Center for International Stabilization & Recovery

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Who I Follow
Posts tagged "demining"

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I was the 2013–14 Frasure-Kruzel-Drew Memorial Fellow in the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA). I first learned about this one- of-a-kind fellowship opportunity while working as an editorial assistant at James Madison University’s Center for International Stabilization and Recovery. I decided to apply to the fellowship, because it offered the opportunity to work on complex and exciting foreign policy issues regarding conventional weapons destruction (CWD), including humanitarian mine action and small-arms and light-weapons (SA/LW) destruction. Moreover, as a recent college graduate interested in international relations, I knew that working at the U.S. Department of State would provide a professional development opportunity like no other. 

Upon entering the fellowship, I was placed in PM/WRA’s Resource Management (RM) division. The RM division is responsible for planning and developing the office’s budgets, managing its finances, and, in fiscal year 2013, awarding approximately $142 million in grants, cooperative agreements and contracts to support CWD projects across the globe. During my time with RM, I received an in-depth education about the federal budget process, federal grants management, grants processing and financial management.

In addition to serving in the RM division, I also assisted PM/WRA’s Program Management division. Specifically, I was tasked with assisting the program managers for our Africa and Western Hemisphere Affairs portfolios. The highlight of my time in the Program Management division was when I participated in a program-review visit to Colombia, El Salvador and Honduras. During the trip, I observed demining operations in Colombia, a weapons-depot construction project in El Salvador and SA/LW destruction in Honduras. This trip allowed me to witness firsthand the lifesaving work that PM/WRA’s implementing partners conduct. 

My time as a fellow was one of the best professional development experiences I have had, and I am proud to call myself a former Frasure-Kruzel-Drew Memorial Fellow. Although my time as Fellow has ended, I have been lucky to continue working in PM/WRA as a program analyst. I encourage anyone interested in working at the U.S. Department of State or in CWD to apply for this great fellowship opportunity.

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~ Chris Murguia (2013–14)

To read more about Chris’ experiences as FKD fellow, refer to his DipNote blog post.

Land mines are not only explosive but also poisonous, leaking toxins into the soil that make plants sick. That’s unfortunate for the plants but fortunate for us—if we can figure out how to look for sick plants as harbingers of land mines. Airplanes equipped with a low-cost sensor that captures non-visible light might be the answer.

LiveScience's Becky Oskin reports from the annual meeting of Ecological Society of America, where a group of researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University are presenting just this idea. That a bunch of ecologists would be interested in land mines actually makes a lot of sense; land mines lurking underground can subtly shape the ecology of an area.

The VCU researchers did their field research at an unusual place though, a “privately owned experimental minefield in South Carolina, where [DARPA] once buried fake land mines for a research project,” writes Oskin. The National Explosives Waste Technology and Evaluation Center is where researchers can (safely) experiment on new ways to detect land mines.

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Government has appealed to the international community to chip in with about $100 million required to speed up the demining of the country’s borders after the exercise was allocated a paltry $500 000 by Treasury this year.

Secretary in the Ministry of Defence Martin Rushwaya told Parliament yesterday that the paltry allocation from Treasury had stalled the programme.

“We were only allocated $500 000 in the 2014 national Budget for demining and we appeal to the international community to support us to complete the demining exercise,” Rushwaya said.

Director of the Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre Colonel Mkhululi Ncube warned members of the public against tampering with landmines after being misled into believing that the explosives contained red mercury.

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Five Afghan bomb-disposal experts and their driver were killed and three colleagues were kidnapped on Thursday in an insurgent attack in western Afghanistan, a police official told Efe.

The attack occurred at 6:30 a.m. in Herat province, said local police spokesman Abdul Raouf Ahmadi.

Ahmadi said the victims belonged to a non-profit British-American organization called Halo Trust, but the report has not been confirmed by the NGO.

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The Belgian soldiers didn’t even flinch when the mines exploded meters behind them, sending a plume of dust and smoke into the sky.

“We’re used to it,” Lt. Steven Roels said with a good-natured shrug.

For the past four months, Roels and a platoon of Belgian soldiers in UNIFIL have worked six days a week clearing mines along the Lebanese-Israeli border, and the blasts have slowly become routine inflections in their daily rhythm.

In two weeks, however, Roels and the rest of the battalion will hang up their trademark blue helmets and head home.

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A Deminer Working for the HALO Trust on the Job in Colombia

In several Latin American countries, decades of conflict have left behind a dangerous legacy: small arms and light weapons in unsecured stockpiles; excess and obsolete munitions; and hidden hazards from landmines and unexploded ordnance.  The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs is working closely with partner countries and nongovernmental organizations to enhance Latin American regional security by funding conventional weapons destruction and landmine clearance projects.  A team of PM/WRA experts recently went to Colombia, El Salvador, and Honduras to participate in a landmine survivors’ assistance conference and take stock of progress to date and the challenges ahead for U.S.-funded humanitarian demining and weapons destruction projects. 

The first stop was the Bridges Between Worlds conference held in Medellin, Colombia.  With over 300 representatives from 36 countries and numerous NGOs in attendance, the two-day event focused on enhancing landmine survivors’ assistance and integrating survivor assistance policy into broader national policies regarding disability, health, education, employment, development, and poverty reduction.  The conference location was especially significant; Colombia is one of the most landmine-affected countries in the world and is second only to Afghanistan in the number of disabled survivors of accidents involving landmines and unexploded ordnance.

Following the conference, our team visited landmine survivors in San Carlos, Colombia, along with staff from our partners at the Centro Integral de Rehabilitacion de Colombia (CIREC). CIREC is a Colombian NGO specializing in medical and psychological services for conflict survivors.  With U.S. support, CIREC has deployed “rehabilitation brigades” to assist landmine survivors and other persons with disabilities throughout Colombia’s conflict-affected regions. CIREC’s rehabilitation brigades provide services in orthopedics, psychiatry, and physical and psychological therapy to those most in need.

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Cambodian de-miners at work in a mine field in Banteay Meanchey province in northwestern Cambodia. (UNDP/Chansok Lay)

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In April 2014 HALO Zimbabwe destroyed its 1,000th mine, a mere six months after the start of demining operations in November last year. The achievement is all the more notable for the fact that the clearance is taking place in difficult conditions within a few metres of a road, a village and a school.

Zimbabwe’s mines problem receives little public attention but the border communities are severely impacted. HALO’s survey to date indicates that there are 12 minefields within 150m of schools, 19 minefields within 50m of houses and 31 minefields within 10m of cultivated land. There is a need to get funding for more HALO deminers as soon as possible to reduce the threat faced by these communities and to allow them to use their land without fear.