Archive for the ‘Research notes’ Category

Community Participation in Refugee & IDP Camps

November 25, 2016

community-participation

It is worth mentioning at the outset that in camps and camp-like settings (collective centers), the management methods and principles positively or negatively influence the well-being of residents whether refugees or internally displaced people (IDPs). One aspect of camp management is the level of community participation which is a fundamental human right as confirmed in article 27/1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Participation should efficiently be incarnated in the camp population for a strengthened and well-balanced functionality with an ultimate goal of developing a sense of ownership. It is crucial for residents, including men, women and children, to speak out and be heard by the various actors (state, NGOs, UN) and other service providers to maximize optimal results and ensure equitable access. The methodology and approaches of such involvement is defined and articulated by diverse factors (social, religious, ethnical, political and economic) including, but not limited to, convections, values, cultures, affiliations and power relations.

Definition and Elucidations of Participation and Community Involvement

“Community participation is a planned process whereby individuals and groups from among the displaced community identify and express their own views and needs, and where collective action is taken to reflect those views and meet those needs” (Norwegian Refugee Council 2008).

Participation is a key and critical building block to the Camp Management House, whereby protection and assistance services and activities are delivered in partnership with refugees/IDPs for a robust and effective response.

It is essential to ensure the involvement and equal participation of all social groups within camps and camp-like settings including women, elderly, people with disabilities and other vulnerable and marginalized groups usually ignored along the decision-making process. It is also important to take cross-cutting elements, such as gender, age and psychosocial issues, into account.

Participation may take various degrees and forms through diverse involvement methods and mechanisms along the camp-life cycle (planning, setting up and closing) with dynamic integration in all services, activities and projects. It starts with passive participation, in which residents are not engaged in the process and result of decisions and actions, and concludes with the level of ownership at which the decision-making process is carried out by the camp population.

It is important to assess the existing social structures at the camp setting since the population is hardly homogeneous; people may come from different territories, languages, cultures, manners and other backgrounds. Hence, in order to ensure optimum engagement, variable participatory structures and inclusive representation forms may be wielded. This includes community groups, focus groups, project groups and camp committees in addition to paid and unpaid employment of residents.

Elaborating these representation entities and procedures is indispensable to promote ownership, dignity and accountability and decrease dependency, indifference and vulnerability. Yet, it will unequivocally involve critical challenges and entail significant efforts and resources. Besides, potential abuse and misuse of power must be monitored and tackled adequately; they may occur in diverse forms such as nepotism, moral depravation and opportunism.

Conclusion

It is substantial to plug the gaps naturally existing between camp managers and staff on one hand and camp population on the other one. This can be achieved by means of incremental processes and procedures through which Awareness Raising and Capacity Building form a substrate for effective and productive community participation.

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How Enclosures Contributed to the Escalation of Social Unrest in Syria

November 18, 2016

This blog seeks to tackle the problematizing issue of enclosures and land grabs in Syria and how they contributed to the escalation of violence and tension among various religiously and ethnically diverse communities and conflicting parties. The information stated is based on direct observations, reports and media sources away from political or religious prejudice and bias.

Starting from the 1970s when the current regime led by Al Assad family took over, enormous tracts of farmlands and properties were coercively expropriated, by the ruling government, from Sunni owners; later turned into residential areas and military bases. This occurred in different Syrian governorates particularly the capital city of Damascus and its countryside. Examples of those residential areas are Ish Alwarwar (segregated from Barzeh area north-eastern Damascus), Yusef Alazmeh (detached from Al Moadamyeh area west of Damascus) and many others. Noticeably, those confiscated areas are located in different sides of Damascus city, whether intentionally or coincidentally. The majority of the inhabitants were of the Alawi sect (Alawites) with which, Al Assad family affiliated. For the past 50 years, an implicit, or even oppressed, tension and enmity between the indigenous inhabitants and the new ones arose. Yet, no explicit offenses, assaults or violations were recorded, most probably due to the so-called iron grip of the security and intelligence agencies in the country.

Following the outbreak of the social unrest in Syria, demonstrations against the ruling regime erupted in different governorates involving mainly Sunni protesters among others. Consequently, for variable reasons, the vast majority of Alawi people defended the regime regardless of their individual perspective of the president and his governance.

In that regard, the Alawi men, residing in the aforementioned expropriated areas, were stimulated to join the diverse security and military departments and formations; some of which were newly established such as the National Defense Force consisting of armed men whose tasks included checkpoints, security patrols and community control through intimidation. Simultaneously, Sunni men who are eligible to join the army for their compulsory or reserve services anxiously fled the country through legal and illegal ways; millions of which are now residing in the neighboring countries as well as in Europe.

In the same context, those expropriated areas were sealed and almost turned into military zones. No inhabitants, other than Alawis, were allowed to accommodate, possess or rent properties. The male residents, armed by the government, took effective part in the suppression of the demonstrations. Later, when the protests turned into armed conflicts, those so-called regime proponents fought at the battlefront against the local armed groups (known as the Syrian Free Army by their supporters and as terrorists by the government) in the very neighboring areas. This exacerbated the hostility and animosity between the neighboring communities and intensified segregation of lands and properties.

For the local armed groups, the fight had two dimensions: on one hand, they believed they were fighting against a tyrant, corrupted, unjust dictator and his supporting groups. On the other hands, they were reclaiming the ownership of their lands which were seized and inhabited by the Alawi people. They believed they were fighting, also sacrificing their lives, for the sake of their rightful properties and lands forcibly taken away by the government years ago. What also added to the escalation of tension is the kidnapping, sometimes ended in killing, of men, women and children, by both conflicting parties in addition to fatal attacks with explosives leading to massive causalities from both sides.

Another form of land grabs is the recent expropriation of territories and houses by the Lebanese Shia militias of Hezbollah in most Sunni areas along the Syrian-Lebanese border. Examples of those areas, all witnessed protests, demonstrations and armed conflicts against the ruling regime, are Bloudan, Qarah and Al Qusayer; the latest witnessed a military parade, hosted by Hezbollah on November 11th, 2016.

The confiscated houses and lands are now inhabited by Hezbollah militants and their families (wives and children). On the other side, the original local owners were obliged to search for alternative housing elsewhere. The land concession made by the Syrian government was a reward for Hezbollah’s intervention in favor of the Syrian regime against the rebels.

It should perhaps be noted that Hezbollah militants and their families are not obviously interfering or communicating with the indigenous people. Yet, the tragic turn of events and the excessive use of violence against the locals would not probably pass without consequences in the near or far future.

A final form of enclosures is practiced by the Kurdish people’s protection units (YPG) and its political arm, the Democratic Union Party (PYD). A 38-page report by Amnesty International alleged that thousands of non-Kurdish people (Arabs and Turkmen) were forced out their regions by Kurdish militias fighting against ISIL. It was disclosed, by a fact-finding mission to northern Syria, that huge influxes of indigenous citizens were displaced and housing territories demolished – amounting to war crimes- by the Syrian Kurdish units controlling vast areas in the north of the country. Such allegations were declared untrue and “completely inaccurate” by an YPG spokesman. The overriding concern is that, if those claims are validated, potential unease, aggression and actions of vengeance would probably exist between the Kurds on one side and the other ethnical groups on the other one.

  • Photos by Amnesty International
june-2014

June 2014

 

june-2015

June 2015

Conclusion

Taking all the above mentioned forms of enclosures, their circumstances, immediate and prolonged impacts into account, the aspirations and efforts to accomplish social cohesion, community resilience and conviviality will unequivocally face serious challenges and complexities; there is a light at the end of the tunnel though. This posits an ethical question for which all local, regional and international players have to provide an answer.

The Social Commons: Cuts in higher education means more debt for students and families

October 11, 2016

Going to college is the American dream and a dream for many young people across the world. We are told that you have to get a university degree to find a decent good job because this will give you more opportunity and an easier life. Today, more than ever, it is almost always required one has a bachelor’s degree for an entry level job. The brutal reality that most people face six months after graduation is a letter in the mail stating hat it’s time to begin repaying your student loans. Government spending has been slashed and now it’s up to student’s to finance their education. Student debt has been on my mind lately due to the fact that I have just began my graduate program which required me to take out a loan. There has been a lot of media attention on the problems and causes of this crisis; increases in tuition, grants that once existed for low income students are now turned into loans,  government funding cut drastically, this means that more financial responsibility is placed on students and families, interest rates raised on federal loans – 6%, caps on federal loans causing students to turn to private banks which have astronomical interest rates, close to 10%. Public universities are beginning to run like for profit entities in order to maintain competitiveness among the vast talent pool of students. This is a problem because they are expanding amenities offered to students to look more appealing and this could have an impact on tuition increases. The university I attended began building a state of the art student recreation center in my last year, sports facilities updated and expanded, and new football coaches were hired. I can imagine this sports facility was not a low ticket item. Was this where student’s increased tuition was going? Higher education is becoming unimaginable for young people today especially if they have to take out loans and so many American’s are left with close $80,000 in debt even if they attend a public university. One of the reasons I decided to study in the UK was because it was more affordable. But even the UK is now seeing government cuts in higher education and tuition increases thus students are finding themselves graduated with loads of debt.

Why has the cost of education increased so much? Is this crisis due to the fact that government funding has been cut in half? Are universities spending money on the wrong things like amenities such as a rock climbing walls and new sports arenas? Are politicians trying to privatize public universities? Why are federal interest rates so high? Is the cost of taking on debt worth it in the long run – will you be forever indebted to your loans or will you find your dream job and live happily ever after?

Alarming stats: Aperian Global states “the cost of a college education in the United States has increased by 500 percent since 1985.” In the UK, grants that were once given to low income students are now loans BBC News. 44 million Americans who share $1.3 trillion in outstanding student debt, more than 16.7 million — nearly 38% — have balances below $10,000, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. “If you look at the long-term trend, [college tuition] has been rising almost six percent above the rate of inflation,” said Ray Franke, a professor of education at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. 

 

debt

Privatization has taken away power from the commons

December 14, 2015

The idea of capitalism has increased the inequity in the whole world it has taken away power from the commons. Oxfam thinks the Richest 1% will have more money than the rest 99% of the population by the year 2016. Privatization and the very idea of “new public management” has taken away power from the general people. Even sometime the government is helpless to those big fish. Farmers are forced cultivate plants according to the wish of the certain company, workers in the factories are bound by certain terms and conditions that never enjoy the achievement of that company rather they keep working months after months still don’t feel part of the family. General people are marginalized, only winner is the private company and the rich. Well, the government can’t say much because their election campaign is funded by those big fishes. It is not by the people for the people anymore, it is by the rich for the rich actually. Multinational companies are always finding a loophole to patronize the government to deregulate the rules and regulations. In the human history never so much power was given to so few. Big oil companies are destroying the planets and making money out of it. But who is being victims here? The general people. The government is the pocket of the multinational companies who is funding its ministers to tour around the whole world during their holidays.

Starting from agriculture to factories, everywhere the general people has been diminished. This attitude of “having it all and wanting more” has made us so vulnerable. Some ignorant supporters of privatization may claim that current government system is too corrupt to trust with any project but is it not the big private companies who are continuously bribing the politicians in order to get their business deal done? I am not totally against privatization but I think general people should have a stake and say in the profit of those multinational big corporation otherwise this will increase inequality and obstruct any social mobility.

It’s not sex, it’s money; it’s not the poor, it’s the rich, who is causing climate change

December 14, 2015

 

Some folks may consider climate change is an overrated topic, but clearly it isn’t. In fact unless very recently, we haven’t seen much effort from world leaders or global corporations to tackle climate change. Oxford Professor James Martin was very good in predicting future. Well, of course his prediction was based on scientific facts and evidences. He listed 16 mega problems that 21st century will face, climate change/global warming was top of the list.

 

But is it not just recently that politicians started talking about it as USA & few other western countries were hit by tornados & cyclones? After reading my blog, we will have clear understanding why I am blaming the rich for climate change. According to an article published in BBC website back 2012, it was calculated that almost 1.3 billion people earn less than a dollar every day, meaning struggle to afford basic foods and commodities. These people without almost no electricity, no modern life facilities, how they are contributing to climate change? Well, they are not playing any major negative impacts in climate change. They are struggling to survive day to day. 47.5% population of Sub-Saharan region live below poverty line, 36% in South-Asia, can we see a single country from these two regions among 20 top countries in carbon footprint league table? Answer is no. Then why blaming the poor? People like Maurice Strong suggested us (indirectly African and Asian people) to stop breeding or else nature with destroy us brutally. Well, of course we need to control and balance population growths in order to have a sustainable planet but it is absolutely unfair to blame the poor for climate change. It is strongly speculated that one additional British person leaves carbon footprint which is equivalent to more than 22 Malawians. Yes, the birthrate of British women in the year 2012 was 1.90 and same for Malawian was 5.47 but 1.90 additional British produces carbon footprint which is equivalent to 40 Malawians. So whom should be named and shamed? The poor or the rich? The tenancy to have more kids or the tendency to lead a notorious western consumer style life?

The livestock raised for meat causes 18% of total earth’s carbon emissions; it also covers 80% agricultural land. Evidences strongly show that meat produced this way is used either by global fast food company or by chain retailer in rich countries. Now those 1.3 billion people who sometime can’t afford to have healthy food everyday, do you think they would be able to buy a burger from those fast-food shops? I think there is hardly any chain fast-food shops in county side of these developing countries, let alone buying the burger. It is suggested by George Monbiot that almost 70% of world population growth happened in areas with very less carbon emission. So, it is not the poor, it is not the habit of having sex that is to be blamed for climate change. It is rather the notorious consumer style life-style of west that is to be blamed for. What is also astonishing is that even the  portion of carbon emission in Africa is actually caused by the American and British fuel company.

 

Newspaper like the Guardian claimed that Paris climate talk-2015 is the greatest diplomatic success in human history. I think such journalism is absolutely naïve. The politicians are not honest enough to take the blame and solve the problem. System needs to be changed not climate. Yes, ministers from 196 countries signed the deal but what will happen practically on ground? Will the people in Canada & Australia start checking their electric and gas meter and feel ashamed of the damage they have just done to the planet by keeping their heater or AC on  for addition one hour  without absolutely no necessity? Perhaps not. Will the high profile multi milliners stop using their private jet that consumes almost 800 liters of fuel per hour? Probably not. Then why so much drama? Why wasting taxpayers money on meeting and end up having expensive champagne?

 

The west needs to come clean and stop blaming the poor for climate change rather they should take their own blame and try to resolve the consequences bringing everyone together.

 

 

 

Britain joining bombing Syria won’t help destroying Daesh

December 12, 2015

syria1_2216336bDealing with NHS, deficit, economy, welfare can be tedious sometime. May be this is why British PM David Cameron wanted to become war time Prime minister, trust me he is trying hard. In 2013, he wanted to bomb Bashar-Al-Asad and now it’s Daesh. Yes, no doubt Bashar-Al-Asad killed his own citizens brutally but bombing him wasn’t the right measure. The Labour party under Ed Miliband didn’t support that motion, so it failed. But 66 Labour MPs voted to bomb Syria this time, so Cameron had the majority. The civil war in Syria is very complex. It can be called proxy World War III. If it was a joint coalition of USA, UK & Russia against Daesh ( so called Islamic State) or Bashar-Al-Asad, Military action may be, I am saying just may be a solution. But sadly it’s not a coalition among Russia, USA and UK like World War II. Russia is working as Bashar’s ally from the very beginning for this bloody civil war.

Of course Daesh possess a terrible threat but bombing them won’t destroy them. We shouldn’t forget that America was already bombing in major areas captured by Daesh but the impact wasn’t that impressive. With every bomb dropped in Syria, it seems Daesh managed to recruit more terrorists with their hateful ideology. Last year there were about 15,000 new recruits to ISIS from 18 countries. This year after bombing by USA and France this has increased to 30,000 new recruits. No doubt USA and UK are the biggest allies to each other but UK could play the role of mediator here bridging the gap between USA and Russia in this particular scenario. By joining bombing Syria, Britain has entered into a complex war which will put life of British military personnel into risks and the threat level of Britain being attack by terrorists has increased too. Not only this, innocents Syrian will be killed and Daesh will use this bombing as to brainwash more young people around the world, particularly in Europe and America. Bombing isn’t a piece of cake, Britain spent almost 360 million GBP by bombing Libya and as according to PM David Cameron this bombing campaign in Syria will last for years, meaning this will cost the tax-payers a fortune. Just to let the readers know a 6 hours tour by Tornado fighter jet costs 508,000 GBP.

Daesh killed 130 people in Paris and 38 Brits in the beach of Tunisia, definitely that played the emotion of few MPs to vote for bombing Syria. But we shouldn’t forget this bombing will also cause death, displacement of many innocent Syrians. Certainly, USA is already very happy to see its biggest ally UK joining in bombing campaign but till today majority of bombing is carried out by USA.

Only way to solve the complex civil war of Syria is through diplomatic and political solution. Only way to destroy Daesh and its evil ideology is through diplomacy and conversation among everyone fighting against Daesh. The role of Turkey is still not very clear, many critics suggest that Deash is getting its fund, weapon, new members through Turkey. There is no way it can be denied that the very Kurds who are fighting against the Daesh are enemy to the Turks. It is suggested by Russia that Turkey is buying the oil sold by Daesh. Recent shot down of a Russian fighter jet by Turkey in the name of territorial integrity says a lot.

Britain’s involvement in Syrian civil war through bombing won’t do much except wasting taxpayer’s money and this whole saga will make Britain more fragile.

 

Occupy Wall Street Commons and the Capitalist’s Enclosures

October 27, 2011

As the Occupy Wall street protests continue, so are the questions about the future of global financial institutions, trade, social inequality, and the environment. The world faces the prospect of a new era in which traditional models of economic and financial interactions will no longer stand the test of times, and therefore should be redefined.  We are the 99%, as a political slogan is the central theme of the current wave of protests. The movement is rapidly transforming itself into a global call for reforms on the global Capitalist and Financial systems. As it all unfold, one thing that stands out is the conflict of interest between the commons and the threat of enclosures.

The movement has spread to more than 30 cities in the US and there are now new forms of protests around the world, including London and Calcutta, all linked to the Occupy Wall Street protest.  With the downgrading of the US economy; the financial crisis and joblessness in Europe and the impact on the Climate, is this change eminent?

‘Commoning’ as a process continues to draw people together to pursue a common course. The diversity of emerging groups and their ability
to utilize a common space for a common good, explains the complex nature of the protests and the dynamics of commoning.  Regardless of the diversity, the protests has been sustained by common pool resources.  Added to social, environmental and humanitarian groups, the latest group to emerge is the OCCUPY MARINES, who were inspired by US Marine Sergeant (an Iraqi War veteran), who successfully prevented police
assault on Occupy Wall Street Protesters. He then called on all US Marines from all divisions to join the peaceful protest.

Notwithstanding the merits of the protests and it global acknowledgement, the movement faces the threat of enclosure. The protest continues to meet resistant from capitalist institutions and some sections of the press, who have adopting an anti-Occupy Wall Street stance. Since its
inception, there has been a conscious effort to contain the movement. Hundreds, if not thousands have already been arrested in connection to these protests. In New York, protesters, faces forceful eviction. In London St. Paul’s Cathedral, protesters are under pressure to abandon the protest, as the Cathedral is closed to visitors on health and safety reasons. There is already a call to delegitimize the movement, as an additional form of enclosure. In the absence of a clear cut leadership, will these enclosures silent the movement?  Will it leads to Plurality of ownership? Or
will the commons prevail?

Biotechnology in Agriculture

December 13, 2010

Many volunteer groups, NGOs and UN-bodies address the subject of world hunger on an annual basis. While aid and food support is among the most common responses to this problem, is there another solution given to us by science? Biotechnology in Agriculture or genetically modified foods (GMF) could be an answer to not only the shortage of food in many places in the world, but also hold a key to modifying plants that can withstand extreme climates and harsh conditions.  Among others, genetically modified crops are designed to increase production and productivity, which leads to higher yields. Furthermore, some species facilitate the usage of marginal land for agriculture, which could be a solution to spreading desertification and land degradation therefore ensuring people’s nutrition and reducing  their vulnerability. In addition, a better nutrition supply could be reached by adding vitamins and iron in crops. In some Asian countries for example, an improvement in the health situation could be proven after the implementation of Vitamin A and iron in rice. Nevertheless, the distribution of genetically modified seeds is very controversial, as there are various negative impacts on both, nature and society. From nature’s perspective the implementation of genetically modified crops means  an upsetting of the ecosystems balance. The effects are diverse. By enhancing the resistance of crops to diseases and environmental stress natural relatives might be extruded, finally resulting in a loss of biodiversity. Furthermore, the reaction of ecosystems cannot be predicted yet. Especially crops with induced pesticide genes destroy the soil’s fauna and thereby inhibit  a sustainable cultivation. In addition, the reaction of the human body to a more intensive exposure to agricultural poisons is not known yet but a dramatic increase in allergic reactions is predicted. Not only is the impacts on nature are tremendous, the social consequences are far reaching as well. Even if genetically modified food would be most beneficial in developing countries, these countries often do not have access to the new seeds. Until now research seems to be concentrated on the private sector and orientated towards high-income countries, where greater power for purchasing those products exists. Furthermore, patents make modified seeds unaffordable for small-scale farmers, which reduces their contestability on the world market.  Thus leaving open various questions to be discussed:  Should Biotechnology in agriculture therefore be promoted besides all uncertainties and dangers? And if so what can be done to ensure the benefit of developing countries from the new technologies?  How can genetically engineering be monitored internationally? Should there be clear regulations concerning the labeling of genetically modified food so that consumers can make a profound choice? And finally, should humans in general have the right to change the basic structures of life?

(note Article of the conference in Bonn where I was delegate last week)

Red Revolution: Stem Cell Technology

December 9, 2010

“The primary threat to nature and people today comes from centralising and monopolising power and control. Not until diversity is made the logic of production will there be a chance for sustainability, justice and peace. Cultivating and conserving diversity is no luxury in our times: it is survival imperative.”

_Vandana Shiva

Why do we have to worry about rising food demand in such technological age?  Exciting news was presented on BBC NEWS this morning about stem cell technology, the production of meat in laboratory. Scientists are working on it to reduce the cost of production and few other drawbacks linked to its characteristics (taste, form), to make it feasible for industrial production in the future. The technology was presented by a guest speaker in the studio as ‘NO BRAIN-NO PAIN’ technology and it will save animals from brutality. It might sound good for people working for animal rights and especially for the global corporations. However it should make clear that stem cell technology is not a new technology and scientists have been working on it since long.

In existing literature, several justifications are given in the favour of stem cell technology in addition to NO BRAIN-NO PAIN. According to Steinfield et al (2006, cited in Betti, 2009, p.14) ‘in the light of sizeable negative impacts of livestock production, introduction of stem cell technology (in vitro meat production) is becoming increasingly justifiable’. The negative impacts of current meat production are pointed out as consumption of fossil fuels, land and water resources. According to Steinfield, current meat production practices are contributing to 15% to 24% of greenhouse emission as a result of grazing and deforestation. According to Vein (2004, cited in Betti, 2009, P.14) ’considering the benefits of stem cell technology (in vitro meat production technology) it is not surprising that a number of parties (Global Corporations) have proposed (and patented) the methodology for actualizing this idea.

Despite of all advantages as mentioned by Steinfield, the technology still seems problematic. As we have seen in the case of Green Revolution, the patenting of seeds and promotion of selected species resulted into monoculture and as a result, many traditional species especially of rice and wheat became extinct. This time the object under experiment is livestock rather than crop. And the term ‘NO BRAIN- NO PAIN’ as mentioned above could also be seen contrary, in the form of species extinction. In other words, brutality of slaughter will be replaced by the brutality of extinction. It would also result into extinction of traditional farming practices, and livelihoods of poor farmers which are dependent on livestock production.

Though it would be too early to build an opinion about the future and impacts of stem cell technology, however by looking into Green Revolution it could be concluded that this technology would be another disaster for the right of existence of species after green revolution, and definitely again a success story for  global corporations in economic terms.

References

Betti, D. M., (2009), Possibilities for an in vitro meat production systemjournal of Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies, 11 (2010) 13-22. P.14

http://www.redorbit.com/

Landmines and Un-Exploded Ordinances have become the greatest thereat to Environment and Eco-System

November 9, 2010

Introduction

Landmines and Un-Exploded Ordinances (UXO) have certainly become threatening problem which affect tremendously the environment and human beings.  It has negative impacts on the socio economical developments too.  Huge usage of chemical weapons during World War I had sever and long lasting damage to the forest, agricultural lands especially in Belgium and France. The hazard vastly increased after World War II.  The statistics illustrate that there are between 60 to 110 million mines buried around the world.

 According to UNDP’s statistics, nearly 78 nations have been affected by landmines and about 85 by Explosive Remnants of War (ERW). An estimate shows that there are 500,000 landmine and ERW survivors today and three-quarters of them are civilians. Among them thirty-four percent of civilian casualties are children and nearly all of them are boys. The boys between 5 and 14 are particularly the high-risk group. In some severely affected countries, children were the majority of casualties.  Example: 59 % in Afghanistan, 53% in Nepal, and 66% in Somalia.

 The most prominent environmental impact of landmines and UXO are loss of human being, access denial to vital resources such as agricultural lands, forest and natural water sources and loss of biodiversity. It has been studied that in the past half-centuries they also cause physical and emotional injuries to human beings, displacements of the communities and individuals, obstacles in agriculture, soil degradation, deforestation and pollution.  

 What is Landmine? Landmine is device usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage its target via blast and or flying fragments. They are mainly Anti-personnel mines and Anti-tank mines.  They are designed to create defensive barriers such as protecting the borders from infiltration by the enemies and to act as passive area-denial weapons in order to reject assess to territory, resources or facilities when active defense of the area is not possible.  They are laid on ground or fixed/ placed above ground on trees. 

 US Department of Defense 2005 defines that unexploded ordinance is UXO which has been primed, fused, armed or otherwise prepared for action, and which has been fired, dropped, launched, projected, or placed in such a manner as to constitute a hazard to operations, installations, personnel, or material and remains unexploded either by malfunction or design or for any other cause.

 In reality enemies take precautions from the mine targets and UXO as they are knowledgeable on the weapons and its mechanisms.  And innocent people and flora and fauna are easily trapped by these to a greatest extent.  This situation exists almost in all war affected countries. 

 Since 1999, humanitarian demining agencies cleared more than 4 million antipersonnel mines, 1 million anti-vehicle mines and 8 million items of unexploded ordnance from over one billion square meters of land for safe use through operations.  In 2006 alone, 217,000 antipersonnel mines were cleared from 450 square kilometers of contaminated land.

Access denial to vital resources and adverse effect on development:

Many of the mine-affected countries’ livelihoods depend on framing and agricultural activities.  The presence of mines and UXO prevent them from accessing to those facilities and resources.  Forests often become the only source of fuel and food and this result in reduction of resources such as deforestation and destruction of biological diversity. When people are driven off from their most productive agricultural land they may be forced to depend on a smaller area of land for survival. This land may be over-cultivated and washed-out of its mineral deposits. It leads to erosion, less yield and eventually destroys the complex ecosystems

 For e.g. in Sri Lanka, 730 villages were identified as contaminated by mines and UXOs and 202 square Km of agricultural lands in the war affected areas especially in the North and East, were abandoned and people lost their livelihoods.  The land mine impact assessment survey conducted by Sri Lanka National Steering Committee for Mine Action in 2006 states that there are still over one million land mines contaminated in the area.  It had negative impact on their house hold food security.  This situation made the people to be dependent on external food aid and other forms of international assistance.  Further more only limited areas are cleared for resettlement/ relocations as clearing agencies have limited resources.  A statistics of Viet Nam says, 6.6 million acres of land are contaminated by UXO. 

 Nearly three decades of war left Cambodia as one of the countries severely affected by landmines and ERW. Cambodia is an agricultural country and 85% of the Cambodians are engaged on agriculture for their livelihoods. However many part of the lands are contaminated with mines and UXO and it prevented from livelihood activities, prevent access to natural resources.  It drives them into more marginal and fragile environments.

 Angola is another country heavily contaminated with landmines and ERW, including cluster munitions remnants. More than four decades of armed conflict led the country to be contaminated with 40 different types of mines from 15 countries (the clearance survey indicates).  The Environmental and Social Management Framework Final Report concludes that the presence of landmines throughout the country inhibits access to land and is an environmental limitation that undermines development. A study of World Bank on the economic impact of landmines illustrate that land mines affected the overall economy of the country.

Loss of biodiversity:

There are no exact numerical data on the amount of animals that are injured or killed from landmines, but it is found thought disappearance of endangered species.  In Croatia it is reported that 4 per cent of the rare European bears were killed by landmines. Elephants, antelopes, deer and tigers got killed in Angola, Sri Lanka, Burma, Congo and Bosnia. Since the end of the war in 2002, elephants have begun to go back to the Luiana Partial Reserve in Angola’s sparsely populated Kuando-Kubango province.  When the initial migration took place a number of elephants had lost their trunks and legs by mines, condemning the animals to agonizing deaths.

Landmines introduce poisonous substances into the environment as their casings erode. Explosives commonly used in landmines, such as trinitrotoluene (TNT), seep into the soil and  the decomposition of these substances cause many environmental problems as they are often water soluble, carcinogenic, toxic, and long-lasting. When Landmines explode they scatter debris.  It destroys surrounding vegetation and soil composition and. substantially decreases the productivity of agricultural land. It also leads to soil erosion, water pollution and affect water habitats.  A study shows that detonation of UXO drastically reduced soil productivity in Quang Tri, the province of Viet Nam and the rice production per hectare has decreased by 50 percent in this area. Landmines, they represent a very serious, long-term toxic hazard to human health.

 Mitigation Methods

Today many de-mining organizations are finding the way to accelerate de-mining process though they clear the lands for safe mobility, un-doubtfully damage the environment and eco system through removal of vegetation.  It is a  biggest challenges faced by the mine-action community is the balancing act of removing mines from the ground while simultaneously protecting the contaminated soil from further damage.

 The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) is a global network in over 90 countries that works for a world free of antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions.  The Ottawa Treaty or the Mine Ban Treaty, formally the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, completely bans all anti-personnel landmines.  As of April 2010, there were 156 States Parties to the treaty. Two states have signed but not yet ratified while thirty-seven states are non-signatories to the Convention, making a total of 39 states not party.

 It is notable that non-signatories stockpile over 160 million anti-personnel mines, the majority held by just 6 countries.  The figure illustrates that China is the leading country.

Country Estimated landmine stockpile(in millions)
South Korea 2
India 4-5
Albania 2.2
USA 11.3
Russia 60-70
China 110

Source: http://members.iinet.net.au/~pictim/mines/history/history.html

It is an obligation of all states to safeguard the environment not only from other pollutions, damages.  The 39 states also should come forward or forced to come forward to sign and rectify Ottawa Treaty. 

Reference:

http://www.icbl.org/index.php/icbl/Problem

http://www.mineaction.org/