Facilitating safe return

08 Feb 2010

A major obstacle to resettling the IDPs has been the considerable mine clearance activities that need to take place before people can return to their place of origin as more than two decades of war have caused significant mine and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) contamination throughout the North and East of Sri Lanka.

The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) recently allocated approximately 5.5 million USD (6 million AUD) for Sri Lanka’s mine-action sector. AUD 800,000 has been allocated to the UNDP Support to Mine Action Project to increase coordination capacities of the District Mine-Action Offices (DMAO) that help the Government Agents to coordinate and manage mine-action activities.

The DMAOs will be provided with technical support, training and equipment to ensure that they are in a position to manage and coordinate all mine action activities and ensure that the demining work meets Sri Lanka’s mine-action standards. The funding will enable the UNDP Support to Mine Action Project to significantly strengthen its human resource, operational and technical capacities to meet immediate, rapidly expanding and time-sensitive mine action demands, particularly with respect to providing the necessary coordination and quality management support for mine clearance activities in the North. An additional AUD 3 million has been allocated to procure demining equipment for the Humanitarian Demining Unit (HDU) to expedite the mine-clearance process. Equipment, including flails- mine-clearing vehicles that remove mines by detonating them, metal detectors, body armors, and helmets will be handed over to the Ministry of Nation Building and Estate Infrastructure Development.

In addition, funding has been received from the UN Peace Building Fund. The joint UNDP-UNICEF proposal aims at facilitating the safe return and socio-economic recovery of IDPs by increasing the coordination capacities of DMAOs and at supporting improved mine-safe behavior so that communities in conflict-affected areas are able to protect themselves from the risks of landmines and ERW. UNDP will strengthen its staffing and operational capacities in the District Mine Action Offices in Jaffna and Vavuniya, and sub-office in Mannar, and open sub-offices in Killinochchi and/or Mulaitivu when the UN resumes its operational presence in these districts. An additional International Technical Advisor will be recruited to provide assistance and guidance to the National Steering Committee on Mine Action (NSCMA), the DMAOs and the demining organizations, and contribute to ensuring that humanitarian mine action in Sri Lanka is implemented in conformity with Sri Lanka’s National Mine Action Standards (SLNMAS). The technical assistance will increase the capacity of the District Mine Action Offices especially with regard to quality assurance and quality control of mine action operations.