Report on the United Nations International Meeting on Mine Clearance

Geneva, July 5-7, 1995

97 countries, 11 international organisations, 16 entities of the UN system and 30 non-governmental organisations (NGO) participated in this meeting, where both a high level political debate and a technical workshop took place.

The objective of the meeting was to initiate a co-ordinated action in order to increase the moral and financial responsibility of the international community on the issue of mine clearance by:

US$85 million have been pledged at the meeting, US$20 million being directly earmarked to the UN Mine Clearance Trust Fund.

In their common declaration, the representatives of the NGOs participating in the world-wide campaign to ban landmines mentioned that: "in addition to the trust fund, there is also an urgent need at the national level for expanded research and development on humanitarian demining equipment, technology and techniques. Such research and development should be focused on affordable and sustainable options".

With more than 100 million mines buried in the soil of 64 countries, the present situation has been recognised as being very alarming. In 1993, the international community has spent US$67 million on removing 100,000 mines. At the same time, 2.5 million new mines were laid. Every month, 500 to 800 people (mostly civilians) are killed by mines, and about 2000 are maimed. This blind terrorism is one of the worst undertakings mankind has inflicted on itself.

The UN Secretary General and the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have called for a total ban of production, stockpiling, transfer and use of anti-personnel mines. On the UN and ICRC side, it is hoped that the 1980 Convention on Inhumane Weapons, due to be revised in Vienna in September 1995, will be able to address the issue of anti-personnel mines according to the model of the Chemical Weapon Convention. For the moment, only few governmental delegations (Belgium, Sweden, Norway) have clearly announced their agreement for a total ban.

At the Geneva meeting the main proposals from the governmental delegations can be summed up as follows

It was also emphasized that the presence of mines is a obstacle to the establishment of a durable peace, specially by creating a refugee problem which increases instability in mine affected countries (in Angola, for example, there are 3 million such refugees). NGOs and the private sector are expected to help the UN in this post-conflict task.

Technical meetings

The technical meetings (2 in parallel) covered the following topics

For each of these panels, the UN had prepared a 4 to 6 page background paper. 4 to 6 panelists present their experience and point of view, before the questions and comments from the audience. Documents from the panelist and from NGOs were made available on tables, but no proceedings will be printed.

Panel B on mine clearance was introduced by the background paper No. 2. In a first step, mined areas have to be located and accurately mapped. Then each and every mine has to be located and identified. Specialists can then defuse the mines so they can be moved for destruction elsewhere. On site destruction is sometimes possible. Some important comments were:

Panel E was more concerned about technological solutions. The UN Background paper No. 5 presents the situation and lists the mine destruction methods:

The presentations at the panel have confirmed these points and emphasized the need for reducing the false alarm rate, careful integration of any technologies within the local demining teams, and better coordination of research. Some research exists in Sweden (hand-held sensor combination expected in 3-5 years and helicopter mapping), US (30 projects funded by the DOD for US$10 million in 1995), the European Union (ECU30 million for a 3 year project, with demonstrators in selected areas; most of the present work is done at ISPRA on microwave scanning), and South Africa (dogs and armored vehicles).


[UN95] "UN International Meeting on Mine Clearance", Geneva, July 1995 (Overview and background papers for the panels--document can be requested from the UN Dept of Humanitarian Affairs, New York, NY 10017)

[Unidir95] "Land Mines and the CCW Review Conference", Unidir Newsletter 28/29, Mai 95, 122p (Palais des Nations, CH-1211 Genève 10, Switzerland).

[UN94] "Assistance in Mine Clearance, Report of the Secretary-General", A/49/357, Sept 94, 55p (UN Dept of Humanitarian Affairs, New-York, NY 10017, USA).

[AV/MCM95] "Autonomous Vehicles in Mine Counter-Measures Symposium", Monterey, April 1995, 690p (US$50+, Undersea Warfare Group, Naval Postgraduate School, USA Monterey, CA 93942, USA.

[SPIE95] "Detection Technologies for Mines and Minelike Targets, SPIE Orlando Conference", April 1995, SPIE Volume 2496, 1020p ($134+

[WAPM95] "Workshop on Antipersonnel Mine Detection and Removal", Lausanne, June 1995, 74p (LAMI-EPFL, CH-1015 Lausanne,

[FOA94] "International Workshop of Technical Experts on Ordnance Recovery and Disposal in the Framework of International Demining Operations", Stockholm, June 1994, 44p (FOA, Dept of Weapons and Protection, S-17290 Stockholm, Sweden).

[CICR93] "Symposium on Anti-Personnel Mines", Montreux, April 1993, International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva (CICR/ICRC, The Scientific Counselor, 19 Av. Paix, CH-1202 Genève, Switzerland).

[Jane94] "Jane's Military and Vehicle Logistics 1994-95" 15th ed, 1994, ISBN 0 7106 1162 5, 745p.

[PHR93] "Landmines, A Deadly Legacy", Physicians for Human Rights, New-York, 1993, 510p, ISBN 1-56432-1134 .

[ICRC95] "Landmines: Time for Action -- International Humanitarian Law", ICRC 1995, 35p (CICR/ICRC, 19 Av. Paix, CH-1202 Genève, Switzerland).

[CICR94] "Mines Terrestres: une action s'impose, Le droit international humanitaire" CICR 1994, 42p (CICR/ICRC, 19 Av. Paix, CH-1202 Genève, Switzerland).

World Wide Web forum on demining technologies:

MINWARA (Mine Warfare Association) P.O. Box 7135, Charlottesville, VA 22906-7135, USA.

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by Jean-Daniel Nicoud