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Bridging a Critical Mine Action Information Management Gap: Complex Conflict Environments

iMMAP's Iraq Country Representative, Isam Ghareeb Barzangy recently wrote an article for James Madison University's Journal of Conventional Weapons Destruction.

Historically the Republic of Iraq is one of the most severely landmine, explosive remnants of war (ERW), and improvised explosive device (IED) afflicted nations in the world. Though possessed with a robust humanitarian mine action (HMA) program in the three northern Kurdish governorates before the Iraq War (2003–2011), the remainder of the country was largely without any HMA focus until the removal of the Ba’ath regime. Iraq’s border with
Iran contains major military minefields and ERW, while small arms and innumerable stockpiles of ammunition remain throughout the country. High levels of landmine, ERW, and IED contamination are a major challenge for the government and HMA responders, and increasingly impair mobility among segments of the civilian population, placing the Iraqi people in an untenable situation. The Iraqi political process remains gridlocked, which negatively impacts the work conducted by Iraqi government institutions, including the Directorate of Mine Action (DMA) in Baghdad.

The current protracted conflict in Iraq relating to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has resulted in the displacement of 3.3 million people and a significant increase in contamination. ISIS has employed mines and IEDs in large quantities in both urban and rural areas, targeting security forces, humanitarian aid workers, and HMA operators, making it extremely dangerous for them and also for returnees.

While landmine, ERW, and IED contamination is extensive in areas taken back from ISIS, the absence of a coordinated information management system exacerbated the level of risk to both the humanitarian actors and the returnees. Due to the geopolitical situation, the majority of retaken areas fell under the shared responsibility of the two national mine action authorities in Iraq: DMA in Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurdistan Mine Action Agency (IKMAA) in Erbil. This shared responsibility created a Gray Area in which coordination and information management were absent, preventing organized, coordinated, and evidenced-based HMA activities. iMMAP in Iraq supports a comprehensive range of HMA information management and capacity-building services to address ERW and IED contamination during and after complex emergencies. Recognizing the urgent need for an information management center, iMMAP in Iraq took the initiative with direct support from the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) to mediate and establish a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two national mine action authorities, DMA and IKMAA, on 14 September 2015. The MoU authorized iMMAP to set up an information management center to manage and coordinate HMA activities within the retaken areas (Gray Area), which fall under the shared responsibility of DMA and IKMAA. This MoU is the first document signed between DMA and IKMAA since 2003.

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