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Country Reports
Organization of American States, Landmine Monitor Report 2003

Organization of American States

Mine Action Program


The Organization of American States (OAS) Mine Action Program (Spanish acronym - AICMA) is an integrated effort to assist OAS Member States in addressing the continuing problems caused by the existence of antipersonnel landmines. The Program developed from the Assistance Program for Demining in Central America (PADCA), which was created by the Organization of American States in 1991 at the request of the mine-affected countries of Central America. Since its initiation, AICMA has incorporated the previously existing demining program into its structure, while serving as the focal point for the OAS on all landmine issues throughout the Americas. Through its mandates, the OAS General Assembly has extended the goals of the Program to include the total elimination of landmines and the conversion of the Western Hemisphere into an antipersonnel-landmine-free zone. It has also called on the component organizations of the Inter-American System to participate in the development of programs to support mine risk awareness and preventive education, the physical and psychological rehabilitation of victims, and the socio-economic reclamation of demined zones.

Program Coordination

Since May 1995, responsibility for the general coordination and supervision of the Program has been assigned to the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy (UPD), with the technical support of the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB). The main responsibilities of the UPD include fund raising in the international community, financial management, political and diplomatic coordination, and ensuring that all essential components of each national demining project are available and functioning properly. The IADB is responsible for organizing two international teams of about 30 demining supervisors and monitors from OAS Member States. These teams, which cover both Central America and the Peru-Ecuador border, provide technical support, training and certification of demining procedures in accordance with international standards.

A distinctive feature of the Program is its multilateral nature, with progress due, in large measure, to the support of member states including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and the United States, and the contributions of international donors, including Australia, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Russian Federation, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and United Kingdom, among others. Over the course of 2002 and the first quarter of 2003, these contributions amounted to approximately US$7.2 million.

The Program also relies upon a significant level of coordination with international and non-governmental organizations. In the past year, AICMA worked with a number of entities on significant mine action projects, among these are the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Center for International Rehabilitation, the Mine Action Information Center (MAIC) of James Madison University and the Rotary Club International.

Humanitarian Demining

Guatemala. AICMA-supported mine and unexploded ordnance clearance operations continue with the participation of the Volunteer Firemen’s Corps, the Guatemalan Army, former members of the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit (URNG), and international supervisors of the Inter-American Defense Board. In December 2002, mine-clearing operations concluded in the department of San Marcos, second in importance on the national priority list of dangerous areas to be cleared, due to the heavy concentration of undetonated exploded devices found these areas. In January 2003, the operational plan for 2003 and 2004 was updated to accelerate preventive education activities in the remaining affected areas and conclude the Guatemalan program by 2004.

Honduras. Due to unforeseen circumstances, completion of clearance operations along the Nicaraguan border anticipated by the end of 2002 was reprogrammed for October 2003. In April 2003, the demining unit was divided into three groups to facilitate the conclusion of operations in the department of Choluteca, an area that was not previously identified in the El Paraiso department, where it is now suspected that landmines were emplaced, and a munitions site that exploded in 1995 in Naco, in the Cortes Department.

Nicaragua. In 2002, Nicaraguan demining units supported by the OAS, destroyed more than 5,000 mines and cleared approximately 300,000 square meters of land. In December 2002, the Nicaraguan Army reported that of more than 135,000 mines originally emplaced, about 50,000 remained to be destroyed. The OAS continues to provide funding for demining operations of three 100-member demining units (Operational Fronts 3, 4 and 5), a 50-member independent demining platoon and a canine mine detection unit consisting of ten dogs with handlers. Two hundred deminers assigned to Operational Fronts 1 and 2, although funded through bilateral arrangements with the Government of Denmark, also came under the supervision of the IADB international team in 2001. To complement manual and canine assets, a mechanical mine clearance capability is available using equipment provided by the Government of Japan. In view of these developments, the goal of the Nicaraguan Government continues to be completion of its National Demining Plan by the end of 2005. As a result of a shortfall in donor funding, however, AICMA was unable to support the rehabilitation of an additional medical evacuation helicopter for Nicaragua as planned, which could affect programmed operations for 2003.

Costa Rica. On December 10, 2003, Costa Rica became the first OAS Member State supported by the AICMA program to declare itself mine-safe. With the assistance of the OAS program, Costa Rican deminers located and destroyed 338 landmines spread along the Nicaraguan border, in addition to clearing 130,000 square meters of land. As a result, areas that had previously been mined are now being reclaimed for agriculture.

Ecuador. Impact assessment studies were conducted in 2002 in the provinces of El Oro and La Loja, and twelve zones in these provinces were identified as dangerous and in need of clearance. Demining units of the Ecuadorian Army subsequently cleared three of these zones.

Peru. In 2002, the IADB provided four groups of international supervisors from the Central American program to give training and assistance to deminers from the Army and Peruvian National Police. A team of military experts from the United States trained a group of 26 national supervisors and helped to build a center for demining operations in the city of Tumbes. Between June 2002 and March 2003, deminers from the Peruvian National Police received assistance from the AICMA program in the destruction of 14,163 antipersonnel landmines emplaced around electrical towers. In March 2003, the Peruvian Army conducted impact assessment studies in the border areas of the Tumbes and Sullana departments. The IADB established a permanent team of international monitors in May 2003, to provide support for mine-clearing activities in Peru and Ecuador.

Mine Risk Education

The mine risk awareness efforts supported by the AICMA program aim to reduce not only the risk of death and injury by promoting safe behavior, but also 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, highlighting 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 exit, the communities are the main sources of information for the location of the mined areas and explosive devices. Mine risk education campaigns have been conducted through community visits, a variety of national radio messages and school programs. In each of the recipient countries, mine risk awareness campaigns were coordinated simultaneously with demining operations. At the national level, significant progress has been made in standardizing campaign materials based on national and international guidelines and with financial assistance from AICMA, UNICEF and national entities.

Victim Assistance.

The Program has assisted over 500 landmine victims, primarily in Nicaragua, since the victim assistance component was established with the assistance of the Government of Sweden in 1997. The program addresses the specific needs of the communities involved by providing 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 2002, the AICMA program developed an innovative job training and placement program for landmine victims in collaboration with the National Technological Institute of Nicaragua (INATEC). In the first training course, 25 landmine victims received technical job training in auto mechanics, computer skills, carpentry, shoemaking, tailoring, and cosmetology. In 2003, a second course will train 32 Nicaraguan landmine victims. The Program has also established a mine victim database in Ecuador and Peru in order to identify all the victims of landmine related accidents. So far, the Ecuadorian program has provided 3 victims with prostheses and surgical care.

Stockpile Destruction

The AICMA program continues its support to the elimination of stockpiled antipersonnel mines in the OAS Member States. In August 2002, with the destruction of 136,813 mines, Nicaragua completed its stockpile destruction program and joined Honduras, Ecuador and Peru as mine stockpile-free countries in the Hemisphere. At the request of the governments of Argentina and Chile, the AICMA program visited the above-mentioned countries in April 2003 to coordinate OAS support for their national plans to destroy stockpiled mines. The Government of Canada has pledged funding to facilitate the process in Chile and Argentina in the course of 2003.

Mine Action Database.

 A database of the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) has been set up in all of the beneficiary countries with the help of national AICMA coordinators and with technical support from the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD). In January 2003, an updated version of IMSMA was distributed with the capacity to store information on areas where preventive education campaigns are being conducted.

Support for the Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines

 The AICMA program promotes the interest expressed by OAS General Assembly resolutions to universalize the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and their Destruction. AICMA headed the OAS delegation that participated in the Fourth Meeting of States Parties in Geneva, Switzerland in September 2002. The AICMA delegation also participated in meetings of the Standing Committees in Geneva in 2003, as well as the meeting of the Resource Mobilization Group held in New Your in November 2002.

Agreement with Colombia

In March 2003, the Government of Colombia and the OAS signed an agreement for technical assistance and cooperation in mine action. Once funding from the donor community is secured, the AICMA program will assist Colombia in the areas of preventive education and awareness, victim rehabilitation and the creation of a database that will record information on antipersonnel mine victims.

Portfolio and Donors Meeting

The AICMA has employed various media to inform the international community of the achievements of its program as well as its outstanding needs, including the “Portfolio of Mine Action Projects,” published in August 2002. The Portfolio included profiles of all the national programs of the AICMA beneficiary countries as well as the financial requirements for their implementation in 2003. The Portfolio was distributed to OAS Member States and representatives of the principal donors at a meeting convened by the Secretary General in October 2002 in Washington. As a result of this appeal for assistance, a number of donors responded positively and immediately in supporting the activities of the program. An updated 2004 version of the Portfolio is under development and is expected to be distributed at the Fifth Meeting of the States Parties, scheduled for Bangkok, Thailand in September 2003.