The mine action sector has evolved dramatically since the late 1980s when humanitarian clearance efforts began inAfghanistan and a nascent advocacy movement to ban these indiscriminate weapons started to start to take root. Since then, the world has seen significant changes to international law, technological advances, and the emergence of an entirely new professional sector at the nexus of humanitarian, development and peace, replete with its own complex apparatus, standards and norms.
Yet two factors have barely changed over these same decades. First, there are simply never enough resources to adequately protect civilians from the humanitarian impact of explosive ordnance, and certainly not as quickly as the local population requires. Even the best resourced programmes take years to meet all national priorities and the requirements of international treaties.
Second, notwithstanding the success of international agreements in reducing the use of landmines and cluster munitions, there appears to be no end to the use of explosive weapons without regard to their long-term humanitarian and development consequences. Each year, improvised explosive devices, unexploded ordnance and other forms of random contamination add to the global count of explosive ordnance, even as the last of the ‘classic minefields’ are cancelled out.
Mine action is, and will remain, a long-term endeavour. The negative humanitarian and development consequences of explosive ordnance have been well documented over the decades, as has the corresponding benefit of a strong mine action response. Socio-economic impact surveys and post-clearance assessments demonstrate the positive results of mine action on agriculture, nutrition, water and sanitation, commerce through road clearance, and other development sectors. As patterns of explosive ordnance contamination change, so does the development impact of contamination. The socio-economic impact of mined agricultural land is different from that of large amounts of explosive ordnance – often randomly located – in urban areas, requiring new approaches to prioritization. Mine action continues to evolve.
Irrespective of context, over the long term, mine action is most sustainable and effective when it is nationally owned and managed. In fact, applying the principles of national ownership during a crisis response will make it easier to ensure that national ownership is in place during the development phase.
This is recognized by the United Nations adoption of the principle of “supporting national mine action institutions to effectively lead and manage mine action functions and responsibilities” as one of three Strategic Outcomes in its Strategy for Mine Action 2019–2023.