International Standards for Mine Action: The United Nations, the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, and Defense Security Cooperation Agency
Smith, Tom, DISAM Journal
In November 1997, the Swiss Federal Council decided to establish and fund the activities of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD). The GICHD was formally established in April 1998, and its goal is to be an independent and impartial center of excellence within the international network of mine action activities. The governments of Austria, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Canton of Geneva also support the GICHD.
The GICHD aims to strengthen the role of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) as the focal point within the U.N. system for all mine-related activities and to make a substantial contribution to the formulation of coherent and comprehensive mine action strategies. A core mission of the GICHD is to lead an international effort to review and revise current international standards for mine action.
In July 1996, international standards for humanitarian mine clearance operations were proposed by working groups at a conference in Denmark. These principles were developed by a U.N. working group into the first edition of the International Standards for Humanitarian Mine Clearance Operations, published in March 1997, which included standards for mine survey and hazard marking, clearance procedures and clearance levels, communications and management information systems, training, site safety and medical requirements.
The United Nations initiated a review of the International Standards for Humanitarian Mine Clearance Operations in October 1999 to form part of a wider international review and revision of mine action standards and guidelines. Mine action refers to those activities, aimed at reducing the social, economic and environmental impact of landmine contamination. Mine action and its concomitant activities cannot be addressed in isolation as there is much overlap with complementary humanitarian and developmental programs and projects and, in some cases, with peacekeeping and peace support operations.
Mine action requires management planning at global, national, and local levels, and involves international, national, commercial, non-government organizations and military stakeholders operating under a variety of conditions.
The GICHD is implementing the standards revision on behalf of the UNMAS. The review acknowledges the important changes that have taken place in the management of mine action. International interest and funding has increased, and there is an expectation of improved cooperation, coordination and unity of effort within the community at large.
DSCA is the focal point for the U.S. govermnent's contribution to the revision process and manages, formulates and consolidates U.S. interagency comments for transmittal to the GICHD. In addition, DSCA oversees James Madison University's Mine Action Center (JMU-MAIC) http://maic.jmu.edu) as it supports the standards process logistically, administratively, and electronically. Since before the first meeting of the users focus group on the new standards in October 1999, the MAIC has supported the Geneva Centre by hosting seminars and creating and maintaining a standards website (www.mineclearancestandards.org). The MAIC also created a survey for the international community to elicit their views on what the revised standards should include. Results from this survey proved instrumental in the revision process.
As of January 2001, a total of twenty draft standards and guides have been developed and staffed for comment. These range from management, accreditation, and monitoring of demining organizations, general and technical surveys, hazard marking, post-clearance inspections and sampling, safety and occupational health, demining worksite safety, medical requirements, explosives storage, transportation and handling, and reporting and investigation of demining incidents. …