Azerbaijan International

Spring 2002 (10.1)
Page 9

Readers' Forum
Help With Land Mines

Last August, I was sent by the Swiss Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sports (DDPS) to be an information advisor to the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA), a government organization that works to clear Azerbaijan of land mines. I'm a regular army officer, but my function in ANAMA is strictly civilian, linked to my civil profession and civil skills.

Switzerland is very concerned about the worldwide problem of land mines and UXO (Unexploded Ordinance) and has been assisting Mine Action activities in various countries since 1993. The DDPS, a division of Switzerland's Peace Support Operations, provides expertise, personnel and materials for humanitarian demining.

After hearing about the severe land mine and UXO problem in Azerbaijan, the DDPS deployed a Mine Database Specialist to Baku in mid-1999. During his one-year deployment to ANAMA, this Swiss expert helped build up the organization's capacities for the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA).

IMSMA is basically a highly specialized mine/UXO accounting software that was developed at ETHZ, our technical university in Zurich. At the request of the U.N., Switzerland tasked and funded a crew of IT developers to create this program. Since then, it has been used in 20 different nations. This is where I come in. After a Swiss IT expert trained in IMSMA helped get ANAMA operational, I was sent in as a replacement to assist in improving the overall information flow within Mine Action.

While the DDPS is aware that UXOs remain a problem of high priority with regard to humanitarian demining, the Swiss Ammunition Enterprises have developed a cost-effective system for contact-free explosive ordnance disposal (so-called SM EOD systems). These systems not only make EOD more efficient, but also make it safer for the personnel in the field.

The Swiss Government is glad to be in a position to provide ANAMA with a sufficient number of SM EOD systems in order to support field activities over several months. An integral part of this material assistance by the Swiss DDPS to ANAMA is a training course in the use of the SM EOD systems, conducted in Azerbaijan by Swiss experts.

Unfortunately, my tour of duty as an information advisor is due to end soon. I hope that ANAMA will continue its steady development and regret having to leave such a good team.

Josef Strebel
Information Advisor to Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA)

For more information on Azerbaijan's land mine problem, see the article "Hidden Killers: Land Mines in Azerbaijan" in AI 9.2 (Summer 2001). SEARCH at For more on Humanitarian Mine Action, visit or


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