Switzerland's commitment to mine action in 2022

Dozens of people are killed and injured every day by mines and other explosive ordnance. In recent years, the number of victims has been rising. Switzerland has therefore continued its commitment to mine action around the world, allocating in 2022 a total of CHF 17.5 million to activities in 20 countries in order to promote the protection of civilians and the implementation of relevant agreements.

World map indicating countries where Switzerland is engaged in mine action.

Switzerland's commitment to mine action in 2022 © Natural Earth Data, FDFA, DDPS, UN

Switzerland has been engaged in mine action for over 30 years. In 2022, it allocated around CHF 17.5 million to activities promoting clearance, victim assistance, explosive ordnance risk education, as well as strengthening local capacities in mine action. Switzerland supported projects in 13 countries and seconded 14 experts to seven affected contexts. It also continued to work at the diplomatic, legal and practical levels with the aim of ensuring that the relevant agreements are being implemented universally.

Goals of mine action

Mine action contributes to alleviating the social, economic and environmental impact of mines and other explosive ordnance, such as unexploded ordnance. On the one hand, it is directly concerned with preventing accidents and new suffering. On the other hand, it aims to enable the sustainable development of the affected communities. For this reason, in addition to the actual clearance work, it also includes Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE), victim assistance, the advocacy for the ban of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, and the destruction of stockpiles.

The five pillars of mine action: 1. Mine clearance, 2. Risk education, 3. Victim assistance, 4. Advocacy and 5. Stockpile destruction.
The five pillars of mine action: 1. Mine clearance, 2. Risk education 3. Victim assistance, 4. Advocacy and 5. Stockpile destruction. © FDFA, DDPS

Read on for some examples of Switzerland's engagement in mine action around the world.

Advocating for the ban on anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions

Group photo of participants at the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) universalisation workshop in Abuja.
Participants at the CCM universalisation workshop in Abuja. © ISU CCM

In 2022, Switzerland continued its work to get all states to accede and adhere (known as universalisation) to the conventions on anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions. To this end, the FDFA's Peace and Human Rights Division (PHRD) co-organised a workshop in Abuja, Nigeria, on the universalisation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). Several the countries taking part in the workshop went on to announce at the following Meeting of States Parties that they were taking steps to accede to the CCM. This year, Nigeria became the 111th State Party of the Convention.

To advance understanding of the progress and challenges in implementing the relevant agreements, the PHRD also supports research projects such as the Landmine Monitor, Cluster Munition Monitor, and Mine Action Review. These data and analyses help increase transparency in this area, and are key to developing evidence-based policies. Switzerland also promotes dialogue with non-state armed groups on compliance with international humanitarian law and the basic rules of the relevant agreements.

Clearing mines and other explosive ordnance

Clearing mines and other explosive ordnance helps prevent additional human suffering and contributes to sustainable development: people who were displaced can return home, fields can be farmed again, and destroyed infrastructure can be rebuilt.

Mine action enables sustainable development in Cambodia

Thirty years of conflict in Cambodia has left the country heavily contaminated with mines and other explosive ordnance. Although more than 60% of the affected land has been cleared, large areas remain contaminated. Through the SDC, Switzerland supports the work carried out by the HALO Trust, an internationally active demining organisation that locates and destroys all kinds of explosive ordnance. In 2022, this support resulted in the clearance of over 800,000 ㎡ and the release of over 1 million ㎡.

A woman and a man standing next to an orange tree.
Dam Dina and Ros Phanty next to their new orange tree. © Halo Kambodscha, South Soth

In 2004, Dam Dina and Ros Phanty moved to Samraong village in western Cambodia. It was extremely dangerous for them to cultivate their land, which was heavily contaminated by mines. The HALO Trust deployed a team, funded by Switzerland, which was able to complete the clearance work in 2022. Now, Dina and Phanty can plant orange trees on their land again. Their children can play there safely, and walk to school without big detours.

A woman deminer from the HALO Trust wearing an outfit marked with a Swiss cross standing next to a minefield.
A deminer from the HALO Trust. © Try Phal, HALO Kambodscha

Explosive ordnance risk education (EORE)

Teaching people about the dangers of mines and other explosive ordnance promotes safer behaviour, prevents accidents, and saves lives. This work is essential, particularly in view of the rising numbers of mine victims worldwide.

Mine risk awareness prevents accidents in Colombia

After more than six decades of armed conflict, Colombia remains the most mine-affected country in the Americas. Although significant progress has been made in clearing contaminated areas, the number of mine victims has risen again in recent years. Through the SDC, Switzerland is therefore continuing to support a comprehensive mine action approach including EORE, which remains a key pillar in saving lives – in 2022, more than 12,000 beneficiaries (more than half of whom were women) in rural areas were taught about mine risks.

Experts standing in a classroom teaching schoolchildren about mine risks.
Experts working for the organisation HUMANICEMOS teach EORE to schoolchildren in Caquetá. © Humanicemos

In June 2022, four people including a child were killed by an explosive device 200 metres from a school in Caquetá, southern Colombia. A Swiss-funded team from HUMANICEMOS immediately carried out EORE workshops at the school to help prevent further accidents by preparing the 1,300 pupils and teachers to deal with such risks. HUMANICEMOS was set up in 2017 by former FARC members and is the first demining organisation in the world to be founded and led by former combatants.

Support for mine victims

The Landmine Monitor estimates that in 2021 more than 5,540 people became victims of mines and other explosive ordnance. The most disadvantaged groups in society are usually the most affected, and the livelihoods of entire families are put at risk. The victim support pillar of mine action aims to ensure that the affected people can fully exercise their rights and participate actively in society by providing medical care, physical rehabilitation, and socio-economic services.

Switzerland promotes mine victim rehabilitation in Yemen

Yemen is one of the worst-affected regions by mines in the world, with more than 5,000 mine victims in the last ten years alone. Through the SDC, Switzerland supports the non-profit organisation Humanity & Inclusion (HI) in Yemen, which carries out relief aid and development cooperation activities, including rehabilitation for mine victims. Twelve year-old Zaid Ali Mansour from Mokha in south-western Yemen was injured while playing with his friends and had to have part of his right leg amputated. Thanks to HI's support, Zaid has learned to walk with crutches and can go to school again.

A doctor treating a mine victim.
Doctors work at HI's rehabilitation centre where mine victims are treated. © Humanity & Inclusion

Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining

The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) was founded in Geneva on 28 April 1998 at the initiative of Switzerland. It works to reduce the risks posed by explosive ordnance, with a focus on landmines, cluster munitions and ammunition stockpiles. The GICHD plays a key role in the ongoing development and implementation of International Mine Action Standards. The Centre contributes to the development and professionalisation of the sector. It supports around 40 affected countries and territories every year. Switzerland currently funds almost half of the GICHD's budget through its 2020–2023 framework credit for the three Geneva centres, amounting to just over CHF 9.5 million per year.


Switzerland promotes local capacity development

For mine action to be sustainable and relevant in the long term, the people who are the most affected should be empowered to carry it out. Switzerland therefore supports the development of sustainable national capacities in line with the principle of helping people to help themselves. It also deploys demining experts from the Swiss Armed Forces to UN demining programmes as well as supporting training courses with partners like the GICHD or UN agencies such as UNICEF,), UNMAS or UNDP.

Swiss demining experts in Sudan

The UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) is currently advising the Sudanese national authorities with a view to local capacity development. Since September 2021, an information management specialist from the Swiss Armed Forces has also been deployed to Sudan, followed by a Swiss operations specialist who was deployed in September 2022. The work here is centred on quality assurance and improving existing capacities and processes, including close cooperation with the national mine action centre to conduct regular monitoring visits to clearance sites in order to ensure that the demining work complies with the relevant international standards. Any shortcomings are handled with detailed feedback or ad-hoc training on site. Core tasks also include planning and implementing training courses.

Two people mapping mines together.
Mapping a recently discovered minefield. © UNMAS Sudan

Mine action in Ukraine

A man standing in a field writing in his notebook.
A Ukrainian participant of non-technical survey course in Western Ukraine. © GICHD / FSD

Russia's military aggression against Ukraine and the resulting armed conflict are causing significant casualties and extensive contamination by mines and other explosive ordnance. Mine action in Ukraine is a condition for humanitarian access, the return of displaced persons, reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure, social and economic recovery, including agriculture, and sustainable development.

In 2022, Switzerland supported Ukraine in cooperation with partner organisations such as the GICHD and the Fondation suisse de déminage (FSD). The DDPS has been financing training courses through the GICHD since July 2022, and in Western Ukraine since autumn 2022. Through the PHRD, the FDFA supported risk education through an FSD project and promoted coordination in the field of mine action, including through an international meeting of all key actors in Geneva organised by the GICHD. In the coming years, mine action support for Ukraine will be expanded along various lines of action.

Looking ahead: Switzerland's continuing commitment

The activities carried out in 2022 bring the implementation of Switzerland's Mine Action Strategy 2016–22 to a close. At the start of 2022, the Federal Council adopted Switzerland's first-ever strategy on arms control and disarmament, which includes conventional weapons as one of its five fields of action. This means that mine action is now an integral part of this new strategy. One of the concrete measures set out is the development of an action plan on mine action to replace the Mine Action Strategy 2016–22. Switzerland will therefore continue to actively support and promote mine action at the diplomatic level and through activities in the field.

Start of page