As a result of more than fifty years of conflict involving various non-state armed actors and criminal groups, Colombia suffers from widespread suspected landmine and explosive remnant of war (ERW) contamination. Despite the declining trend in the number of landmine and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) victims, Colombia still has the second highest number of new victims registered each year with 219 new victims reported in 2015. Particularly worrying is the fact that Colombia has the second highest number of new child victims in the world.
The full scope and impact of mine and ERW contamination in Colombia is unknown. An assessment is urgently needed to facilitate planning, prioritization and alignment with other national initiatives. Although the majority of mine accidents in recent years have been concentrated in municipalities where the armed conflict is still active, humanitarian operations associated with mitigating these hazards are needed across many departments and municipalities.
Since 2010, UNMAS has assisted the Colombian Government and more recently, the Mine Action National Authority, to develop an effective and efficient framework to manage the humanitarian mine action sector. This includes working with stakeholders such as humanitarian demining operators to provide comprehensive support to the entire sector. In November 2013, UNMAS was requested to lead the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) related matters in Colombia.
UNMAS current activities centre on preparing the humanitarian mine action sector to respond to current and future needs (including an important expansion following the signing of a peace agreement). UNMAS provides advice, technical assistance, training and equipment to a number of inter-agency groups (e.g. UN agencies, civil society organizations and national and governmental institutions). UNMAS also enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of responses through coordination mechanisms, particularly through coordination of the sub-cluster on Mine Action and the UN Interagency DDR Group.
UNMAS work in Colombia prevents mine/ERW accidents, protects communities and promotes peace and reconciliation in a country devastated by over half a century of internal conflict.
Objective 1: Increase the technical capacity of the national authority to manage, coordinate, and regulate the mine action sector in accordance with international best practices and lessons learned.
Objective 2: Develop the mine action sector to support peace and development initiatives (particularly ensuring that civilian and humanitarian demining organizations are operating under an adequate quality management framework).
Objective 3: Provide support to the peace process (particularly by ensuring that mine action is considered in planning processes).
Colombia is contaminated by commercially fabricated unexploded ordnance (UXO) as well as improvised landmines that have been principally used by non-state armed groups. As a result of this conflict, there have been reports of mine and UXO incidents in over 60 percent of Colombia’s municipalities, and in 31 out of 32 administrative departments.
Despite these reports, existing data cannot establish the full scope of the problem. Non-technical Survey and clearance are needed to support national initiatives and reduce the impact on humanitarian needs and communities. Furthermore, the advanced peace negotiations between the government and the FARC-EP necessitate a functional, efficient, and effective mine action sector, given that many of the points accorded in the negotiations cannot be implemented without a humanitarian demining or mine action capacity.
One of the challenges for an efficient and effective mine action sector is the need to consolidate technical expertise within the National Authority as well as within other stakeholders. In order to overcome this challenge, UNMAS implements capacity building activities with key members of the national authority in order to empower them to effectively manage and coordinate the sector. UNMAS is currently assisting the mine action authority in creating a 5-year mine action strategy so that Colombia can fulfill its obligations under the Ottawa Treaty. UNMAS is also developing a transition plan and developing capacity within the national authority so that they can take national ownership over the monitoring of demining operations that is currently conducted by the Organization of American States (OAS).
Without a Colombian civilian humanitarian demining operator, the growth of the humanitarian demining sector will be hindered. UNMAS is working with prospective organizations so that this capacity will be created in the near future and that these organizations can be operating by the end of 2016. Substantial progress has been made in this regard with 11 operators having now started the process of accreditation or training.
A fundamental challenge to the mine action sector is the urgent need for funds prior to the signing of a peace agreement. In order to ensure the stability of a peace agreement, an effective and efficient mine action capacity must be established beforehand. UNMAS works closely with the donor community to inform them of current and future needs so that partners can collaborate and develop capacity to address the impact of conflict.
There is an urgent need to mobilise funds to support strategic activities to develop stakeholders’ abilities to take ownership of mine action and to support the peace process. Funds are critically needed to support activities that increase the technical capacity of the National Authority and other major stakeholders to effectively and efficiently manage the sector, establish Colombian civilian humanitarian demining operators and to support peacebuilding and reconciliation initiatives. With this in mind, UNMAS is seeking USD 800.000 for 2016.
UNMAS Colombia is presently funded through contributions from the Republic of Korea, Italy, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Denmark, and Finland to the Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action. UNMAS would like to thank its donors for their continued support to operations in Colombia.
Updated May 2016