Helping Georgia clear mines and unexploded ordnance
On 20th February 2013 a closing ceremony to mark the end of the Georgia III NATO Trust Fund/Partnership for Peace Project was held at NATO HQ. The event was hosted by the Georgian Minister of Defence, Mr. Irakli Alasania with 21 Ambassadors amongst the 60 guests. The project helped to clear mines and unexploded ordnance in Georgia and to improve medical rehabilitation for victims injured by explosions.
Training to remove the remnants of war
Mines and Unexploded Ordnances (UXO) represent a significant security challenge for Georgia, and this problem was exacerbated following the conflict with Russia in August 2008. The project was established to train and equip 66 members of the Georgian Military Engineer Brigade in explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and humanitarian demining. It was launched in October 2010 following a request by the Georgian Government. By April 2011, the soldiers were undergoing specialized training courses in EOD techniques. The training was conducted both in Georgia and in Azerbaijan by staff from the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA). After completing their training, the participants spent six months taking part in a mentoring programme in Georgia. During this phase of the project, the EOD Company had the opportunity to put their recently acquired skills and equipment to use, carrying out clearance operations at two sites designated by the Georgia Ministry of Defence.
In addition to the intensive training courses, the Trust Fund project provided Georgia with over €600,000 worth of demining equipment, including personal protective equipment, mine detectors, demining tool kits, three minibuses and three all-terrain vehicles, which give the Company the capability to deploy to EOD tasks as an independent unit. ‘This NATO project brings tangible results to people and makes NATO’s work less abstract to society. It also improves livelihoods of those living in mine and UXO affected areas’ said James Appathurai, NATO’s Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy.
Enhancing medical rehabilitation facilities
A related aspect of the NATO-funded project focused on addressing the needs of victims injured by ERW, thus helping to build up Georgia’s medical rehabilitation capacity. The Trust Fund assisted Gori Military Hospital providing €80,000 worth of specialised medical equipment to the hospital’s physiotherapy department. “With the installation of the new, advanced equipment, we can now provide a wide range of services, like movement therapy, medical massages and hydrotherapy to patients with various types of injuries or traumas,” says Dr Nino Kervalishvili, Head of the Gori Military’s Physiotherapy Department.
Successful cooperation between partners
The lead nations for this NATO Trust Fund project were the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Estonia. Fourteen other NATO member and partner countries contributed €1.54 million to the programme, including Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Denmark, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
As with two previous Partnership for Peace Trust Fund projects in Georgia, the NSPA served as the Executing Agent for the project which ended in October 2012.
The successful completion of the Trust Fund project provides Georgia with an important EOD-capacity, and with further support, this can be put to good use to continue with ERW clearance in the country.