MAG calls for preventative action as Unplanned Explosions at Munitions Sites continue to rise
Geneva, 26 April, 2012: MAG (Mines Advisory Group) has this week called for more international support to help prevent unplanned explosions at munitions sites (UEMS).
MAG’s Chris Loughran appealed to delegates at the Convention of Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) conference in Geneva, highlighting the organisation’s emergency response in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, where an explosion on 4 March left 200 dead and thousands injured.
Said Chris: “The tragedy is the latest of a growing number of explosions around the world. There have been more than 50 unplanned explosions in 34 countries since 2009, and five in the last four months alone.
“The suffering and damage caused by these incidents underlines the importance of storing munitions safely and also the importance of providing states with the appropriate technical support that can enable them to do so.”
There are numerous depots across the globe where authorities store various state-held weapons and munitions, in various conditions. A range of causes of UEMS include lightning, electrical faults, degrading and unstable munitions and poor management practise.
Best known for its contribution to Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA), MAG has been delivering ammunition safety management projects, in collaboration with State authorities, for the past five years.
Chris adds that NGO providers can play an important role in the long-term management of munitions and stockpiles, drawing on their technical and operational experience.
“It’s far easier to avoid these incidents than to respond to the aftermath of unplanned explosions, which invariably lead to loss of life, suffering and destruction. Technical support and physical rehabilitation operations implemented by MAG and others can significantly reduce the risk of unplanned explosions, even in fragile States.
“In addition to proactive work providing clear short-term benefits, NGOs can play a crucial part in aiding governments to control and manage munitions in the long-term.
“This is why risk strategies incorporating technical assessment, socioeconomic survey and Physical Security and Stockpile Management (PSSM) of weapons and munitions are a key part of MAG’s work in countries such as Somalia, Burundi, South Sudan, RoC and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“The sector is growing and we are keen to continue to work with partners, including the United Nations Mine Action Service, to address a clear and present need for ammunition safety management. But there must be greater political support and long-term commitment from donors.”
The CCW meeting in Geneva, which draws to a close tomorrow, also focussed on post-conflict remedial measures to address Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) – Protocol V to the 1980 Convention.
A leading operational implementer in conflict recovery, MAG has also underlined the need for continued innovation in mine action to achieve efficiency, effectiveness and humanitarian impact in operations, and is committed to working with mine and ERW-affected states, communities and sector partners to achieve it.
Addressing delegates today, Chris said: “A coordinated approach between actors in the field remains central to achieving efficient and effective ERW clearance operations. The international responses to the conflict in Libya and the depot explosion in Brazzaville serve as an example of strong cooperation between implementing agencies, authorities and the United Nations Mine Action Team.”
MAG is grateful to the Australian Government, which is giving specific support for MAG to further improve impact, efficiency and effectiveness of mine and ERW clearance operations and share findings with HMA stakeholders.