|The Fight Against Antipersonnel Mines (EC, 1997, 108 p.)|
Peace restoration in countries which have gone through years of wartime comes within the context of a delicate period, some kind of «convalescence» which requires attention from the whole international community. Among the many problems to be faced, sometimes in a state of emergency, and always with a lack of financial means, the issue of antipersonnel mine clearance is the most complex. Antipersonnel mines outrageously prolong the state of war and delay the implementation of restoration and development programs should not only arise indignation but also mobilize all energies and initiatives. Mines, plus the totality of unexploded ammunitions which pollute former war sites, are indeed responsible for a new type of endemic situation affecting mainly children and found among the ten major causes of morbidity and mortality in Southern countries.
The fight against this plague supposes the implementation of a preventive strategy similar to the ones used to prevent, or eradicate, endemic diseases. It is actually a public health issue. The solution does not only consist in finding and neutralizing mines: there are others ways to protect the populations. Destruction of mines, because there are so many of them, can by no means be an aim in itself. It is only a means of action which is part of a whole restoration program, except in cases of emergency where mine-clearance appears as an absolute necessity for the survival of a hemmed population or to permit the return of refugees.
The European Commission has been financing mine clearing operations since 1992, in a pragmatic way, by responding to each direct solicitation from the affected States individually, to each grant request from specialized humanitarian associations and particularly by taking care of a great proportion of the national programs established by the United rations Organization. These programs, prepared either for humanitarian purposes, or for the needs of the peace-keeping forces, are most of the time implemented by the U.N.O. The respective delegates of the different Heads of the Commisions affected by the problem have soon realized the necessity to establish a doctrine and a strategy towards these actions, supported by European financing, so as to be conducted «by the book» and reach optimal results. Hence the need for a study aiming at the realization of a reference document to be used as a basis for co-operation actions of the European Union in this area.
The present handbook stems from this requirement and is an attempt to gather in a condensed form the whole information that all decision-making person should be aware of in terms of mine action; to set up a univocal intervention strategy with regards to both the selection of projects and the modality of their implementation; and finally to provide a bundle of documents to help with decisions allowing the E.U. to consistently get involved in specific programs and to dispose of the necessary means to permit their proper execution.
Therefore, while others are fighting for the absolute prohibition of the use of antipersonnel mines in the grounds of ethics and Human Rights, the Commission commits itself with determination to the fight against the worst aftermath of war. The ones that kill or disable the individuals at a time when they believe they can finally leave in peace, in newly-restored security, and enjoy their part of happiness.