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The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) was formed in October 1997 to serve as the UN focal point for mine action and to support the UN’s vision of:

“A world free of the threat of landmines and unexploded ordnance, where individuals and communities live in a safe environment conducive to development, and where mine survivors are fully integrated into their societies.”

At the global level, UNMAS is responsible for coordinating all aspects of mine action within the UN system. At the field level, it is responsible for providing mine action assistance in the context of humanitarian emergencies and peacekeeping operations.

UNMAS and its UN partners operate within the framework of an inter-agency policy formulated in 1998, which clarifies the principles upon which UN mine action is based, and defines roles and responsibilities within the UN system.[1] Last year, this policy was complemented with a mine action strategy for 2001-2005, which outlines six broad goals for mine action in general, and sets forty specific objectives for the United Nations system in response to the global landmine problem.[2]

The United Nations’ Mine Action Mission Statement:

“Over the period 2001-2005, the United Nations will work in partnership with others to reduce the threat posed by landmines and unexploded ordnance, increase the understanding of the global mine problem, assist affected nations, and coordinate international mine action efforts.”

These goals and objectives are intended to be complementary, rather than hierarchical. Together, they form an integrated strategy.

The following report is an update on UNMAS’ activities and achievements since the production of Landmine Monitor 2001 in the six areas covered by the UN strategy: information; emergency response; assistance to national and local authorities; quality management; coordination and resource mobilisation; and advocacy.


Information management is a central aspect of mine action, especially because of the broad scope of the landmine problem and the number of issues and organisations involved. UNMAS is responsible for coordinating the collection, analysis and dissemination of landmine-related information, and for the development of mine action information management systems. It has entered into a collaborative agreement with the GICHD to support this responsibility and to develop an Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) designed for mine action programmes in the field. Under the arrangement, the GICHD is responsible for the development of the IMSMA software; implementation and training in the field, technical support and project management. UNMAS is responsible for providing guidance to the Centre for the definition of the overall policy, scope, content, functionality and deployment requirements of IMSMA.

In the context of this arrangement, a study was commissioned by UNMAS and implemented through UNOPS in 2001. Its objective was to clarify the information system requirements of users in the field. The study report released in June 2002 identifies and prioritises the needs of mine action programmes based on extensive consultations and interviews with field and headquarters practitioners. It identifies in particular a number of new functionalities that should be made available to field programmes as part of their comprehensive information systems.

The Electronic Mine Information Network (E-MINE) is another important information management initiative taken by UNMAS in 2001/2002. E-MINE was launched in September 2001, at the Third Meeting of States Parties to the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Convention in Nicaragua. It is a public and freely accessible website found at www.mineaction.org, designed to support the planning and co-ordination of global mine action activities by disseminating reliable information on problems, programmes, resources, best practices and technologies within the sector. A number of further developments to E-MINE are planned that will include:

  • Country reports coming from the field through the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA).
  • Integration of the Stockpile Destruction Resource website that disseminates information, papers, standards, and lessons learned about the destruction of stockpiles.
  • Integration of the Database of Mine Action Investments that provides information on the worldwide resources available for international mine action assistance.
  • Integration of non-UN projects in the database of mine action projects, and the development of a summary of ongoing funding shortfalls.


In both humanitarian situations and in support of peacekeeping operations, UNMAS is responsible for ensuring that there is a coordinated UN mine action response. This often requires the immediate deployment of personnel, followed by the deployment of equipment, to ensure that the response is coordinated effectively. UNMAS is developing, in conjunction with other UN agencies, NGOs and other partners, a Rapid Response Plan, which will meet the requirements of emergency situations, and other scenarios where the rapid deployment of personnel, equipment and a mine action capacity is required.

During 2001-2002 UNMAS continued its programmes in the Temporary Security Zone between Eritrea and Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and southern Lebanon, and started up new programmes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), and Sudan. In Eritrea, UN support has now led to an effective clearance and mine risk education capacity and the creation of an Eritrean Mine Action Programme, combining all interested partners into one single HQ location where coordination can be more easily affected. Advice has been given to the Border Commission and how it should safely place the border pillars. In Sierra Leone the UN involvement has evolved into support of the Explosive Ordnance Action Office which now deals with all mine-and UXO-related incidents. In Southern Lebanon, UN assistance has been provided to the United Arab Emirates supported clearance operations and quality control, while technical survey operations continue to define the extent of the mine problem in the UNIFIL area of operations.

At the same time new programmes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, FYROM, and Sudan were initiated. Programmes in the Sudan and DRC are, after long periods of planning, in the early stages of development as opportunities for action are exploited as they occur. Coordination cells have been established and information is now being recorded in information management systems. In FYROM, the problem is confined to UXO clearance of villages to allow the safe return of inhabitants and the police. Local capacity has been trained to assist with this. In Afghanistan, it became obvious in the wake of the events of 11 September 2001 that the mine action programme had to expand and receive greater headquarters support than in the past. To that end, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) invited UNMAS to assume responsibility for the programme with effect from 1 June 2002.

Finally, in Kosovo (FRY), the UN programme was handed over to the local authorities in December 2001 after the impact of the mine problem had been successfully addressed within a two and a half year period. The UN’s experience in Kosovo has demonstrated that with adequate resources and through effective coordination, as well as inclusive, well targeted, planning processes, mine action programmes can be matured to meet the needs of mine affected countries and donors within a specific time frame.


Within the UN system, the primary responsibility for assisting national authorities with the development of appropriate mine action capacities rests with UNDP. As UN mine action focal point, however, one of the main roles of UNMAS is to monitor the global landmine threat in order to respond to problems in a proactive and coordinated manner. As a part of UNMAS’s threat monitoring role, assessments are conducted in mine affected countries at the request of the concerned government. Assessments and fact-finding missions are usually inter-agency efforts that assess a country’s mine problem and develop recommendations to address it.

In 2001-2002 assessment missions were conducted in Cyprus, Mauritania and Sudan. The assessment missions often result in a requirement for a Landmine Impact Survey to determine the impact of the mine problem on people living in the area. Landmine Impact Surveys are under way or under consideration in Afghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Somalia, and Vietnam.


UNMAS is the office within the United Nations Secretariat responsible for the development and maintenance of International Mine Action Standards (IMAS). These standards establish the principles that should be followed to improve the safety and efficiency of mine action programmes. They do not have authority until they are adopted at the country programme level. Governments of mine-affected countries can adapt the standards to meet national requirements, rules, and codes of practice. Donors can use the standards as minimum contractual requirements when allocating resources for mine action projects and programmes, and the United Nations and non-governmental organisations can use the international standards as guidelines for the safe and efficient implementation of mine action in the field.

The first International Standards for Humanitarian Mine Clearance Operations were issued in March 1997. In 1999, the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) was commissioned by the United Nations to conduct a review of these standards, taking into account lessons learned and new procedures. The resulting first set of 23 International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) were made available in October 2001. They comply with a number of international regulations, conventions, and treaties, particularly the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Convention and the Amended Protocol II to the CCW. They will progressively cover areas of mine action not previously addressed so far such as mine risk education, mechanical clearance and mine dog detection. The IMAS now forms the basis for the development of national standards that are currently being developed in countries such as Cambodia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Lebanon and Mozambique.

UNMAS is also involved in the implementation of field quality management activities, particularly in relation to the Landmine Impact Survey process, and has deployed Quality Assurance Monitors to assess compliance with the Survey Protocols and to give guidance to the UN Survey Certification Committee on the progress and conduct of the Surveys. Landmine Impact Surveys were monitored in Cambodia, Thailand and Mozambique in 2001.


Coordination and resource mobilisation remain central responsibilities of UNMAS. The Inter-Agency Coordination Group on Mine Action (IACG), which brings together all UN entities involved in mine action, continued to meet on a monthly basis to coordinate the activities of the various UN partners and monitor progress against the five-year UN strategy. In addition, the Steering Committee on Mine Action (SCMA), which includes the ICBL, the ICRC, the GICHD and a number of operational NGOs in addition to the IACG members, confirmed its value as a mechanism where country issues and mine-related policy issues are discussed between UN members and other partners. The Steering Committee has met twice in 2002, firstly in February 2002 to discuss Afghanistan and the Rapid Response Plan and secondly in May 2002 to discuss the response of agencies to the situations in Angola and Sri Lanka and the need to involve Non State Actors in the mine ban process.

In February 2002, UNMAS organised the Fifth Annual Meeting of Programme Directors and Advisers that was graciously hosted and sponsored by the GICHD. This event brought together national mine action directors and their UN adviser’s to discuss advances in mine action, and to exchange lessons learned between programmes and Headquarters. This year’s meeting paid particular attention to the need to develop national mine action strategies and to strengthen linkages with our colleagues in the humanitarian and development sectors. It was also used as an opportunity to sensitise programme managers to advocacy and treaty implementation issues, and to hold discussions with the donor community.

Since the vast majority of UN mine action activities continue to be funded from voluntary donor contributions, resource mobilization is an essential activity for the UN system. The UN portfolio of mine action projects was launched in Geneva in February 2002 at the Programme Directors and Advisers meeting. The portfolio provides a comprehensive overview of the UN's’ mine action programming for the year. Increasingly the projects within the portfolio have been integrated within the Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP) managed by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which assists in integrating the strategic response to mine action priorities within the broader humanitarian sector. UNMAS also liaised closely with the Mine Action Support Group, donor states, and the European Commission to ensure that there is a coordinated response to resource mobilisation needs within the sector.


The UN five-year strategy places emphasis on the role of the United Nations in advocacy for mine action related issues. Accordingly, considerable attention has been given to encouraging states to ratify, accede to, and comply with the international instruments concerning landmines. UNMAS is an active participant, for example, in the Universalisation Contact Group meetings held in the margins of the Standing Committee meetings of the AP Mine Ban Convention. To further strengthen these efforts, UNMAS is currently working with its UN partners to finalise a public advocacy strategy in support of mine action. It is expected that the strategy will be finalised and approved by the Inter-Agency Coordination Group before the end of 2002.

In addition UNMAS has been asked to assist the Standing Committee on Victim Assistance and Socio-economic Reintegration by facilitating a consultative process to articulate a set of critical issues and to identify ways that the Standing Committee could assess its future direction and contribute to making meaningful progress by the time of the Review Conference of 2004. A broad range of input was solicited from Standing Committee members and a variety of national and international organisations. UNMAS presented a progress report in May 2002 and will present a complete report for the Fourth meeting of States Parties in September 2002.


The United Nations has set itself an ambitious schedule for the implementation of its Mine Action strategy for 2001-2005. Whilst the UN system has been prepared to respond to critical new needs and concerns, for example the situation in Afghanistan, the primary focus for the year has been on achieving the objectives of the United Nations strategy. The progress on implementing the strategy will be evaluated in 2003 and will involve wide consultation with all United Nations partners in mine action.


[1] This policy was presented to the UN General Assembly as part of the Secretary-General’s annual report on Assistance in Mine Clearance dated 14 October 1998 (A/53/496, Annex II).
[2] This strategy was presented to the UN General Assembly as part of the Secretary-General’s annual report on Assistance in Mine Action dated 16 October 2001 (A/56/448/Add.1).