As a result of more than fifty years of conflict involving various non-state armed actors and criminal groups, Colombia suffers from widespread landmine and explosive remnant of war (ERW) contamination. Despite a declining trend in the number of mine and ERW victims, Colombia still registered 222 new victims in 2015 and 74 during 2016. In November 2016, peace negotiations between the Government of Colombia and FARC-EP, the country’s largest non-state armed group, culminated with the ratification of a peace deal by the Colombian Congress. Mine Action is set to both benefit from the accord and play a major role in its implementation. Peace negotiations with the ELN, Colombia’s second largest non-state armed group, are expected to begin during February 2017.
Since 2010, UNMAS has assisted the national Mine Action body DAICMA to expand the Mine Action sector and develop an effective management and regulatory framework. With UNMAS assistance, during 2016, DAICMA developed and launched the Mine Action Strategic Plan 2016-2021 and the operational-level National Demining Plan. The strategic plan envisions a mine-free Colombia and fulfilment of the country’s Ottawa Treaty obligations by 2021, and aligns with the Government’s broader strategies for peace accord implementation and national development. The operational plan has assigned responsibility for 63 highly-impacted and prioritized municipalities to various civilian and military humanitarian demining operators. UNMAS continues to work with DAICMA to strengthen its institutional capacities on Victim Assistance, planning, strategic communications, knowledge management, monitoring and evaluation, and coordination.
UNMAS also promotes the capacity development and growth of demining organizations. With a particular emphasis on supporting Colombian civilian organizations, UNMAS provides assistance on the development of standard operating procedures (SOPs), training of personnel and support in accreditation processes.
Under the Government–FARC-EP peace accord, demining will represent a pre-requisite for planned post-conflict rural development, support the substitution of illicit crops, provide an occupation to demobilised combatants and constitute a form of victim reparation for those sanctioned by the newly established Tribunal for Peace. UNMAS supports DAICMA in coordinating with Government and UN system stakeholders to plan for implementation of this agreement.
UNMAS also provides advice and training to UN and civil society partners, and enhances responses through coordination of the Protection Cluster Mine Action Area of Responsibility and the UN Inter-agency Group on Transition and Reintegration of Combatants.
Objective 1: Colombian Mine Action authority and sector are able to manage all aspects of Mine Action by 2021, including compliance with international treaties and obligations, and residual contamination.
Objective 2: Mine Action effectively contributes to a reduction in the number of victims and the creation of a safe environment that enables socio-economic development for mine-affected communities.
Objective 3: Mine Action is promoted as a tool for stabilization under the peace accord, improvement of civil-military relations, reconciliation with mine-affected communities and the reintegration of ex-combatants.
While the full scope of landmine and ERW contamination in Colombia is not yet known, incidents involving mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) have been reported in 673 of Colombia’s 1,122 municipalities since 1990. Based on DAICMA analysis of incident trends, of those 673, 199 are considered to be highly-impacted (type I), 291 moderately impacted (type II) and 183 suffer from a low level of impact (type III). With UNMAS support, accredited demining organizations have initiated non-technical survey operations that will enhance the sector’s understanding of the extent and impact of contamination. Significant progress must be made on non-technical surveys during 2017, in order to facilitate the subsequent planning of efficient and effective clearance operations.
The implementation of the peace accord between the Government and FARC-EP necessitates a functional, efficient, and effective Mine Action sector. While recent years have seen much progress in this regard, further strengthening of the sector is needed to realize its planned contribution, and to meet Colombia’s Ottawa Treaty deadline to remove all anti-personnel landmine contamination by 2021. Nascent coordination systems need improving, a framework of national standards completing and demining operators fostered through advice, training and funding. Across other branches of the state, increased mine action awareness is needed to fortify oversight and inform decision-makers such as Judges of Peace delivering transitional justice rulings.
In order to minimize the cost of demining Colombia, the efficiency of operations must improve. The use of mine-detection-dogs is one option for producing significant productivity gains in the Colombian context. UNMAS has developed a concept for advancing the capacities of DAICMA and the sector in this regard during 2017.
Funds are critically needed to enhance the strategic and technical capacities of DAICMA and the broader sector. UNMAS is seeking USD 1.9 million for 2017 to enable the continuation of its technical support, of which approximately USD 1.4 million has been received. UNMAS is also appealing for an additional USD 715,000 to support the Colombian sector in developing mine-detection dog capacities. Finally, UNMAS can act as a channel to fund demining organizations operating under DAICMA’s national plans.
2017 contributions to UNMAS Colombia made through the Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action have been confirmed from the European Union, Germany, Italy, the Republic of Korea and Switzerland. UNMAS would like to thank its donors for their continued support to activities in Colombia.
Updated: January 2017