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Country Reports
United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), Landmine Monitor Report 2003

United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)


Long after combat ends, landmines and unexploded ordnance continue to maim and kill, preventing people from safely returning to their homes, tilling their fields, collecting water, as well as preventing governments from reconstructing powerlines and industrial infrastructure, blocking efforts to proceed with normal socio-economic development. Mine action is an integrated approach to addressing the mine problem and consists of a range of activities that create a safer environment for people to resume a normal and productive life.

Over the past year, UNOPS has been active in 18 of the world's most heavily mined countries, on behalf of its major clients: the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Office of the Iraq Programme (UNOIP). UNOPS provided the project management and technical services necessary to deal with immediate needs and helped develop national capacity to resolve the problem over the long term, combining the flexibility and innovation of the private sector with the principles and objectives of the United Nations.

UNOPS Mine Action-Specific Project Management Services

While UNMAS is the general UN focal point for mine action, UNOPS is the principal provider for mine action project services within the United Nations system. The UNOPS Mine Action Unit (MAU), established in early 1998, is responsible for UNOPS involvement in mine action, including the execution of nearly all of the UN mine action projects. The MAU provides specialized project management, technical and legal expertise, as well as support for fielding personnel and procurement of services and supplies. This combination of skills enables UNOPS to efficiently provide mine action project management services tailored to its clients’ and host countries’ needs:

Behind the scenes: UNOPS brings together the elements required to set up a mine action programme, including international expertise, specialized equipment, complex agreements with donor governments for the provision of "in-kind" personnel, as well as necessary management and administrative support.

In the country: UNOPS’ specialized project personnel advise officials of the national mine action authority or directly coordinate the work of all actors, launch nationwide mine surveys and work with the responsible authorities to set priorities to meet local needs, according to the scope of the project.

In the minefields: UNOPS contracts the world's leading demining companies and NGOs through competitive bidding, and ensures that they follow the International Mine Action Standards (IMAS). Certification is provided to let civilians know it's safe to move back home as areas are cleared.

In the community: UNOPS supports medical services, prosthetic and rehabilitation centres, mine risk education campaigns, and training programmes that lessen the risk of living in mine affected areas and teach new skills to those who have lost limbs and livelihoods.

UNOPS can:

  • orchestrate the many resources required to start up and carry out effective mine action;
  • identify and recruit international and national expertise in mine action, management, administration, finance, logistics, information systems, etc.;
  • train nationals and develop local institutions to ensure sustainability.
  • rapidly procure and deploy state-of-the-art demining and other equipment to the field;
  • conduct tenders and draft contracts and agreements to suit each country situation;
  • prepare grant agreements for support to victim assistance and mine awareness;
  • provide technical backstopping from Headquarters on all aspects of mine action; and
  • ensure exchange of experience and best practices among programmes.

Through the provision of tailored mine action services, UNOPS assists UNMAS, UNDP, UNOIP and national governments in the:

  • establishment of national mine action centres and development of national mine action plans and policies covering standards and quality assurance for survey, clearance, accreditation, mine risk education, and victim assistance;
  • establishment of mine action information systems for priority setting, tasking and reporting;
  • launching of mine survey and clearance operations through the use of manual, mine detection dogs and mechanical systems in mine-affected areas; and
  • strengthening of medical treatment, rehabilitation and vocational services for mine victims.

UNOPS Clients / Programmes

UNOPS has managed mine action projects for various UN agencies since the early 1990s. The Mine Action Unit delivered a range of management and procurement services which have grown from about $25 million in 1999 to roughly $70 million in 2002.

UNOPS’ major clients are UNMAS, UNDP and UNOIP. UNOPS’ involvement varies, depending on the country and the project, from assuming full operational responsibility for an entire programme (e.g., Kosovo and N. Iraq) to responsibility for all UN support to a national programme; while in some cases UNOPS may be hired to manage only a single component, such as procuring specialized equipment or identifying and hiring international technical expertise in mine action. The programmes, referred below, are described in more detail in the country update sections of this Report.

UNMAS is the focal point for mine action within the UN system, and is responsible for coordinating all mine-related work funded by eleven UN departments and agencies, and for launching emergency mine action activities such as in Congo or Iraq, or when natural disasters severely impact on a country’s mine problem as in the floods in Central America and Mozambique. Over the past few years, UNOPS has worked with UNMAS by providing the management services to implement programmes in Afghanistan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea-Ethiopia Temporary Security Zone, South Lebanon, Kosovo, Macedonia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Sudan, and Yemen and on global projects such as the Land Mine Safety Handbook, the development of User Requirements for Mine Action Information Management Systems and the extension of Quality Assurance Monitoring activities to Landmine Impact Surveys in Cambodia, Thailand, Mozambique, Somalia, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Lebanon and Azerbaijan. Key activities over the past year included: significant expansion of the programmes in Afghanistan and Sudan, demining of a firing range in E. Timor, development and deployment of a UN Mine Action Rapid Response Plan, and initiation of mine action programme activities in central and southern Iraq.

UNDP is generally responsible for mine action projects in stable development contexts, which typically focus on strengthening national institutional capacity to enable mine-affected countries to manage mine action programmes on their own. Over the past years, UNOPS provided project management services to support implementation of UNDP programmes in Angola, Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cambodia, Chad, Croatia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and Yemen, as well as implementing the UNA-USA “Adopt-a Minefield” programme and several landmine impact surveys.

UNOIP manages the "Oil for Food Programme" established under Security Council Resolution 986. Since 1997, UNOPS has managed the integrated mine action programme in N. Iraq on behalf of UNOIP. Under this programme over 1300 national deminers and supervisors have been trained and deployed, a mine action information database has been established with a Landmine Impact Survey completed and published covering all of the accessible territory, 124 minefields covering over 12 square kilometers cleared while another 92 minefields are in process, a network of emergency medical and prosthetics centers established and supported, and a mine risk education strategy developed and launched. UNOPS has dedicated special efforts to developing a full range of local capabilities, including a national mine detection dog programme, development and production of local mini-flail systems, and nine local demining, mine risk education and victim assistance NGOs. During the 2003 war in Iraq, the UN Oil for Food Programme (including the MAP) was required to suspend all activities and to withdraw all international personnel from the country; nonetheless, the national personnel assured the security of the programme assets and implementation of the Emergency Programme where the mine action NGOs continued mine risk education, victim assistance, EOD activities and permanent marking of minefields. By the third quarter of 2003, all operational capabilities of the Mine Action Programme are planned to be taken over by the local NGOs. At the time of writing this report, the exact future of the mine action programme in N. Iraq is yet to be determined, as part of the development of the National Mine Action Authority, Iraq Mine Action Center and national capacities, with possible assistance from the United Nations.

Other UNOPS Activities

UNOPS is actively involved in the United Nations and the international mine action community efforts to develop the information, tools, and infrastructure to increase the effectiveness of humanitarian mine action, and is an active member of the Interagency Coordination Group on Mine Action. UNOPS participates in the development and application of the International Mine Action Standards, in the discussion of the specification and use of appropriate indicators for priority setting to increase the impact and efficiency of mine action activities, and in the further development of the IMSMA database to enable its use for the full range of operational and information management needs of mine action programmes. UNOPS seeks to ensure that international and national staff involved in the daily management and support to programmes take part in all such discussions. UNOPS actively encourages exchange of information among programmes, with attention to lessons learned and best practices, and has developed startup kits including model documents and guidelines that enable new programmes to benefit from the experience accumulating in the field.

For more information contact:

UNOPS Mine Action Unit
405 Lexington Avenue, 4th floor
New York, NY 10174
Fax: 1-212-457-4049
Email: mau@unops.org