Bosnia and Herzegovina participatory mine action and development (PMAD)

During the period 2009 – 2011, the CCRI was involved in a pilot project developed by Handicap International to link mine action with development work in a local participatory approach. An innovative and pioneering approach was developed to enhance the benefit of those affected by landmines, or more generally all the Explosive Remnants of War (ERW).

Despite increasing recognition that mine action needs to be complemented with a development approach, there is widespread doubt as to whether mine action and development can actually be linked in practice. The aim of this project was to explore what might be possible. ERW continues to affect the quality of life, and the safety and development of many communities in BiH, and despite fifteen years of mine action this will continue over the next ten or twenty years into the future. The aim of the project was to examine the potential for enabling local economic and social development to take place in the context of areas that are still heavily mined. Two communities, Stolac and Berkovici, were selected for developing and testing the methodological approaches. The project faced a range of issues including:

Impact issues: how can we ensure positive impact of mine risk management interventions in contaminated areas where a majority of active population has already left? What impacts will lead to a reversal of the trend for people to leave? Technical issue: how can we identify the best possible intervention for managing risk when there are currently no assessment models that can include both mine action and development criteria in a participative way? Institutional issue: how can we promote local mine risk management capacities when there are no local development organisations accredited for mine risk education activities?

The participatory approach meant that solutions for mine action and development activities were developed by the communities themselves. Traditional mine risk activities were not changing behaviour with regard to people’s use of mined areas, which is why the new approach of linking development issues was initiated. An innovative mine risk management assessment was developed and was successful in getting information about where people were approaching or entering suspected and hazardous areas; two local bodies became accredited for conducting mine-risk education and carrying out a participatory assessment, and civil society organizations were supported to identify community needs. Finally two action groups were established to engage different parts of the community in developing strategies for development, and to implement projects at the local level.

The project highlighted the need for people living in mine/ERW contaminated areas to be able to overcome poverty and participate more equally on social and political grounds in society. It also showed that achieving positive longer-term impacts on the lives and livelihoods of mine/ERW-affected communities cannot be achieved without complementing existing mine action activities with a participatory development approach. Linking the two forms of activity – mine action and development – is a complex task, but the potential rewards are improved social and economic development rather than abandonment of communities affected by mines.

Dr John Powell and Dr Paul Courtney worked on this project.