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 landmine and ERW victims, with 222 new victims recorded in 2015, Colombia still had the second highest number in the world. Particularly worrying is the fact that Colombia also has the second highest number of new child victims. The peace accord reached between the Colombian Government and FARC-EP in August 2016 and due to be signed on 26 September 2016 is expected to open space for humanitarian action, including an expansion of demining operations.
Since 2010, UNMAS has assisted the national mine action authority DAICMA to expand the mine action sector and develop an effective management framework. With UNMAS assistance, DAICMA developed and is now implementing the Mine Action Strategic Plan 2016-2021, which envisions the achievement of a mine-free Colombia and the fulfilment of the country’s Ottawa Treaty obligations by 2021. The plan is designed to align with the Government’s Rapid Response Strategy for implementation of the new peace accord, and mainstreams mine action under the National Development Plan 2020. UNMAS continues to work with DAICMA to strengthen its capacities on policy, planning, strategic communications, knowledge management, monitoring and evaluation, and stakeholder coordination.
To enable the growth of the sector needed to effectively respond to the humanitarian and developmental impacts of landmines and ERW, UNMAS also supports the capacity development of civilian and military humanitarian demining organizations. With a particular emphasis on assisting Colombian civilian organizations, UNMAS supports operators through the required accreditation process.
The role of mine action in the impending peace process will be substantial, with the sector poised to both assist and reap benefits from its implementation. UNMAS is supporting the planning of reconciliation and reincorporation through mine action as agreed in the final peace accord; the design of a survey that will seize the unique opportunity to collect information on landmine and UXO contamination from demobilized combatants; and the destruction of unstable explosive materials laid down by FARC-EP through provision of technical assistance.
UNMAS also provides advice, technical assistance and training to other UN entities and civil society, and enhances the effectiveness of responses through coordination mechanisms, particularly through coordination of the Protection sub-Cluster on Mine Action and the UN Interagency Group on Transition and Reintegration of Combatants.
Objective 1: : Colombian mine action authority and mine action sector is 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, including women, men, boys and girls.
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.
Colombia is contaminated by unexploded ordnance (UXO) and improvised landmines that have principally been used by non-state armed groups. Mine and UXO incidents have been reported in 673 out of Colombia’s 1,122 municipalities and the Government has been able to use these reports to classify municipalities as low (183), medium (291) and high (199) impact. Nevertheless, available data cannot establish the full scope of the mine/ERW problem. UNMAS is supporting non-technical survey operations that will enhance the sector’s understanding of the extent and impact of contamination, and its ability to plan clearance operations.
The implementation of the peace accord between the Government and FARC-EP necessitates 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 facing the further improvement of the sector’s efficiency and effectiveness is the need to consolidate technical expertise within the national authority and other actors. In this regard, UNMAS is currently assisting the national mine action authority in implementing an organizational reform that will mainstream planning, the allocation of tasks, monitoring and evaluation.
Without Colombian civilian humanitarian demining operators, the growth of the humanitarian demining sector will be hindered. UNMAS works with prospective national organizations to foster this capacity and substantial progress has been made. There are now six accredited military and civilian operators (including one Colombian NGO) and four more have started the process of accreditation or training.
A final but fundamental challenge to the mine action sector is the urgent need for funds to effectively realize its planned role in the peace process, and the vision of a mine-free Colombia.
Funds are critically needed to enhance the strategic and technical capacities of the National Authority and other major stakeholders to enable them to take ownership of mine action; the effective and efficient management of the sector; the establishment of Colombian civilian humanitarian demining operators; and support to peacebuilding and reconciliation initiatives. Accordingly, UNMAS is seeking USD 1.6 million USD for 2017 to enable the continuation of its technical support, of which approximately USD 1.1 mil has been provisionally committed.
In 2016, UNMAS Colombia has been funded by contributions from Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands and Switzerland to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action. UNMAS would like to thank its donors for their continued support to operations in Colombia.
Updated September 2016