In Colombia, the first phase of the Peace Process has concluded quite successfully. The FARC handed over7,000 weapons, one per fighter, and regrouped in the concentration points -los veredales- as agreed in the plan. While it is certain that there are more weapons hidden, what is important is the willingness of the parties to abide to their commitments in the Process. One of those commitments is the restitution of the lands occupied by FARC to the Communities in order to facilitate the return of the still some 5 million people still displaced.
However, after 5 decades of armed conflict much of those lands are contaminated with Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) -mines, unexploded ordnance (UXO) or Improvised Explosive Devices (IED)- that continue to pose danger to the population during the post-conflict. The clearance of ERW is therefore essential for the restitution of the land in safety conditions. The removal of IED presents a particular challenge because they are more harmful, are intended to maim and kill deminers as well and are still being placed around illicit plantations such coca fields.
But despite the challenges, the results so far are encouraging. By mid-August 2017, the government of Colombia declared 14 municipalities free of mines after having cleared over 10,000 km² of hazardous land. Finally, after decades of feeling prisoners on their own land the population living in these municipalities can move safely again and take back their abandoned livelihoods. Yet, the work ahead towards the objective of declaring Colombia free of mines by 2021 is enormous since over 500 municipalities are contaminated.
Since early 2016, FSD is providing technical assistance to the Colombian Government to set Standards Operation Procedures (SOPs) for the different mineclearance methodologies –manual, EOD3, mechanical and canine- as well as to establish measures to protect the environment since some contaminated areas are inside Natural Parks and other territories of ecological value. FSD also helps the government in facilitating the accreditation of Humanitarian Demining Operators in compliance with the SOPs. FSD works also closely with the Humanitarian Demining Brigade of the Colombian Army and the Organization of American States (OAS), responsible for the monitoring of clearance operations. This is only possible thanks to the generous support of the US Department of State through the Weapons Removal and Abatement office (PM/WRA).