On 28th and 29th January, Geneva Call and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) organized a meeting on “Humanitarian demining, peace processes and territory” in Bogota, Colombia. This was part of the follow-up to Geneva Call’s long-term dialogue on the landmine issue with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) and the National Liberation Army (ELN).
“This meeting will share experiences about humanitarian demining in different parts of the country, exchange information on humanitarian demining and the peace process, and develop proposals to reinforce the participation of local communities in humanitarian demining processes,” explained Anki Sjoeberg, Programme Director at Geneva Call.
Unlike military demining, whose main objective is to enable military forces to progress, humanitarian defining aims to remove all anti-personnel mines explosive remnants of war so that the communities can once again use their territories without danger. The involvement and contribution of local communities in this process are therefore crucial to ensure successful, safe demining.
More than 100 people participated in this meeting, including representatives of the Colombian authorities, local communities affected by anti-personnel mines and local and international humanitarian and mine action organizations. Messages sent to the meeting by the FARC-EP and the ELN were also presented to the participants.
Participants formulated a final declaration of recommendations to be shared with the government and FARC-EP in Havana and with the ELN and all the stakeholders working in the field of humanitarian demining in Colombia. The recommendations insist on the need to involve local communities in the entire demining process, particularly in prioritizing areas to be demined and implementing the demining. They also state that the humanitarian demining process should be considered as a way to facilitate reconciliation by involving all the key actors.
Since 1990, 4,145 civilian anti-personnel mine casualties have been reported in Colombia, and even though the number of new victims decreases every year, Colombia remains one of the worst affected countries in the world.