NPA signs agreement with the EU on Mine Action in Myanmar
“We are very happy to finally have this agreement in place”, Secretary General of the Norwegian People's Aid (NPA), Liv Tørres said.
On May 31st NPA signed an agreement with the European Commission for € 3.5 million over the next 18 months to support the establishment and initial operations of the national Mine Action Centre and to conduct non-technical survey (mapping) and clearance of landmine contaminated areas in Myanmar.
Tørres follows up by saying "that securing this large grant from the EU is a significant step forward in the effort of making it possible for NPA to implement mine action in Myanmar and to open up for other international and national actors to engage in mine action activities".
Ambassador David Lipman, Head of the EU Delegation to Thailand (accredited also in Myanmar) also welcomed the conclusion of the contract with NPA.
"With this programme the EU is responding to the urgent need for Mine Action as an important contribution to a sustainable resolution of the longstanding ethnic conflicts in Myanmar/Burma," Lipman said.
"The programme is expected to contribute to confidence-building and the consolidation of the peace process, but also lay the groundwork for better access for long-term development programmes. However, we are fully aware that demining is a potentially sensitive matter, and therefore we have made sure that surveys and demining operations will only take place on request by the Myanmar Mine Action Centre and with the expressive consent of all parties concerned," he added.
More than 60 years of fighting between the government forces and a number of armed ethnic minority groups has led to a huge problem of landmines leading to tremendous suffering among innocent civilians, a problem that will remain even if a lasting peace solution is to be found between the Myanmar government and the ethnic groups.
There are no accurate figures on how many landmines are contaminating the Southeast Asian country. With NPA now being one important step closer to implement a systematic non-technical survey in up to five of the most landmine contaminated states, the goal is to have better indications of the extent of the problem as soon as possible.
The Landmine Monitor, that provides research and reports for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), has over the last years indicated Myanmar to be among the three most affected countries in the world in terms of the number of reported accidents per year.
The first component of the project is to assist the newly established Myanmar Peace Centre to set up and build the capacity for a Myanmar Mine Action Centre (MMAC). The creation of the MMAC is to ensure a coordinated and orderly implementation of all mine action related activities in Myanmar.
The second component of the project is to conduct a well-structured and systematic non-technical survey in suspected mine contaminated areas in the South-Eastern parts of Myanmar. This mapping process will provide a clear scope of the contamination problem of landmines and as well determine areas that do not have a landmine problem.
The third component of the project is for demining of areas that have been identified during the non-technical survey as having a landmine problem, which negatively impacts the local population.
Norwegian People's Aid has initiated several development pilot projects in ceasefire areas, in which non-technical surveys and de-mining will hopefully be important elements, and thus contribute to a normalization of the situation. Non-technical surveys and de-mining are also a precondition for the return of internally displaced people and refugees.
"But it is also important to emphasize that it must be up to internally displaced people and refugees themselves to decide when they feel safe and secure enough to return", says Andreas Indregard, NPA Myanmar Country Director.