Time for a New US Mine Action Agenda
It is time for a new US agenda for mine action. The upcoming change in the presidency next year offers a new opportunity for fresh ideas and a new policy framework. Both presidential candidates seem to have more potential for openness to mine action issues. John McCain’s wife, Cindy, is on the board of the HALO Trust. Barack Obama has indicated an interest in acting more multilaterally and has supported restrictions on cluster munitions.
Current US mine action policy is characterized by unilateralism (failing to accede to international conventions on mines and UXO), securitization (using mine action assistance to pursue strategic objectives and using private security contractors, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan) and commercialization (the dominance of commercial companies in implementation and operations).
In contrast, the new framework should be based on the following three principles:
1) International law
2) Civilian control and demilitarization
3) Humanitarianism and protecting the vulnerable
This has the following implications for US mine action policy:
2) Humanitarian Demining and other mine action should be conducted, where possible, by civilian, non-profit or public agencies that prioritize protecting the vulnerable over commercial profit or military strategic gain. This means more assistance to international NGOs and governmental civil defense structures and less to commercial companies and military units. It also means prioritizing tasks that have the greatest humanitarian, rather than commercial or military importance.
3) Civilian War Survivor Assistance: More money should be provided to assist the civilian victims of war, through the USAID Leahy Fund.
4) Research and Development: Too often US mine action R&D appropriations have been driven more by defense and high-tech research priorities than the low-tech needs of humanitarian deminers in the field. More should be allocated to independent and humanitarian research, such as that done by the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining.
If you have opinions on how US mine action policy should (or should not) change in the next presidency, please use the comment section to share your views.