Humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance

Landmines and unexploded ordnance kill thousands of people around the world each year. Germany is actively working for the prohibition of anti-personnel mines. The Federal Foreign Office supports humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance projects around the world and has been one of the foremost international donors in this field for many years. 

In partnership with experienced organisations on the ground, the German Government helps countries clear mines, cluster munitions and unexploded ordnance, above all when such contamination causes humanitarian and/or social and economic problems for local communities. The aim of this aid is not just to help reduce poverty and promote development but also and most importantly to ensure people’s physical safety and alleviate suffering. Victim assistance projects in particular serve this aim. The aid is also intended to help the countries concerned fulfil their obligations under the Ottawa Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines, the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions and the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

The worldwide implementation of these Conventions remains one of the German Government’s major aims. In this way, we hope to make a lasting contribution towards ensuring that anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions will not be deployed in the future and will thus no longer pose a threat.

Locating and clearing mines and unexploded ordnance remains a dangerous, expensive and time-consuming process. The Federal Foreign Office is actively campaigning for the prohibition of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, and currently also supports 45 projects in 28 countries in the field of mine and ordnance clearance.

Tremendous efforts undertaken by the international community mean that considerable headway has been made in tackling the landmine problem around the world. These and the entry into force on 1 August 2010 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions have brought us closer to a world free of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions.

The experience of the past twenty years has shown that the total contaminated area is smaller than originally estimated. The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) thus believes that the problem can be solved in years rather than in decades.

Mission possible – the battle against landmines is winnable

Albania, Kosovo and Croatia serve as encouraging examples. Contrary to expectations, the number of victims in these countries has fallen steeply within a relatively short period. This unexpectedly positive development is due not only to more reliable analysis and more efficient clearing techniques but also to years of tireless effort by a host of NGOs as well as the Parties to the Ottawa Convention and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

In many countries, however, explosive remnants of war (landmines, unexploded ordnance and cluster munitions) continue to cause great suffering. Landmines and cluster munitions, which have in some cases lain buried for decades, are a particular problem in many fragile post-conflict societies with non-existent or inadequate health care systems. Good orthopaedic and psycho-social treatment for the victims is the exception rather than the rule. In severely contaminated areas, simply stepping off hard-surfaced roads is a risk to life and limb. The fear of landmines, unexploded ordnance and cluster munitions – justified in some cases and unjustified in others – also adversely affects the life of whole communities, making people too afraid to use roads or till and harvest their fields.

Most landmines, unexploded ordnance and cluster munitions have been laid or deployed indiscriminately and without reliable documentation. Since the precise location and extent of the contaminated areas are usually unknown, it is unfortunately often only when accidents happen that the hidden danger is revealed.

In many countries such as Afghanistan, Cambodia, Colombia, Laos and Viet Nam, unexploded or abandoned ordnance and cluster munitions today cause more casualties than landmines. The clearance programmes funded by the Federal Foreign Office take this fact into account. These programmes aim to create a safe environment for the local population by tackling all three threats – landmines, unexploded ordnance and cluster munitions – at once.

Germany is a party to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons), the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Ottawa Convention) and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and is campaigning strongly for these Conventions to be implemented and become universal in scope.

Well into the 1990s, anti-personnel mines were considered indispensable by many armed forces, including those in democratic countries. Up till then such weapons were found in practically every country’s arsenal and during the Cold War neither the public at large nor the politicians had any doubts about their legality. There were virtually no restrictions on global trade in mines, which were deployed mostly in internal conflicts by many state and non-state actors without any scruples or thought for the long-term humanitarian consequences.

Together with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, from the mid-1990s onwards the German Government pushed hard for a ban on anti-personnel mines and played a leading role in the drafting and implementation of the Ottawa Convention. The unilateral announcement in 1996 that Germany would no longer deploy anti-personnel mines gave a further boost to the international negotiation process.

Following the deployment of cluster munitions in the Middle East in summer 2006, there were calls for a ban on these munitions. The German Government was aware early on that the deployment of cluster munitions puts the civilian population in particular at risk, not least because certain types are known to have a high dud rate. We therefore supported the negotiating process on cluster munitions from the start. The aim was to ensure better protection for the civilian population from the hazards associated with these weapons and thereby contribute to the further development of international humanitarian law.

The Oslo Process on Cluster Munitions initiated by Norway outside the UN context in February 2007 produced the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which was signed by 94 countries (including Germany) in Oslo on 3 December 2008 and entered into force on 1 August 2010.

As well as participating in these campaigns, the German Government has for many years now made large sums available for humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance. Since 1992 it has provided some 235 million euros for such projects in 42 different countries. In 2013 alone the Federal Foreign Office spent 14.9 million euros on clearance projects in 22 countries, making a major contribution to eliminating the problem.

Federal Foreign Office aid projects

Germany has become a key player in the field of humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance and, as one of the world’s biggest and most reliable donors, ensures that it does justice to its highly visible role in the implementation and universalisation of the Ottawa and Cluster Munitions Conventions and the UN Conventional Weapons Convention. In 2013, Germany provided some 20 million US dollars of funding, putting it at 7th place in the donor rankings.

The German Government supports humanitarian clearance projects around the world and has made available roughly 250 million euros for projects in 45 countries since 1992.

Clearance, awareness and victim assistance projects are funded in places where landmines and unexploded ordnance (including cluster munitions) pose a humanitarian problem and/or hinder a country’s social and economic development – for example in Afghanistan, Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans, and central and south-east Asia.

The Federal Foreign Office will make available almost 20 million euros for humanitarian clearance projects in 2014.

The victim assistance projects supported by the Federal Foreign Office seek to provide physical and psychological treatment for victims and legal advice for them and their families. Measures for the social and economic integration of victims and their families into society fall within the remit of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). This Ministry provided projects with those aims with some 5.7 million euros between 2003 and 2011. The Federal Foreign Office made available some 4.2 million euros for 25 projects falling within its remit (including two mine awareness projects in Libya) between 2008 and 2013. A total of 1.6 million euros were provided by the Federal Foreign Office and the BMZ for victim assistance and awareness projects in 2013. The German Government has thus fulfilled the pledge it made at the Second Review Conference of the Ottawa Convention in Cartagena in 2010 to enhance its funding of victim assistance projects.

Against the backdrop of decreasing global funds for humanitarian demining and budget constraints, our project funding is geared to the following parameters:

  • making clearance operations more efficient and effective;
  • creating sustainable local clearance and management capacities.

Example for FFO-funded projects: Rats as mine detectors in Mozambique

Looking ahead

For the German Government it remains a major priority to see the Ottawa, Cluster Munitions and UN Conventional Weapons Conventions implemented worldwide. In this way, we hope to make a lasting contribution towards ensuring that anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions will not be deployed in the future and will thus no longer pose a threat.

Although much has been achieved in the battle against anti-personnel mines since the 1990s and much will be achieved in the battle against cluster munitions over the years to come, many countries are unlikely to be able to fulfil the obligations they have assumed under these Conventions on schedule, especially as regards the clearance of suspected contaminated areas. Over the years ahead these countries will therefore still need appropriate international support.

In addition to funding bilateral projects, the Federal Foreign Office will continue to work with all relevant international organisations concerned with humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance. Its main partners here are the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in New York, which has been given a coordinating role within the United Nations; the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL); the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC); and the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD).

Last updated 09.07.2014