Landmines left by warfare pose a daily, deadly threat for millions of people across Asia and Africa. Once any peace accord is signed, the removal of mines and other explosives is a critical first step to building safety and stability in a former conflict zone. How that work is organized—and how communities are involved— can help shape the peace that follows. On April 25, USIP and HALO Trust, one of the world’s largest demining organizations, gathered experts for a discussion on the implications and results of demining.

Over the past 20 years, casualties worldwide from land mines have steadily declined, largely because of the global treaty banning them. But that progress is not secure. The most recent years’ surge in warfare has led to a spike in those killed or injured by mines and other explosive remnants of war. In 2015, more than 6,000 people were casualties, a 75 percent increase from the previous year and the highest toll since 2006.

The imperative to remove mines is simple, but the work and its implications are not. The recent years’ shift from mass-produced mines to “improvised explosive devices” now complicates demining campaigns from Iraq to Afghanistan to Colombia. And the demining of Colombia reflects a new opportunity for well-planned peace processes that emphasize the inclusion of all groups. Can Colombia’s demining effort strengthen stability and peace by involving communities, minorities, women, war victims—or even demobilized fighters?

USIP and HALO Trust held this discussion—and a Defense Department exhibition of demining technology. The department’s Humanitarian Demining Research and Development Program featured an array of unique lifesaving tools from the high-tech push-cart known as EMPACT to the “Minehound”—a handheld device that uses ground-penetrating radar—to a few of the department’s own mine-sniffing dogs. 

In addition to the Department of Defense and Halo Trust, the exhibition included the following guests: MAG International, Legacies of War, Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (WRA), James Madison University Center for International Stabilization and Recovery and the Marshall Legacy Institute.

A recording of the event can be found on this event page.

Agenda

1:00 - 1:15 Opening Remarks: Nancy Lindborg, President, U.S. Institute of Peace

1:15pm - 2:30pm - Panel 1: Demining & Fragile States

  • Joseph Pennington, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq, U.S. Department of State   
  • Daniel Avila, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Colombia (former Director of the Colombian demining authority)
  • Ambassador Sorin Ducaru, Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, NATO
  • Dr. Ken Rutherford, Director, Center for International Stabilization and Recovery, James Madison University
  • Moderator: Paul Hughes, Special Advisor and Director, Overseas Safety and Security, U.S. Institute of Peace

3:00pm - 4:15pm - Panel 2: Demining and Security

  • Jerry Guilbert, Deputy Director for Programs, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, U.S. Department of State 
  • Agnès Marcaillou, Director, U.N. Mine Action Service
  • Dr. Virginia Bouvier, Senior Advisor, U.S. Institute of Peace (Demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants – Colombia)
  • Moderator: Dr. Ken Rutherford, Director, Center for International Stabilization and Recovery, James Madison University

4:15pm - 5:30pm - Panel 3: The Future Challenges of Unconventional Conflicts

  • Maj-Gen James Cowan, CEO, The HALO Trust
  • Mark Swayne, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Stability & Humanitarian Affairs, U. S. Department of Defense
  • Maj-Gen Michael Rothstein, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State,  U. S. Department of State
  • Carla Koppell, Vice President, Applied Conflict Transformation, U. S. Institute of Peace
  • Moderator: Steven Costner, Deputy Director, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, U.S. Department of State

Related Publications

The Latest @ USIP: Religious Inclusion in Afghanistan

The Latest @ USIP: Religious Inclusion in Afghanistan

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

By: Charles Ramsey

The Taliban often use religious arguments to justify their claim to authority. But the Taliban are just one aspect of Afghanistan, and the caretaker government has failed to justify many of its more draconian policies — especially those against women and girls. Charles Ramsey, a resident scholar at Baylor University's Institute for the Studies of Religion and a senior fellow at the Religious Freedom Institute, discusses the role that other religious actors in Afghanistan can play in shaping the country’s future and how positively engaging with these religious leaders can contribute to building peace.

Type: Blog

Peace ProcessesReligion

Wrestling with a Humanitarian Dilemma in Afghanistan

Wrestling with a Humanitarian Dilemma in Afghanistan

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

By: William Byrd, Ph.D.

Recent decrees by the Taliban barring Afghan women from attending university or working in NGOs are severely damaging the country both socially and economically, especially coming atop a ban on girls’ secondary education last year. The marginalization of half the population also highlights the “humanitarian dilemma” that aid donors and international agencies face: Afghanistan is highly dependent on humanitarian assistance, not only for saving lives and easing deprivation but also to stabilize its economy. The quandary for international donors is what to do when alleviating suffering benefits the Afghan economy and thereby the Taliban regime, even when that regime is harming its own people?

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics

Can the Taliban’s Brazen Assault on Afghan Women Be Stopped?

Can the Taliban’s Brazen Assault on Afghan Women Be Stopped?

Thursday, January 12, 2023

By: Belquis Ahmadi;  Kate Bateman;  Andrew Watkins;  Scott Worden

The Taliban marked the New Year by doubling down on their severe, ever-growing restrictions on women’s rights. On December 20, they banned women from all universities — adding to their prior ban on girls attending middle and high school. Then the Taliban announced on December 24 that women cannot work for NGOs, including humanitarian organizations that are providing vital food and basic health services to the population that is now projected at 90 percent below the poverty rate. Western and regional governments have responded with uncommonly unified outrage and many humanitarian organizations have suspended their operations until women are allowed to return to their jobs.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

GenderHuman Rights

View All Publications