During and immediately after an armed conflict, governments adopt a proactive approach to removing mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). However, once there are fewer mines and other ERW, the returns on the high costs associated with proactive clearance begin to decrease. With time and progress, these operations usually:
With time and progress, these operations usually
Once proactive clearance has finished, and following All Reasonable Effort, a residual risk will remain. This remaining ERW threat, referred to as residual contamination, raises the need for the country to readjust its priorities and response policy to a reactive risk management approach.
Although many governments do adopt a proactive approach to the removal of mines and ERW, in order to address the humanitarian and developmental concerns, they often have no strategy for dealing with long-term, residual contamination. The GICHD supports countries to prepare their move from a proactive phase to a reactive one. It assists them to develop their capacities and readjust their priorities and response methodologies related to long-term risk management.
To facilitate this transition, a set definition of “residual contamination” is being developed by the Review Board of the International Mine Actin Standards (IMAS) along with a standard that can be integrated into national legislation and policies.
The GICHD studies residual contamination and post-1945 response practices, focusing on policy development, risk management and ERW degradation. The research conducted by the MORE project extends to 15 countries and facilitates knowledge transfer and advises policy-making on residual contamination among national governments and donors.
The GICHD, in collaboration with Vietnamese Defence TV, has produced a documentary film on how to manage the risk posed by residual contamination. The film aims to improve understanding of residual contamination and compares the issues that Vietnam faces today to the situation some European countries confronted when managing their contamination from WW1 and WW2. The film was developed in partnership with Vietnamese Defence TV in order to ensure local ownership of the production and the message aimed at the Vietnamese audience. It was broadcast on mine awareness day in 2017.
The experiences of several European countries facing residual contamination from the two World Wars, and other post-conflict countries, such as Japan, can be usefully adapted and applied to countries recovering from more recent conflicts.
These common experiences have been a major focus of the MORE project, which centres primarily on delivering long-term risk management approaches to South East Asia, specifically in those countries most heavily affected by mines/ERW, namely Cambodia, Vietnam and the Lao PDR. The GICHD will help them develop a coherent set of standards, tools and guidance for national authorities. The Centre also promotes the use of robust datasets on contamination to help make more informed decisions and implement more effective and efficient response mechanisms.
Past experience shows it is more appropriate to move away from proactive clearance practices and policies to responsive long-term survey and clearance mechanisms that are sustainable, proportional to the reduced threat, and fitting to the intended use of the contaminated land. Adoption of such policies enables efficient resource allocation and influences perceptions of residual mines, ERW and associated risks. The GICHD assists in developing sustainable national leadership and capacities to confront residual contamination while increasing the role and sharpening the structure of national security services in mine and ERW response.
An increasing number of mine/ERW affected countries are now approaching the completion stage of identifying and clearing all known hazardous and contaminated areas. As these countries conclude proactive survey and clearance activities, they transition to a context where reactive survey and clearance activities are implemented.
Countries are facing two key challenges as they transition into this new context:
In recognition of the lack of documented good practices and lessons learnt on national capacity development in the management of residual contamination, the GICHD responded to a request from several mine-affected countries and launched the National Capacities and Residual Contamination project in late 2013. This project conducts case studies; provides recommendations; and offers targeted, country-specific guidance.
Over-reaching targets for the project are to provide relevant national and international stakeholders with:
1. Strengthened understanding of good practices and lessons learnt
2. Tools for developing sustainable capacities
3. Improved understanding of the importance of sound data collection and Information Management as the basis for long term risk management
4. Greater understanding of the role of national security services can play in managing residual contamination
5. Develop legal and institutional framework for sustainable national capacity in managing residual threat
6. Develop operational framework , resources and capacity plan to address residual threats
A series of GICHD case studies on national capacities and residual contamination are being published in 2014 and 2015. They are based on both desk-top research and findings from GICHD missions.