Peace Day 2009: Mine Action paving the way for peace and development
KABUL - As Peace Day 21 September approaches UNAMA is featuring articles from UN agencies on the work the UN is doing for peace in Afghanistan. 10: MACCA
It may seem a statement of the obvious to say that mine action is an important element of the efforts towards peace building in Afghanistan.
However, the way in which mine action can build a peaceful Afghanistan goes beyond the removal of weapons of war from the landscape.
The United Nations Development Assistance Framework for Afghanistan uses the phrase, ‘No peace without development, no development without peace.’
This is particularly relevant to mine action which is inextricably linked to development. Without mine action, communities cannot farm their land, children cannot walk to school without fear, and access to water and fuel sources is blocked.
On the other hand, mine action in Afghanistan while conflict continues is even more challenging. In the last year, the Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan had two mine action staff killed, nine injured and 45 abducted as a result of criminal and insurgent activities.
Grinding poverty and lack of opportunities often drive young people away from peaceful ways of developing themselves and their communities towards insurgencies and violence.
Therefore, we are aware that we need to look at how development can pave the way for peace in these volatile areas through mine action.
One such strategy is ‘Community Based Demining.’ This involves recruiting people from within mine-contaminated communities to be able to clear the mines from their own community, with expert oversight from specialist demining NGOs.
By providing employment to these poor communities – which does not take them away from their daily work of farming, etc. – MACCA boosts not only the community’s economy but also its hope for a peaceful and prosperous future, whilst also removing the threat of mines.
There are current projects where this is proving successful in Helmand, Uruzgan, Kunar and Kandahar. Here is the view of one such de-miner, Akbar of Spena Kalacha in the Dand district of Kandahar:
“During the Russian occupation, there were military posts close to my village that were surrounded by lines of mines and so even now our village is heavily contaminated.
I am a farmer but I now have two jobs – in the morning I am busy working with the community-based demining team, and in the afternoon I work my land.
There are a few reasons I decided to join the Community-Based Demining programme. Firstly, my village has mountains on one side and the other side is contaminated with mines. This makes life difficult for us and so I wanted to help clear these mines to improve our lives. Secondly, I feel that by doing this work, I am serving my country. Thirdly, it is part-time work for a salary, which means I can better support my family whilst not neglecting my farm, since I can still work that in the afternoon.”
In a country as heavily contaminated with landmines as Afghanistan, it is essential to remove the threat of mines from all communities to pave the way for peace and development.
By ensuring that communities are free from the threat of mines, it enables them to develop, whether by increasing crop output or making it possible for children to go to school without fear.
And where development has an open door, people are free to focus on developing their own communities, avoiding the kind of discontent and unrest which destroys peace.
Mine action need not only be a means to an end (a mine-free Afghanistan) but – in the very way it is carried out – can itself support peace and development in the country.
By Dr Haider Reza, Programme Director, MACCA Afghanistan