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Goldmine? A critical look at the commercialization of Afghan demining

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image for OpenScout resource :: Goldmine? A critical look at the commercialization of Afghan demining

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Afghanistan is considered the birthplace of humanitarian mine action -- the clearance of landmines and unexploded munitions from land intended for civilian use. The demining methods and protocols developed there in the early 1990s were exported to mine-affected countries all over the globe. However, Afghan demining is in a period of momentous change. After 16 years of UN-led and NGO-implemented mine action, the last few years have seen the influx of commercial demining companies. This has the potential to enhance the capacity of Afghan demining, through greater profit-driven efficiency, innovation and specialization. Moreover, it is unlikely that many NGOs would be able, or willing, to do mine and UXO clearance tasks for the Coalition and Afghan militaries. Thus some involvement of commercial companies in Afghan demining should be welcomed. However, there are also several possible disadvantages to commercialization. Firstly, without tight controls and a clear regulatory framework, using commercial companies risks lowering the quality and safety of the demining process. Secondly, turning demining into a purchasable commodity risks drawing demining resources away from those who need mine clearance the most, as those who can pay get demining first. Finally, commercialization, which has seen the growing role of private security contractors in demining, has occurred in tandem with the merging of US aid and security policy in Afghanistan. As a result, there is a danger that neutral ‘humanitarian space’ for demining may be reduced.

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