The United Nations’s New Mine Action Strategy

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), on behalf of the United Nations Inter-Agency Coordination Group on Mine Action, released in March a six-year strategy for United Nations actions within the realm of mine action (UNMAS, pdf).  Released with seemingly little fanfare (although UNMAS’s website,, has received a snazzy update), the strategy lays out how the United Nations will work with member states affected by landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW).  I would like to highlight a few items from the strategy.


The strategy starts, as all good strategies do, with a vision:

The vision of the United Nations is a world free of the threat of mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), including cluster munitions, where individuals and communities live in a safe environment conducive to development and where the human rights and the needs of mine and ERW victims are met and survivors are fully integrated as equal members of their societies.

I am not sure if the phrase “free of the threat of mines” is a deliberate departure from a “mine-free world” but otherwise, I think the vision is an admirable one and, hopefully, an achievable one.

The United Nations acknowledges the tremendous progress that has been made in mine action since discussions were first held about banning anti-personnel landmines two decades ago.  The strategy intends to build on that progress, while also learning the lessons of the last twenty years.  In doing so, the strategy recognizes that the UN works within the context of its member states and provides for UN assistance to be delivered “in a manner that is consistent with the specific needs, requests and legal regimes of each context.”  The strategy also recognizes that it must complement other global frameworks, specifically mentioning whatever replaces the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.


The strategy re-affirms the fact that mine action is “an essential component of the work of the United Nations” and that “Mine action is relevant across the areas of peace and security, human rights, humanitarian and development. In each, the need for immediate post conflict and emergency responses remains as critical as longer-term capacity building support.”


To implement the strategy, the United Nations lists four strategic objectives related to 1) demining and mine risk education, 2) victim assistance, 3) capacity building of national mine action authorities and 4) policy and advocacy.  Each objective is accompanied by a series of indicators and the activities that are intended to achieve the objectives.  I imagine these indicators will be used during the mid-term review to assess the efficacy of the strategy and determine if any adjustments are needed.

To complete the logical framework (vision, mission, objectives, outputs and activities), the strategy lists its “Principles of Partnership in Mine Action” and the “Enabling Factors” which constitutes the assumptions that the United Nations is making.  While the principles are supposed to guide how the UN will work, I can also read them as the expectations the United Nations will have for member states that it provides assistance to.  The principles – clarity of objectives, information exchange, mutual accountability and transparency – are not controversial, but essential to any successful partnership.

The “Enabling Factors” are the contributions required of partners.  Again, these are non-controversial, but very important to achieving the goals of the strategy.  Factors include national ownership on the part of affected states of the problem and actively addressing the problem; political and financial support states and the international community; recognition of mine action’s place within broader contexts of development, human rights, post conflict reconstruction and disarmament; and participation of civil society and the private sector in supporting the strategy.  Long term financial support may be the biggest stumbling block in these assumptions and the language used related to financial support – “predictable,” “necessary,” “sustainable,” “critical,” “effective” and “commitments” – suggests the level of concern that the United Nations has for the availability of funding for the strategy.


One last point I want to raise is the commitments that the United Nations makes to strengthen its own capacity.  Of the seven specific initiatives, the fourth, “Update the UN Policy on victim assistance, taking into account the new and stronger normative environment for victim assistance and persons with disability and focusing on the integration of victim assistance into broader disability programs and frameworks at the country and global levels” is near and dear to my heart and I sincerely hope the revised policy provides for a robust victim assistance framework that enables survivors to become “equal members of their societies” as described in the vision.

Michael P. Moore

April 18, 2013

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