According to the UNHCR, there are over 65 million people around the world who have been forcibly displaced due to violent conflicts.[i] Some 40 million people are classified as internally displaced, meaning that they have fled their homes but remain within their nation’s borders. Colombia and Syria have the largest internal displacements, with 6.9 million and 6.6 million respectively. The UNHCR has put an emphasis on finding durable solutions for the displacement crisis, including repatriation, resettlement, or local integration.[ii] However, some displaced persons may have been exposed to landmines, cluster munitions, or other explosive remnants of war (ERW) prior to or during their displacement, and others may be unable to return to their homes or be resettled due to explosive contamination. Gender and diversity-sensitive mine action activities like humanitarian demining, risk education, and victim assistance activities contribute to long-term safety and security. By integrating these elements into project design and implementation, organisations can provide durable solutions for contamination-affected populations that will ultimately help them to safely rebuild their lives with dignity.
A durable solution for displaced persons supports them in safely rebuilding their lives with dignity. A durable solution can been considered “achieved” only when the displaced persons have no further need of assistance relating to their displacement. The UNHCR measures the success of durable solutions with criteria including, among others, long-term safety and security, adequate standards of living, and access to livelihoods.
Mine and other explosive contamination can limit the possible choices for resettlement or repatriation. Injuries and other effects of contamination create social and psychological issues for the survivors, which can have long-term and lasting impacts on their lives. A thorough analysis of the different gender and diversity considerations is integral to identifying the relevant needs, capabilities, and priorities of the target group so that project officers and managers can effectively design a durable solution and respond to the displacement problem.
Key Mine Action Activities
When designing a durable solution for people who have been displaced by mine/explosive contamination, organisations should also consider the following activities as part of an effective and comprehensive response:
To protect displaced persons from contamination and facilitate the resettlement of communities to areas suspected to be contaminated, durable solutions can integrate demining and clearance activities. However, this clearance must be sensitive to the different gender and diversity dimensions of the community. Men, women, boys, and girls as well as individuals from diverse groups (like ethnic groups) have different daily routines and as such are differently exposed to explosive contamination. During the initial stages of clearance, the local population is consulted to collect information about the contamination. If consultations only take place with certain members of the population, critical information from other groups (such as minorities or children) will not be considered. By conducting gender and diversity sensitive clearance, where operators consider the priorities of different groups and consult with a wide range of stakeholders from different gender and diversity groups, organisations can gather complete information on contaminated areas and potential explosive risks so that displaced persons will not be put in danger’s way and clearance activities will effectively eliminate contamination so that populations can return.
Risk education (or mine risk education) activities are preventative educational activities that seek to mitigate the risk that landmines, cluster munitions, and ERW pose to populations. Risk education sessions could be a useful activity integrated into a durable solution for contamination-affected DPs that contributes to their long-term security, especially for populations that are returning or resettling in conflict-affected areas. To be fully effective, risk education sessions should be conducted in a way that is sensitive to the different gender and diversity dimensions of the population – including the specific learning needs and abilities of the target population. For example, in some contexts these sessions should be carried out in gender-segregated spaces and sessions with boys and girls can be included as part of their overall education.
It is important to recognise that victims (or survivors) of landmines, cluster munitions, and ERW are not only people who have suffered directly from an accident. Victims can include members of the family or community who are obliged to take on new roles and new pressures very abruptly, those who experience psychological damage as a result of the blast, those who have had their lives uprooted because of contamination, and others.
As durable solutions must help their beneficiaries achieve an adequate standard of living, live with long-term safety and security, as well as rebuild their lives with dignity, they must ensure that landmine/ERW survivors receive appropriate and adequate attention. This involves taking into account their individual and unique needs that differ depending on their gender or group. For example, survivors might require specific psychological or medical attention for their injuries and facilities must be equipped for their needs, (e.g. a female survivor might only want to be helped by a female doctor). In addition, other gender/diversity dynamics need to be considered, for example the possibility of increased discrimination for persons with disabilities when resettling and returning to communities.
Economic reintegration (a criterion of durable solutions) is also a key element of mine action victim assistance programmes. Mine action organisations have a demonstrated experience of helping individuals with disabilities and secondary victims develop the skills necessary for income-generating activities. Organisations designing durable solutions for survivors of landmines and ERW can benefit from these expertise and knowledge by gathering lessons learned and models and applying and tailoring them to fit their specific contextual requirements.
Providing durable solutions for displaced persons who have been impacted by the landmines, cluster munitions, and ERW can benefit by integrating gender and diversity-sensitive mine action activities. As a basis for the intervention, a gender and diversity analysis should be carried out with this population so that the intervention can take into account the individual needs of women, girls, boys and men from diverse groups. Key mine action activities like humanitarian demining, risk education, and victim assistance activities can also help protect this population, prevent future accidents, and contribute to long-term safety and security and help organisations effectively, efficiently, deliver inclusive durable solutions.
[i] Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2014. Geneva: UNHCR, 2015. UNHCR News. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.
[ii] “Durable Solutions.” UNHCR News. UNHCR, 2016. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.