Albania’s mine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination problem is a result of the 1999 Kosovo conflict. Armed forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) laid landmines along both sides of Albania’s border with Kosovo, in the north-eastern Kukës region.
The Albanian Mine Action Committee and the Albanian Mine Action Executive (AMAE) were established by the government in 1999. In 2002, the UNDP initiated a capacity building project to build mine action coordination and monitoring capacity.
By the end of 2007, AMAE was fully nationalised and, in November 2009, Albania declared the completion of its mine clearance obligations under Article 5 of the Anti- Personnel Mine Ban Convention, several months ahead of schedule.
Albania is one of the few countries with a contamination problem that: established national structures to address the problem, harnessed international support to build its national capacity, developed and implemented realistic plans ahead of schedule with a team of national staff
Albania also made significant strides in putting in-place sustainable systems and structures for physical and medical rehabilitation for mine/ERW survivors and for people with disabilities.
One of the main objectives of UNDP’s main goals in supporting Albania was the promotion of national ownership and the integration of the AMAE within government structures. This was not achieved however, and administratively, AMAE remained a UNDP Direct Execution project implementation unit for its duration.
In November 2009, Albania was declared free of mines and ERW. Following completion, AMAE phased-out most of its operations but did not formally close due to efforts to assess whether AMAE ́s capacity could be used to support the clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) hotspot areas and the Government ́s ammunition disposal programme.
In addition to its mine/ERW contamination problem, Albania has a problem with excess and unstable ammunition in military depots left from the former communist regime. Over the years, ammunition depot explosions have resulted in deaths, injuries and displacement. In response to an accident that took place in Gërdec in 2008, the Government endorsed the demilitarisation2 of all hazardous ordnance by 2013. In 2010, UNDP ́s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery undertook an assessment that provided guidance on AMAE transition options. The following year, the Government of Albania and the UNDP formally agreed to use AMAE (renamed the Albania Mine and Munitions Coordination Office – AMMCO) to monitor and coordinate the clearance of 19 hotspot areas across the country.
It took approximately one year for the Ministry of Defence and the UNDP to formally approve AMMCO’s mandate, and the question of national ownership and integration within the government persists. Continuing as a UNDP project implementation unit is not sustainable and AMMCO ́s future is at risk as long as it depends on the support of the UNDP to sustain it.
Completion of the AMAE’s transition to AMMCO was also slow and beset by delays. Earlier guidance from the UNDP on programme closure, and the use of mine action capacity to support wider security-related programmes, could have better facilitated these transitions. Based on AMAE ́s experiences, AMMCO needs to develop a clear strategy to address integration within the government, sustainability and closure.