Baku, 18 July 2018 –Twenty years ago, a vast majority of the former warzone in Azerbaijan was contaminated with unrecorded landmines, rendering the territory hazardous and unusable for potential IDP resettlement. In 1998, the Government of Azerbaijan called on UNDP’s assistance in establishing the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA), a non-military agency mandated to conduct humanitarian demining in areas posing the greatest threats to human safety and livelihoods.
Today, as ANAMA marks 20 years of successful operations in the country, over 520 million square metres of Azerbaijani land is completely mine-free, while nearly 800,000 mines and other explosive weapons have been terminally eradicated. Run on the ground by the national team of 484 operations experts and 134 administrative staff, ANAMA created safe conditions for the resettlement of over 160,000 individuals who had been displaced from their hometowns as a result of war.
Although ANAMA’s initial objective focused primarily on demining, the agency’s agenda today has adopted a decidedly more people-oriented approach. ANAMA’s mine risk education programmes reach over 50,000 children in schools. With support from the Ministry of Healthcare and the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, survivors of mine accidents are provided with medical care and are offered physical rehabilitation programmes. One of the mine victims who received substantial support from ANAMA in the early days of its operations in the country, Javid Mehraliyev, recalls: "I was a mine victim, and all my life I have always been trying hard to integrate into the society so I wouldn’t feel like I was left behind.” Mehraliyev himself now works for ANAMA and has been with the Agency for 20 years already. Today, Javid is leading the Operations function for ANAMA’s regional office in Fuzuli.
ANAMA also manages a micro-credit initiative to improve the livelihoods of victims and their families, and leads craft business development efforts such as carpet-weaving workshops that foster new skills.
Today, ANAMA cooperates with a variety of international institutions involved in mine action, facilitating a two-way exchange of knowledge on successful practices. With the assistance from the UNDP, the agency has secured connections to organisations including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Bank. Collaboration with the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining has focused on developing a new generation of information management systems for mine action and testing new mine action technology. ANAMA has extended aid to national mine action programmes in other countries around the world, including in Georgia, Turkey and Afghanistan.
Consequently, ANAMA has evolved from a fledgling organisation towards a national institution that is well-equipped with robust knowledge and cutting-edge infrastructure required to clear mines, provide risk education and assist survivors of mine and munition explosions. Its success demonstrates that while at a country level mine action programmes should aim to be fully nationalised, they could also benefit from continuing partnership with the United Nations and other international development agencies.
From UNDP’s perspective, mine action plays a catalytic role in the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals and is critical to providing timely disaster response and building community resilience. Speaking at the opening of ANAMA’s 20th anniversary celebration ceremony today, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Azerbaijan Ghulam M. Isaczai said, “the presence of landmines and explosive remnants of war hampers access to and use of resources and infrastructure. Mine action removes these barriers and prevents accidents, providing communities who live in affected lands as well as organisations, which operate there, freedom from fear and insecurity.”
In recognition of the continued professionalism, internationally renowned expertise in humanitarian mine clearance action and the breadth and depth of its methodological capacity-building programmes, the UNDP Office in Azerbaijan has awarded ANAMA with the Certificate of Excellence. Noting the Agency’s vast expertise in mine action development, Mr. Isaczai emphasised, “Given that dozens of countries still need to rid themselves of mines, Azerbaijan’s success within its own borders should be widely shared”.
Maryam Mehdiyeva contributed to this report
For questions, please contact Arzu Jafarli, Communications and External Relations Analyst for UNDP in Azerbaijan at firstname.lastname@example.org