The Commercialization of Afghan Demining

Afghan demining is in a period of momentous change. After years of UN-led and NGO-implemented mine action, the last few years have seen the influx of commercial demining companies. This has the potential to enhance the capacity of Afghan demining, through greater profit-driven efficiency, innovation and specialization. Moreover, it is unlikely that many NGOs would be able, or willing, to do mine and UXO clearance tasks for the Coalition and Afghan militaries. Thus some involvement of commercial companies in Afghan demining should be welcomed. However, there are also several possible disadvantages to commercialization. Firstly, without tight controls and a clear regulatory framework, using commercial companies risks lowering the quality and safety of the demining process. Secondly, turning demining into a purchasable commodity risks drawing demining resources away from those who need mine clearance the most, as those who can pay get demining first. Finally, commercialization, which has seen the growing role of private security contractors in demining, has occurred in tandem with the merging of US aid and security policy in Afghanistan. As a result, there is a danger that neutral ‘humanitarian space’ for demining may be reduced.

After fieldwork based in Kabul in the winter of 2006, I felt very concerned about the fate of a humanitarian, needs-based demining program in Afghanistan and wrote this discussion paper published by the London School of Economics Centre for the Study of Global Governance.  I have not been to Afghanistan recently, so I do not know if things have improved since then — I am told that the UN has tightened up its regulation and control of the commercial companies.  Perhaps someone who has been there recently can comment.

Read the whole paper here.

~ by Matthew Bolton on 29 July 2008.

5 Responses to “The Commercialization of Afghan Demining”

  1. […] For a good investigation of the impact of private security companies on the civilian population in Afghanistan and Angola, see this paper from Swiss Peace Foundation. For my critique of the role of private security companies’ involvement in Afghan demining, click here. […]

  2. […] by Political Minefields on the link between commercial demining and poorer quality demining in Afghanistan, Bosnia and […]

  3. […] To read my research report on Afghan demining, click here. […]

  4. […] While focussed on the broader humanitarian and development community, the authors’ conclusions mirror those of Political Minefields’ Afghanistan report, “Goldmine.” The Goldmine report argued that the merging of US aid and security policy in Afghanistan reduced neutral ‘humanitarian space’ for mine action, putting deminers at risk.  Read the Goldmine report here. […]

  5. […] by Political Minefields in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Sudan has suggested that using humanitarian NGOs rather than commercial companies can […]

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