Safe Ground - Turning Minefields into Playing Fields
The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres launched the five-year Safe Ground campaign (2019 – 2023) on the 4 April 2019, the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. The purpose of the Campaign, as he stated, is to raise awareness and resources for the victims and survivors of armed conflict through the promotion of sport and of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Safe Ground campaign accompanies the United Nations Mine Action Strategy 2019 – 2023 and is coordinated by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) through the Inter-Agency Coordination Group on Mine Action (IACG-MA). Safe Ground is supported by an informal, voluntary group of Champions See Champions below)
The campaign aims to turn minefields into playing fields by leveraging partnerships with Member States, donors, civil society, sport federations and the private sector, to clear existing playing fields of explosive ordnance, and identify new areas that can become sports facilities, which will be used to bring communities together, to raise awareness about victims/survivors of war and act as a catalyst to raise funds for victim/survivor assistance.
Victim / Survivor Assistance
A primary objective of the Safe Ground campaign is to raise awareness and resources for victims and survivors of armed conflict. This includes persons either individually or collectively who have suffered physical, emotional and psychological injury, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights through acts or omissions related to the use of explosive ordnance. Victims include directly impacted individuals, their families, and communities affected by explosive ordnance.
The Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, which came into force on 1 March 1999, introduced international legal obligations on victim assistance and recognized that victims are entitled to receive a range of age- and gender-sensitive assistance, including emergency and on-going medical care, rehabilitation, psychological support, economic inclusion, inclusive education and an effective legal and policy framework. These obligations were further spelled out in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which came into force on the 3 May 2008.
These conventions call on governments to ensure necessary data to plan and report on victim assistance and national laws and policies developed and implemented to enforce the victim assistance obligations. Availability and accessibility of services is to be increased, actively involving victims and their representative organisations. The conventions state that anyone, without discrimination against or among explosive ordnance victims, or between victims of different types of explosive ordnance and those who have suffered injuries or have impairments from other causes, must be considered.
Over the last decade many affected states and donor governments have stopped championing victim/survivor assistance. The second strategic outcome of the new UN Mine Action Strategy 2019 – 2023 highlights what the Mine Ban Convention CRPD recognized, namely, that survivors with disabilities have fundamental rights, like everyone else. The right to have access to healthcare, rehabilitation, employment and education. The right to be included and to be given the possibility to participate in their societies. Or to put it more bluntly, as the survivor and founder of the Legacy of War Foundation, and a Champion of Safe Ground, Mr. Giles Duly put it: “What’s the point of saving a life, if you do not give that life back.”
In post-conflict environments the first step to reach any indicator of a Sustainable Development Goal is to locate and clear the explosive ordnance left behind. Whether mines, improvised explosive devices or explosive remnants of war, there is no security when there are explosives that can maim or kill. The first step is to create Safe Ground on which safe homes can be built or rebuilt. A safe home is more than four walls and a roof, it means a space where there is access to food, clean water, safe transportation, schools, community and healthcare for all.
Safe Ground aims to promote the Sustainable Development Goals. After a conflict there are many needs. Mine action prioritizes clearance by the human need. It begins with roads, moves to public utilities, markets, schools, medical centers, homes and community areas.
Sport develops community, it brings people together, it is an important part of most societies, and Safe Ground aims to clear sport-oriented infrastructure, stadiums, sporting complexes, or spaces where sports can be played, so girls and boys, men and women, with or without a disability can play. Once a field or a stadium is cleared, the Safe Ground can be used for education, and in the case of a stadium it can be used to generate financial resources for assistance to the victims/survivors of war.
Each Safe Ground projects will consider access for all and will promote survivor participation.
Safe Ground Launch
Mine Action programmes in many countries held Safe Ground events in April 2019. There were football tournaments, basketball tournaments, road races and more (see photo gallery). And in New York and in Geneva the campaign was announced on 4 April, an exhibition/installation was opened by the Champions of Safe Ground, and UN leaders promoted the campaign through various outreach tools.
Funds raised by the campaign will be channeled through the United Nations Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action (UN VTF) or the UN Foundation (with which UNMAS has a fiduciary agreement allowing for tax-deductible contributions to be channeled to mine action via the UN VTF). UNMAS will, in consultation with the Inter-Agency Coordination Group, use the funds raised to create Safe Grounds and support survivors/victims of war.
Champions of Safe Ground
Champions of Safe Ground can include United Nations Member States, members of the Inter-Agency Coordination Group for Mine Action, sports federations, professional teams, individual athletes, civil society organizations and private companies. Champions make up an informal group who voluntarily promote the campaign, provide support, guidance, ideas and where possible, beneficial contacts, financial and in-kind support. Champions can vary depending on projects. The commitment from Champions is based on partnership and a shared vision. Champions are invited to join the campaign and to meet annually to promote it.
The first Safe Ground Champion meeting was held on 4 April 2019, and Champions representing the following entities participated. Below you will find a summary of the commitments that each Champion brought to the first meeting.
Champions of Safe Ground 4 April
- IACG members:
- The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission, UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus
- United Nations Office of Partnerships
- Global Partnership Forum
- Department of Global Communications
- World Sports Alliance – WSAIGO
- Legacy of War Foundation
- Global Advocate for the Elimination of Mines and Explosive Hazards
Commitments from Champions at the First Safe Ground Champion Meeting 4 April 2019
With a presence in around 170 countries and territories and mine action programmes in 12 countries, UNDP will promote the Safe Ground campaign through its work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it will advocate and work on awareness raising campaigns and possibly involve its Goodwill Ambassadors to promote the Safe Ground campaign. UNDP will work to demonstrate how Safe Ground can impact communities and help achieve SDGs at the local level, turning “know-how into show-how”. Jointly with the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), UNDP produced the publication which illustrates how mine action contributes to the SDGs.
UNODA will promote the Safe Ground campaign as it considers the victim assistance provisions of the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention vitally important. UNODA will use its social media and outreach tools to raise awareness of the campaign, including on the need for financial resources, and promote it in the framework of the Secretary-General’s disarmament agenda, “Securing Our Common Future”, which prioritizes “disarmament that saves lives”.
UNOPS will bring to Safe Ground its extensive experience in implementing mine action and infrastructure projects, project management, and its work with partners across the private, governmental, and non-governmental sectors. With its dedicated Infrastructure Centre of Excellence, UNOPS will focus on the critical role that resilient infrastructure plays in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and, more broadly, will help to ensure that partners’ projects receive the highest quality advice and experience. This experience will be brought forward in direct support of the Campaign through assessment, design, procurement and as appropriate implementation of the Safe Ground sport facilities.
UNFICYP will continue its advocacy with all relevant stakeholders as well as fundraising for a pilot project to establish a sports facility inside the Buffer Zone of Cyprus. The facility is to become a hub of “bi-communality” for Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, accessible to persons of all abilities, girls and boys, women and men. It will also serve as a centre for raising awareness of the perils of landmines and as a pilot project for other areas across the world affected by landmines and conflict in general, division and intolerance – to use Safe Ground to bridge divides and bring communities together. The area for this project has been identified, close to the new crossing in Dherynia which opened in November 2018. The SRSG of UNFICYP would also like to create a “community of practice” for the Champions of Safe Ground to share best practices. Lastly, the SRSG pledged her personal engagement as a Champion and to advocate for and promote Safe Ground.
UNOP will promote Safe Ground through its partnerships and its network of SDG Advocates and will assist the campaign in approaching select companies as prospective partners.
The Global Partnerships Forum will promote the Safe Ground campaign through its social media platforms and links with the private sector across sectors to encourage corporate social responsibility and infrastructure development.
UN-DGC has supported the creation of the visual identity / assets for the campaign and would continue to support Safe Ground on platforms managed by the Department as well as communications outreach activities with partners. The campaign brief and material would also be shared with the network of UN Information Centers and the communications offices in UNRC offices around the world. The campaign may also be featured and highlighted at the 68th United Nations Civil Society Conference that will be held in Salt Lake City on 26-28 August 2019 with a focus on SDG11.
The World Sports Alliance Intergovernmental Organization will support Safe Ground by contributing to the building of sports facilities, donating professional level, eco-friendly and sustainable turf in order to turn minefields into playing fields, as well as utilizing its network of Member States, donors and private enterprise contacts in order to mobilize resources, so as to assist those injured and/or victimized by explosive ordnance.
The Global Advocate will promote and raise awareness about the campaign and narrate a series of Public Service Announcements linking the UN Mine Action Strategy 2019 – 2023 to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda of the General Assembly. Raise resources for the pilot projects.
"Whilst the focus on conflict related injuries is on the emergency medical response, we can't ignore what happens afterwards. Too often those who benefit from the latest medical advances, who survive horrific injures that a decade ago would have been fatal; are not given access to the necessary support in prosthetics and rehabilitation. I speak from experience, I lost three limbs to a landmine in 2011, and know all too well the journey to regain my independence. All too often, through my work as a photographer, I meet others who don't have the same opportunity.
Thats why at Legacy of War we believe there is no point in saving a life, if you don’t give that person their life back." - Giles Duley, CEO, Legacy of War
Pending Confirmation of commitment:
UNDP Cambodia will soon launch the Safe Ground campaign, beginning with a site in a small village in Battambong province near the Thai border. The village was an important base for the Khmer Rouge and the area remains heavily mined. In a story made for TV, the Royal Government of Cambodia, with financial and technical support from UNDP and partners, recently cleared an area where children are now playing football. Together with the community, UNDP will launch the Safe Ground football pitch as part of the campaign’s target provinces.
The Safe Ground Initiative in Cambodia is part of the Clearing for Results, phase III: Mine Action for Human Development (CFRIII 2016-2019). The CFRIII is a nationally implemented project by the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) through UNDP, with support from Australia, UNDP and Canada. Building on the success of the previous two phases, the phase III has continued to strengthen the national capacity to fulfil mine action responsibilities, and ensuring that clearance resources support development priorities, particularly through CMAA. Together, UNDP, CMAA and partners have cleared 238 km2 (total clearance data of CfR I to III) of land for use by communities for livelihoods and service provision since 2006. UNDP also continues to support the national authority to integrate land clearance activities, victim assistance, mine risk education, and gender mainstreaming in mine action efforts into broader national and international frameworks.
The Safe Ground campaign is supporting LEAD Monrovia Football Academy to build a full-size football pitch as part of its new campus in post-conflict Liberia. LEAD Monrovia Football Academy (LEAD MFA) is the flagship of LEAD Africa, a growing network of progressive leadership academies that empower Africa's future leaders through quality education and sport. LEAD MFA started educating and training young Liberian football players in 2015. The Academy uses football to capture the energy and imagination of youth, and it provides a holistic, comprehensive education that equips student-athletes with the skills they need to succeed as both athletes and professionals. The primary goal of the Academy is to develop future leaders. The World Sport Association (WSAING), a Safe Ground champion, has offered artificial turf and other material for the Academy’s football pitches and futsal court.
In Viet Nam, UNDP launched a new large-scale mine action project in 2018, together with the national mine action center (VNMAC) and with support from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), to address the extensive legacy of UXO contamination, with a special emphasis on two of provinces considered among those affected the most. This has resulted in a new prioritization system for clearance based on humanitarian and development criteria, and an overall emphasis on achieving progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. UNDP also works with the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) on a new survivor tracking and case management system. Survivors have been engaged in the development of the new system, which will empower them to update their information online and print certificates to access government assistance. As part of the risk education component, an assessment was made of knowledge, attitude and behavior to ensure a more targeted communication campaign to at-risk groups. As part of the risk education activities, UNDP Viet Nam also made a Safe Ground video.
For more information contact UNMAS Global Communications Officer, and Safe Ground Focal Point:
Lee Woodyear, woodyear[at]un.org