Who are we?
Established in 1997, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) works to eliminate the threat posed by mines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices by coordinating United Nations mine action, leading operational responses at the country level, and in support of peace operations, as well as through the development of standards, policies and norms.
As a specialized service of the United Nations located within the Department of Peace Operations, UNMAS operates under UN legislative mandates of both the General Assembly and the Security Council. UNMAS also responds to specific requests for support from the UN Secretary-General or designated official.
The UNMAS DRC programme supports MONUSCO in the achievement of its mandate, Protection of Civilians (PoC) and contributes to the stabilisation and strengthening of State institutions and key governance and security reforms.
UNMAS is working to ensure the protection of civilians through its 2 person Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) Disposal team based in Beni to enhance MONUSCO’s IED disposal capabilities, preparedness and readiness to protect civilians and UN staff in emergency situations.
Furthermore, UNMAS with funding from MONUSCO has provided support to the national authorities in order to enhance their capability to safely manage, store and mark state-held weapons and ammunition.
UNMAS is looking to continue building on the success achieved so far and enhance support to both humanitarian mine action and complete transition of the remaining humanitarian mine action activities to national counterparts.
Why are we in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)?
Since independence in 1960, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been locked in a spiral of armed conflict resulting in nationwide contamination by explosive hazards and an illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
The latest small arms survey estimates that approximately 950,000 weapons are illegally circulating in the country that the majority of those weapons would be transferred through neighboring countries (Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, South Sudan, Tanzania). Additionally, the Group of Experts on DRC has expressed their concerns on reports of possible diversion of state-held weapons to civilians. In 2008, the GoDRC established the National Commission for Small Arms and Light Weapons Control and Armed Violence Reduction (CNC-ALPC), a civilian governmental entity to tackle the issue.
UNMAS has been present in the DRC since 2002 and currently has offices in Kinshasa, Goma, Beni and Bukavu, to coordinate and implement its country-wide activities in support of the Government of the DRC, MONUSCO and the UN Country Team.
In compliance with Security Council Resolutions 2098 (2013), 2409 (2018), 2463 (2019), 2502 (2019), 2556 (2020), UNMAS conducts explosive management activities to protect civilians and contribute to the safety and security of UN personnel, as well as weapons and ammunition management activities, to reinforce the current capacity of national security state actors to safely store and manage their weapons and stockpiles, in line with international standards.
Summary of the history of explosive device management in the DRC
Ø 2002 : The Mine Action Service was set up in the DRC by the Security Council under paragraph 7 of Resolution 1291 (2000) - “The Security Council decides that MONUC (renamed MONUSCO), in cooperation with the Joint Military Commission, have the following mandate: to deploy mine action experts to measure the extent of the problem posed by mines and unexploded devices, to coordinate the launch of mine action, to develop a action plan and to carry out, if necessary, the emergency operations necessary to enable it to fulfill its mandate . Since then, UNMAS DRC has supported MONUSCO and the DRC government (GoRDC) with explosive device management activities.
Ø 2013 : In order to align its operations with Resolution 2098 (2013) adopted by the Security Council, the Mine Action Service has strengthened its support for MONUSCO operations while transferring all humanitarian mine action actions to the country team and the GoRDC. In other words, the capacity building activities of the Congolese Mine Action Center (CCLAM), danger awareness raising and humanitarian landmine / ERW demining activities are carried out only by the United Nations country team and the GoRDC. The final transfer of coordination of all humanitarian demining activities to CCLAM was completed in January 2016. UNMAS also supported the National Commission for SALW control and ARmed Violence Reduction (CNC-ALPC) in the implementation of its National Action Plan for SALW management and control 2012-2016.
Ø 2014/2015 : During this period, the MONUSCO Mine Action Service (UNMAS DRC) redefined the program and reorganized the scope of its operations towards the achievement of the set objectives of the mission, as indicated in the Resolution 2147 (2014).
- Protection of civilians - UNMAS DRC ensured the protection of civilians against the threat posed by the REG before, during and after the operations of the MONUSCO Intervention Brigade against armed groups. The program standed ready to respond urgently to an imminent threat posed by ERW to civilians and military personnel, to make a rapid assessment of the situation and to carry out demining as required. In 2014/15, approximately 29,700 REG, 33,700 ammunition for small arms and light weapons and 47 tonnes of obsolete ammunition from Troop Contributing Countries (TTC) were destroyed.
- Stabilization - UNMAS DRC continued its engagement with the PNC and the FARDC with a view to strengthening national capacities. The program supported the PNC in the implementation of a national plan for the management of arms and ammunition and in the training of selected FARDC soldiers on techniques for detecting and denouncing arms caches left behind by armed groups. in Masisi (North Kivu). In fiscal year 2014/15, 720 weapons and 177,990 ammunition for small arms were recovered and destroyed, facilitating the process of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR).
- Framework Agreement for Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) - In pursuit of the objectives of the framework agreement, UNMAS DRC continued to encourage national institutions to improve the security of their management of arms and ammunition. UNMAS DRC reiterated its commitment to carry out all the tasks in support of the implementation of the framework agreement.
Ø 2015/2016: UNMAS RDC continued its activities on the basis of the previous year and in line with Resolutions 2198 (2015) and 2277 (2016).
- Protection of civilians - UNMAS DRC continued to mitigate the threat posed by the REGs before, during and after the operations of the MONUSCO Intervention Brigade against armed groups. UNMAS also remained on alert in order to intervene without delay on ERW threats directly exposing the civilian population and conducted emergency investigations and clean-ups as required. A total of 607 ERW, 123 ammunition for small arms and light weapons and 7 weapons were destroyed under the protection of civilian pillar. 972 ERW, 947 ammunition for small arms and light weapons and 72 weapons were also destroyed in support of the TCCs.
- Stabilization - In order to facilitate the operations of the MONUSCO Intervention Brigade against armed groups and to assist efforts to restore state authority, UNMAS DRC destroyed obsolete or surrendered arms and ammunition as required. . During this period, 3,702 ERW, 185,911 ammunition for small arms and light weapons as well as 668 weapons were destroyed in support of the DDR section, the PNC and the FARDC.
- Support for democratic governance and institutional reforms - UNMAS DRC continued to encourage national institutions to step up the security of their stockpiles of arms and ammunition and supported the PNC in the development of a national plan for the management of arms and ammunition. In addition, UNMAS DRC continued to undertake a number of arms and ammunition management projects in support of the PNC, emphasizing the marking and control of weapons, basic training in weapons management and ammunition and the provision of localized storage solutions. Among these projects, UNMAS DRC renovated three (3) weapons and ammunition storage facilities for the PNC through the Rapid Impact Project (QIP) initiative in the territory of Rutshuru, North Kivu and built 5 armories in Bunia (Ituri) and Bukavu (South Kivu).
2016-2021: UNMAS RDC continued its activities on the basis of the previous year and in line with Resolutions 2293 (2016), 2348 (2017), 2409 (2018), 2463 (2019), 2502 (2019) and 2556 (2020).
- Protection of civilians - UNMAS supported MONUSCO Protection of Civilian (POC) mandate by responding to 626 explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) requests from the UNMAS green line, civilians, FARDC and MONUSCO. The number of beneficiaries from this activity is estimated at 707,500 civilians who now have safe access to key civilian infrastructures and land in four provinces (North Kivu, Ituri, South Kivu and Tanganyika), from which a total of 3,500 explosive items have been removed. Furthermore, UNMAS has destroyed 157,805 unserviceable small arms and light weapon ammunition from TCCs. Finally, UN military and civilian personnel operating in the DRC (2,386 men and 1,092 women) participated in 116 ERW/IED risk awareness training sessions (including TCCs capsule training and SSAFE trainings) on the risks posed by explosive ordnance and learned about safe behaviours. Of note, UNMAS is a member of the MONUSCO Force Weapon and Ammunition Board to provide advice to the TCCs on safe storage and weapons and ammunition management, in addition to providing support to the TCCs for the disposal of excess ammunition upon rotations and departures from the Mission.
- Stabilization - In support of the DDR process, UNMAS has destroyed 53 Explosive Remnants of War (ERW), 479 rounds of ammunition and 44 weapons collected during the demobilization of arms groups. UNMAS has destroyed 44,118 unserviceable small arms and light weapon ammunition from FARDC.
- Strengthening of State institutions and key governance and security reforms: UNMAS has continued to provide support to the national authorities in order to enhance their capability to manage, store and mark state-held weapons and ammunition. Notably, UNMAS has also supported the CNC-ALPC in drafting its National Action PLan for SALW control 2018-2022 and implementing some of its components. As of today, UNMAS has supported the Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) management through the marking of over 18,500 state-held weapons in Ituri, Tanganyika and Kinshasa Provinces. In 2020, 8,021 weapons were marked, of which 4,002 were in Kinshasa and 4,019 in Tanganyika, and 5,988 were for the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and 2,033 for the National Police (PNC), the provision of five weapon marking machines and related equipment to the CNC-ALPC, the construction of seven out of 26 armories, and rehabilitation of three armories. UNMAS also installed weapons safes and weapon and ammunition storage solutions in 271 sites across eight provinces: Nord-Kivu, Sud-Kivu, Kinshasa, Ituri, Kasai Central, Tanganyika, Haut-Katanga and Tshopo. To note, 63 were for the benefit of FARDC, 203 for the PNC, four for the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) and one for MONUSCO DDR, resulting in 19,521 state-held weapons secured through the installation of gun safes, refurbishment of existing armories and containers converted into mobile armories and Police stations at PNC and FARDC premises. UNMAS also converted 15 equipped containers into police sub-stations. Finally, UNMAS provided institutional capacity enhancement activities through:
- Training on weapons marking to 20 CNC-ALPC, FARDC and PNC personnel. CNC-ALPC is now able to deploy simultaneously two joint CNC-PNC-FARDC marking teams with UNMAS support.
- Training on Weapons and Ammunition Management to over 1,600 FARDC and PNC personnel in North-Kivu, Kinshasa, South-Kivu, Kasai Central and Ituri (5% were women).
- Monitoring and Control through supporting the establishment of a nationally-led entity to oversee NAP (NAP) coordination, implementation, M&E (M&E)..
MINE ACTION within MONUSCO
UNMAS coordinates and collaborates with the following MONUSCO sections:
UNMAS engages with the DDR section in the country for the destruction of surrendered weapons and ammunition and in UNHQ and are discussing potential avenues to strengthen collaboration on WAM in MONUSCO.
UNMAS is also providing technical advice on the location of Weapons and Ammunition Management (WAM) facilities within the MONUSCO Company Operating Bases (COBs) for FARDC and material to be purchased.
Joint Human Rights Office (JHRO)
As usual practice, all weapons storage solutions and WAM training and awareness sessions beneficiaries are subject to the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy (HRDDP) clearance. Moreover, the Joint Human Rights Office (JHRO) delivers the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy component as part of WAM training to PNC.
Ams Embargo Cell (AEC)
UNMAS is collaborating with the AEC to provide information on weapons and ammunition in circulation in the DRC prior to their destruction as well as implementing aspects of the sanction’s regime through its WAM training delivered to National Defense and Security Forces and the installations of weapons and ammunition safe storage solutions.
As part of a recommendation of an independent evaluation on the SALW programmatic activities conducted in 2019, in August 2020, UNMAS and UNPOL have developed a joint UNMAS-UNPOL cooperation plan which aims at: i) having UNPOL endorsing the selection of new sites to be equipped or improved; ii) having UNMAS delivering the training to the PNC on weapons and ammunition management; iii) having UNPOL developing weapons and ammunition best practices tool guide to PNC.
Security Sector Reform
In line with the recommendation of Independent Strategic Review final report and tentative three-year MONUSCO exit strategy and transition to UNCT and GoDRC, Security Sector Reform (SSR) jointly with UNMAS have initiated advocacy work and jointly will explore possibility that GoDRC secures bilateral funding to ensure on-going FARDC reform covers the MONUSCO Strategic review recommendation on the need to train FARDC to develop their own capacity to clear mines and dispose of explosive ordnance, register weapons and ammunition, and safely manage them.
- National Action Plan (NAP) for SALW Control
On 15 March 2018, the GoDRC officially launched the NAP for SALW Control, including a national strategy for the fight against the illicit circulation and proliferation of SALW, which was developed and finalized by the CNC-ALPC, with support from UNMAS. To ensure effective implementation of the NAP, UNMAS is actively supporting the reactivation of the nationally led entity to oversee NAP coordination, implementation, M&E established in 2018. The nationally led entity and coordination mechanism aim at providing a multi- stakeholder platform that enables the M&E of the implementation of the NAP and that proposes strategic work plans that will allow national authorities to overcome any implementation challenges. Finally, UNMAS also contributes to enhance the level of knowledge and understanding of the issue posed by SALW proliferation in the DRC through research studies, analysis and documentation.
- National Mine Action Strategy 2018-2019
The National Mine Action Center (CCLAM), established in 2012 with the support from UNMAS, has continuously received support from UNMAS, becoming fully responsible for the coordination of the mine action sector in the DRC in 2016. Its capacity to carry out accreditation, issue task orders, and report on mine action activities remains however very limited. Its lack of capacity to manage and update the national contamination database and carry out quality management activities continues to be highlighted by operators as critical areas of concern.
In 2017, a new National Mine Action Strategy for 2018–19 was developed in a series of workshops in collaboration with mine action operators, with support from the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), UNMAS, and the Government of Japan. The strategy 2018-2019 contains the following three strategic objectives: effective and efficient management of the explosive threat; ensuring the national programme has the capacity to manage residual contamination in a sustainable manner; and strengthening the legal framework of the mine action programme.
- United Nations Sustainable Cooperation Development Framework 2020-2024 (UNSCDF)
On the basis of the strategic vision of the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) for the UNSCDF, drawn from the orientations of several frameworks such as the 2030 Agenda relating to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the conclusions of the 2019 Common Country Report, the lessons learned from the implementation of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) 2013-2019, and the strategic axes of the 2019-2023 Five-Year Development Plan, the assistance of the United Nations System (UNS) in the DRC for the period 2020-2024 will focus on three strategic axes:
- Consolidation of peace, respect for human rights, protection of civilians, social cohesion and democracy
- Inclusive economic growth, agricultural development, capture of the demographic dividend, protection and sustainable management of natural resources
- Access to basic social services and humanitarian assistance
UNMAS has contributed to the UNSCDF 2020-2024 incorporating mine action needs and priorities for the next five years, as well as in the development of the joint work plan in its first axis. The main product indicators and activities are focusing on establishing an operational mechanism for coordination, M&E of the implementation of the action plan on arms control and reduction of armed violence, as well as providing technical assistance to national authorities and the CNC-ALPC for the ratification, implementation, compliance and reporting exercises of international legal instruments and international treaties. Other product indicators focus on the capacity development of the DRC security forces on effective use and management of arms and ammunition as well as state-held weapons marking, registration and securitization in accordance with regional and international norms and standards. Finally, in collaboration with UNHCR, the implementation of awareness-raising activities by accredited organizations on the risks posed by ERW, mines and SALW among communities for the adoption of safe behaviour and collegial measures to mitigate the risks posed by ERW / mines and misuse of SALW, as well as strengthening the coordination mechanisms through the mine action working group under the Protection cluster, have been included.
- Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC)
Following the approval granted in September 2020 of the 18 months extension request (expiring in July 2022) submitted by the GoDRC to achieve full compliance with the APMBC Article 5,UNMAS DRC continued to support CCLAM in preparing the individualized approach through information and technical advice. A meeting was held on 12 November, supported by the Committee on the Enhancement of Cooperation and Assistance and organized by APMBC Implementation Support Unit (ISU), as a platform for the DRC to share detailed information on the challenges faced and the needs to fulfil the remaining obligations of the Convention in an effective and expedient way. During this meeting, UNMAS made a statement urging the international community and Mine Action partners to support financially and operationally the GoDRC in order to be declared mine free by 2022 and encouraging the GoDRC to ensure that National Defense and Security Forces are trained, equipped and empowered to respond to the residual contamination.