Mine action entails more than removing landmines from the ground
Established in 1997, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) leads, coordinates, and implements projects and programmes to mitigate the threats posed by explosive ordnance to the benefit of millions of people worldwide.
UNMAS provides Member States, the United Nations system and its leadership, as well as the mine sector at large, with authoritative, impartial expertise and experience acquired through its humanitarian, development, peace operations and peacebuilding assistance to affected countries, as well as through its participation in, and contributions to, treaty-related and diplomatic processes.
Among its chief responsibilities and capabilities, UNMAS supports the development of standards, policies and norms as well as managing operations to clear landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) and mitigate the threats posed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs). In its broad sense, mine clearance, or ‘demining’, includes surveying, mapping and marking, as well as detecting and destroying mines, ERW and IEDs.
As a result, roads are opened and farmers can safely work their land. Children go to school free of fear and displaced people return to homes free of explosive ordnance. Water points and local amenities are accessible again, peacekeepers can deploy safely and humanitarian relief is distributed to places where it is needed most.
UNMAS also provides technical support to aid the destruction of stockpiles. Inadequately managed conventional ammunition stores threaten public safety and pose a risk to the security of States; therefore, UNMAS assists in storage, inspection, transportation and stockpile destruction of ammunition. These activities are commonly and collectively termed weapons and ammunition management. The General Assembly requested the United Nations to develop guidelines for adequate ammunition management. In response, the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG) were developed in 2011 and the UN SaferGuard Programme was established as the corresponding knowledge management platform. UNMAS is on the Review Board and works closely with UNODA and UNIDIR on the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines.
In addition, by carrying out education campaigns on how to reduce risk, supporting survivors of explosive ordnance accidents and training local people and national governments to respond to the problem themselves, UNMAS reduces the human suffering that continues long after the fighting stops.
UNMAS work builds on the five “pillars” of mine action, a concept commonly referred to in the mine action sector.
As the global coordinator for mine action, UNMAS plans for optimum use of resources, prioritizes and targets services, and provides policy and advocacy leadership across the UN system ensuring a gender perspective throughout its operations.
UNMAS operates under UN legislative mandates of both the General Assembly and the Security Council which has established UNMAS as an integral component of UN peace operations, including peacekeeping operations and special political missions. UNMAS also responds to specific requests from affected Member States, the UN Secretary-General or designated official.
Mine action plays a unique bridging role across the peace and security agenda, humanitarian emergency response, and sustainable development, contributing positively to peace sustainment and stabilization. The work of UNMAS also enables refugees and IDPs to safely return home and is critical to accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.