Andy Smith
MIne-action specialist

Lack of safety data...

Andy Smith, 2017

Safety in HMA is concerned with the safety of the people in the areas we work and with the safety of the people we employ to do the work, the deminers. Everything reasonable must be done to ensure that risks are "tolerable" which, in a humanitarian context, must mean minimised.

When I met him last, the GICHD Operations manager told me that it is still not possible for GICHD to do anything about gathering relevant safety data. Apparently there is no money in gathering essential data about accidents and missed explosive hazards left on land that should never have been declared "clear" or "released", so there is nothing he can do - despite the fact that without this data we cannot know how well we are doing or identify potential ways to improve.

So I wrote to the ICBL and presented a paper to them for consideration - and eventually got a polite reply saying in effect that my concerns were not their responsibility either...

This year I had the opportunity to speak at the CTRO symposium in Croatia which, amongst other things, was celebrating 20 years of the ICBL under the heading "Twenty years of the Ottawa Convention - achievements and challenges". Knowing a significant "challenge", I gave a presentation and submitted a paper questioning whether the requirements to gather and share data that are part of the Mine Ban Treaty were being met.

My presentation was well received - and I was thanked by several who appreciated my being honest about the emperor's lack of humanitarian clothes. However, the GICHD Operations Manager (a man who has never been a deminer) objected to my presentation and paper and complained to CTRO that it was unjustly criticial. He did not explain how the criticism was unjust because it isn't. CTRO politely (but firmly) regretted that they were offended but declined to act as a censor of facts that Geneva finds uncomfortable. So, Croatia upholds free speech and defends the people HMA serves (both the public and the deminers) while Geneva seeks a redaction that would obscure the failings of office bureaucrats. It is truly sad that this is not a surprise.

Possible new homes for my database of accidents ( are being explored and, pending someone stepping up, I keep adding data (so please send any reports you have to me at avs(at) Missed-hazard data is now being gathered alongside demining accident data. As always, no identifiers are ever published (and in more than 18 years the data has never been abused - but it has been "used" to good ends).

Click here to read my slideshow presentation.

Click here to read the paper that is in the Symposium Book of Papers (longer and with fewer pictures than the slideshow) as a PDF file.