Spring 2002 (10.1)
With Land Mines
Last August, I was sent by the Swiss Department of Defense, Civil
Protection and Sports (DDPS) to be an information advisor to
the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA), a government
organization that works to clear Azerbaijan of land mines. I'm
a regular army officer, but my function in ANAMA is strictly
civilian, linked to my civil profession and civil skills.
Switzerland is very concerned about the worldwide problem of
land mines and UXO (Unexploded Ordinance) and has been assisting
Mine Action activities in various countries since 1993. The DDPS,
a division of Switzerland's Peace Support Operations, provides
expertise, personnel and materials for humanitarian demining.
After hearing about the severe land mine and UXO problem in Azerbaijan,
the DDPS deployed a Mine Database Specialist to Baku in mid-1999.
During his one-year deployment to ANAMA, this Swiss expert helped
build up the organization's capacities for the Information Management
System for Mine Action (IMSMA).
IMSMA is basically a highly specialized mine/UXO accounting software
that was developed at ETHZ, our technical university in Zurich.
At the request of the U.N., Switzerland tasked and funded a crew
of IT developers to create this program. Since then, it has been
used in 20 different nations. This is where I come in. After
a Swiss IT expert trained in IMSMA helped get ANAMA operational,
I was sent in as a replacement to assist in improving the overall
information flow within Mine Action.
While the DDPS is aware that UXOs remain a problem of high priority
with regard to humanitarian demining, the Swiss Ammunition Enterprises
have developed a cost-effective system for contact-free explosive
ordnance disposal (so-called SM EOD systems). These systems not
only make EOD more efficient, but also make it safer for the
personnel in the field.
The Swiss Government is glad to be in a position to provide ANAMA
with a sufficient number of SM EOD systems in order to support
field activities over several months. An integral part of this
material assistance by the Swiss DDPS to ANAMA is a training
course in the use of the SM EOD systems, conducted in Azerbaijan
by Swiss experts.
Unfortunately, my tour of duty as an information advisor is due
to end soon. I hope that ANAMA will continue its steady development
and regret having to leave such a good team.
Information Advisor to Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action
For more information on Azerbaijan's
land mine problem, see the article "Hidden Killers: Land
Mines in Azerbaijan" in AI 9.2 (Summer 2001). SEARCH at
AZER.com. For more on Humanitarian
Mine Action, visit www.anama.baku.az
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