The Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan (MAPA), one of the earliest humanitarian demining programmes in the world, has been operating since 1989. 2002 marks its thirteenth year of operation and represents a year of significant change for the MAPA. In the aftermath of military conflict in late 2001, there was a need for an immediate emergency humanitarian response capacity in 2002. This response was required to meet the initial demand for safe transportation routes for humanitarian assistance and personnel, and safe areas for refugees and internally displaced persons. A rapid response mine risk education capacity for individuals working in and returning to Afghanistan was also required. The tremendous increase in mine action requirements challenged the MAPA to both grow and adapt to new realities on the ground in Afghanistan. The 15 implementing NGOs that make up the MAPA, in addition to the organisations providing technical assistance to the Programme, have risen to this challenge. Much work remains ahead, but the efforts made by the MAPA's Afghan staff in minimising the impact of deadly mines and UXO during the 2002 post-conflict phase must be applauded.
Perhaps the most important transition of 2002 for mine action in Afghanistan was the country's move from being known as one of the biggest users of landmines globally, to becoming a state that has acceded to the Mine Ban Convention and publicly deplored the use of this weapon. Afghanistan ratified the Convention on 11 September 2002. Subsequently, Deputy Foreign Minister M. Rahim Sherzoy led the Afghan delegation to the Fourth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention. Afghanistan's attendance at this meeting was a historic moment and was celebrated as such by other States parties through their congratulations and applause for Afghanistan's official statements at the meeting. The Afghan Government has provided a model for the entire region by moving forward extremely rapidly on establishing and implementing a complete ban on antipersonnel landmines, and adapting military doctrine to this humanitarian commitment. Throughout 2002, the support of the Government has been essential in carrying out MAPA operations around the country. Key Government Ministries (notably the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), the Office of Disaster Preparedness's Department of Mine Clearance (ODP/DMC), and provincial and local government officals have been involved in planning and approving mine action activities in Afghanistan. Of course, the Government's continued support for implementing the legal requirements of the Mine Ban Convention is an important contribution to the overall humanitarian mine action effort in Afghanistan.
In the year 2002, MAPA surveyed 117.7 square kilometers (km2) and cleared 111.6 km2 of land contaminated by mines and UXO. Due to the MAPA focus on the clearance of recent battle areas, in the aftermath of contamination from the 2001 conflict, achievements in both the survey and clearance of contaminated battle area far exceeded initial targets. This re-orientation of assets towards battle area clearance led to outputs for mine clearance that were lower than original targets. In the area of mine risk education, substantial results were also achieved in the emergency context of 2002; programmes were rapidly expanded to meet the need for risk reduction within vulnerable groups. Thus, approximately 2.4 million people were reached with mine awareness messages. This number was more than double the original targets and represents a significant achievement in preventing injury and death from mines and UXO.
As the programme moves forward, the fact that mine action is a fundamental prerequisite for the successful development of Afghanistan is clear. At the start of 2002, Afghanistan contained over 800 km2 of territory contaminated by land mines and an additional estimated 500 km2 contaminated by UXO. For all the progress made in 2002, our clearance targets remain a tremendous challenge.
Financial assistance from the international community reached more than US$ 66 million in 2002, compared with US$ 26.3 million in 2001 and US$20 million in 2000. As a result, the MAPA expanded to 7,200 staff in 2002 and achieved its highest outputs ever. In line with this expansion, the MAPA trained an unprecedented number of Afghan staff; updated and improved equipment; implemented higher safety and quality standards; and implemented new working methods to increase overall efficiency. The donor community of states, UN organisations, NGOs, charitable foundations and private individuals deserve our sincerest thanks for their generous support to mine action in Afghanistan in 2002. It is our great hope that these levels of support can be sustained as much work remains to be done in Afghanistan.
It is my firm belief that the team approach to mine action, both within the MAPA and in the wider international community engaged in Afghanistan, is what has allowed the level of success achieved by the MAPA in 2002. Together we are achieving much-needed results and the MAPA is committed to continuing to work in that direction. By acceding to the Ottawa Convention, Afghanistan has declared a total ban on landmines in the country. With a continuation of the progress achieved in 2002, this goal can be achieved in years, not decades.
Richard Daniel Kelly
United Nations Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan
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