On the occasion of the International Mine Awareness Day celebrated every year on 4 April, the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments affirms the EU’s strong commitment to save lives and address the socio-economic impact on the civilian population of landmines or explosive remnants of war.
Over the past decade, the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments has been fully engaged in supporting demining actions across the world through its Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace. These have brought tangible benefits for communities in affected areas, creating new opportunities for growth and stability. The EU funding was often the only source of financing to support:
- the destruction and disposal of hazardous ammunition, contribution to safety and security;
- reducing the effects of mines/ explosive remnants of war;
- reducing the effects of armed violence,
- mine risk education and institutional capacity building.
Currently, a series of mine-action projects are on-going in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Burkina Faso, Somalia and Sri Lanka and are delivering positive results for people in the area.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the EU-funded action contributed to the disposal of over 9 100 tons of ammunition, the equivalent to 26% of the total stockpile as of 2005. This has contributed to decreasing the threat of uncontrolled explosions posed by chemically unstable and highly hazardous ammunition and remnants of war in the country. Over the past two years, the EU-funding provided has helped to map the remaining contaminated areas and contributed to a ‘mine-free’ Bosnia-Herzegovina, in line with the Ottawa Convention (link is external). These programmes are implemented by UNDP in close coordination with the European Union Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina (link is external) (EUFOR Althea).
In Ukraine, the EU supports a mine action programme to strengthen the resilience and stability in eastern Ukraine, including regions bordering the Sea of Azov. This addresses the critical issue of mine clearance and release of agricultural land in the southern Donetsk Oblast. Up to 800 000 square metres will be analysed and cleared of existing mines. The local population will thus have safe access to agricultural land to provide for their livelihoods. Also, a broad mine risk education campaign is ongoing to prevent any accidents or hazards caused by mines.
In Libya, the EU, through its support via the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace, remains the leading donor for humanitarian demining. Currently three complementary actions are ongoing in the country.
- The first, helped deploy an explosives specialist to Tripoli who provides mentorship and training to Libyan institutions in charge of mine clearance and investigations. This helps ensure well-planned and managed humanitarian clearance of mines, which saves lives and prevents recycling of explosives by militias. The project supports at the same time the EU’s strategic goal of assisting Libya’s political transition towards stability through the deployment of security-related expertise.
- A second project aims at Creating Safer Communities to Support Stabilization and Reconstruction in Sirte (Libya). It facilitates large-scale clearance of acute explosive remnants of war in Sirte, an area heavily contaminated during the ISIS occupation. Land clearance will have a positive impact on the stabilisation and reconstruction process in western Libya, in particular with the expected demilitarisation following the singing of the ceasefire declaration on 23 October 2020.
- A third EU-funded project on ‘Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) activities in Libya’ aims to recreate a safe environment where conflict-affected communities in Libya can live without the threat of mines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW). The EU supports mine risk education activities towards the internally displaced person tempted to return to their homes and provides support to Libyan civil protection organisations to destroy unsecured munition near Tripoli.
In Sri Lanka, the EU supports a large-scale mine clearance project in the North of the country. 1 000 000 square metres of mine-contaminated land will be cleared as a result of the project, allowing rural development and resettlement of internally displaced persons and refugees. This will also contribute to peacebuilding and reconciliation in the area.
Key figures and main achievements to date:
- Over 200 people from conflict-affected communities were employed;
- Almost 316 000 square metres of land was demined, 3 858 explosive items were cleared, as well as 11 806 bullets;
- Over 70 people were able to return safely to their land after decades of displacement;
- Over 6 200 people benefit directly from the EU-funded demining actions and another 3 400 people indirectly.
In Syria, an EU-funded project aimed at Creating Safer Communities in North East Syria to Support Safe and Sustainable Returns and Stabilization is ongoing. It aims at creating safer communities, enable safe and sustainable returns, and thus encourage stabilization and early recovery through risk education and protection from explosive hazards (surveys and clearance). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, surveys and clearance activities were stopped for the moment, while risk education activities are ongoing.
In Lebanon, an EU-funded project provides capacity building on humanitarian demining, while in Somalia activities enhance peace and stability by building local capacities to mitigate security and safety risks posed by explosive hazards. At community level, the project engages with affected local populations, increasing their capacity to address explosive hazards found in their communities and thus saving lives.
In Burkina Faso, the EU financed the acquisition of specialized equipment to detect improvised explosive devices and provided training to the Burkinabe Military Engineers on the use of the detecting equipment.