrated global positioning system/direction finder that will improve the efficiency of minefield survey activities and ensure accurate data is entered into IMSMA.
Advocacy for the Landmine Ban
The AICMA program continued to promote the interest expressed in OAS General Assembly Resolutions to make the Americas a landmine-free zone. As a key element in Hemispheric coordination and cooperation on mine action issues and to assist the Member States in preparation for the Ottawa Convention Review Conference, which will take place in November 2004 in Nairobi, Kenya, the AICMA program, in conjunction with the Governments of Canada, Peru and Ecuador, has sponsored two regional seminars. The first was held in Lima, Peru in August 2003, and the second will be held in Quito, Ecuador in August 2004. Similar regional meetings were previously held in Miami and Managua with a view toward improving mine action cooperation among the nations of the Americas. The AICMA program has also continued to participate in various meetings related to the Convention in order to share practical achievements and lessons learned with other global mine action programs, as well as to strengthen contacts with international donors.
Coordination with International Entities
A notable element of the AICMA Program relates to collaborative efforts with other international and non-governmental organizations. Cooperation with international entities over the past year has improved the efficiency and effectiveness of mine action programs throughout the Hemisphere by marshalling available resources from these organizations, particularly in the fields of preventive education and victim assistance. The Program has maintained close and productive relationships with:
- United Nations, primarily through the U.N. Mine Action Service and the U.N. Children’s Fund;
- Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining;
- Mine Action Information Center at James Madison University;
- World Rehabilitation Fund;
- Physicians for Human Rights; and the
- South Florida Landmine Action Group.
The AICMA program has employed various media to inform the international community of the achievements of its program as well as its outstanding needs. In August 2003, the Program published the “Portfolio of Mine Action Projects,” which included profiles of all the national programs of the AICMA beneficiary countries as well as the financial requirements for their implementation in 2004. Over the course of 2003 and the first quarter of 2004, financial contributions amounted to approximately US$ 8.2 million.
The AICMA Program continues its efforts to support the mine-affected Member States in addressing their landmine problems. With the continued generous support of the international donor community, the prospects for conclusion of the programs in Honduras this year and in Guatemala and Nicaragua in 2005 will remain positive. The Program’s beneficiary countries have sustained their national efforts, but continued international financial support is critical to the full success of the Program.