The mine action strategy of the Swiss Confederation for the period 2008 to 2011 covers all aspects of mine action, including the field of explosive remnants of war (ERW). The strategy has been developed following intensive consultation within the federal administration.
Deadly leftovers from armed conflicts prevent reconstruction
They are small, nasty and dirt cheap. Frequently they don’t do any damage until the armed conflict is long over. Their main victims are almost always civilians, around one quarter of them children.
Mines make huge areas of land unusable for agricultural production thus destroying the economic existence of the people in these areas. Mines are often used in conflicts as a weapon of terror. Planted along transport routes and roads to schools and hospitals, they disrupt the day-to-day existence of the population and prevent the return of refugees.
Multilateral agreement to do away with landmines
The Ottawa Convention is an international agreement prohibiting the use, the stockpiling, the production and the transferring of anti-personnel mines. It also commits the contracting states to clear mined areas within 10 years. Since the adoption of the convention in 1997, 143 states, two-thirds of the UN membership, have signed the agreement. Among the signatory countries are Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Mozambique, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nicaragua, all of which are the most seriously affected by landmines.
In spite of the success of the Ottawa Convention and the relatively small number of victims in comparison to the victims of violence, illness and accidents, mines continue to cause death and injury and the exclusion of thousands of people and their families. Work to locate mined fields and roads is still far from complete and the countries most severely affected by this scourge, often the poorest countries in the world, find that mines are a major block to their development.
The Swiss contribution to ending the scourge
In the context of its development cooperation and assistance projects, the SDC is committed to carrying out humanitarian de-mining activities and to support the Ottawa Convention, programs explaining the danger of mines and assistance for the victims of mines with a contribution of CHF 3 million a year, plus another CHF 3 million for the GIHCD. In 2004 the SDC contributed to projects in Angola, Eritrea, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Mozambique, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Georgia.
Humanitarian de-mining, which includes locating mined fields and risk evaluation, makes up a good one-third of the mine action projects financed by the SDC, especially if a development project or humanitarian activity is hampered by mines. Our task consists mainly in explaining the dangers of mines and helping the victims.
Switzerland has committed considerable funds to helping the victims of anti-personnel mines in the wake of the Bern Manifesto of 11 December 1998 and the Maputo Strategy of 1999 . With these comprehensive and integrated procedures, assistance can be given victims of anti-personnel mines without sacrificing assistance programs for other victims of violence and accidents or for the handicapped. Mine victims assistance involves mainly emergency assistance and medical care, physical rehabilitation, psychosocial support and the economic reintegration of the victims.
Equally important in victims assistance projects is coordination between the various actors in the field (donors, local governments, international agencies, NGOs). It is also crucial to strengthen and develop skills and national health systems within programs for sustainable development to ensure the continuity of the assistance and respect for the dignity of the victims and their rights (advocacy and empowerment).
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