Reintegration of ex-combatants through humanitarian mine action to consolidate peace
The practice, implemented by UNMAS Colombia with UNOPS, is for the reintegration of ex-combatants through humanitarian mine action (MA), to support the capacity building of Humanicemos Desminado Humanitario (HDH) as a civilian demining organization in Colombia. The organization emerges from the 2016 Peace Accord between the Government of Colombia (GoC) and the guerrilla group FARC-EP: The parties agreed that a civilian humanitarian MA organization should be established as a vehicle for socio-economic reintegration of FARC-EP ex-combatants. The organization was formally established on 4 May 2017, being the first humanitarian demining organization composed and led by former combatants worldwide.
The practice´s objective is to promote the social and economic reintegration of former combatants through humanitarian MA, to facilitate the reconciliation with left-behind communities affected by the armed conflict and the presence of landmines and other explosive hazards, and, through clearance of explosive ordnance (EO), to reduce the risk to life and create the conditions for rural development. It thus impacts in the dimensions of the triple nexus, humanitarian, peace-building and development, as an example for New Ways of Working. This practice contributes to 4 SDGs and hence represents an innovative, integrated, multisectoral response to a multidimensional need in the context of the 2016 Peace Accord implementation.
The practice aims to contribute mainly to sustaining peace in Colombia, supporting the 2016 Peace Accord (SDG 16), while giving livelihoods and decent employment with salaries and fringe benefits to former combatants (SDG 8), through the international financial and technical cooperation of key stakeholders, such as the MPTF and the European Union Trust Fund for Peace (SDG 17). It impacts along the triple nexus’ dimensions: In the humanitarian, peacebuilding, and development realm (SDG 1). The project, therefore, is an example of a sustainable intervention in the framework of the 2030 Agenda.
The project was designed in consultation with the GoC, local authorities, MA civil organizations, ex-combatants and UN agencies, funds, and programmes. It is an example of the support of international actors to foster local peacebuilding initiatives, particularly through the financial contributions of the MPTF and the European Union Trust Fund for Peace, and the in-kind contributions of the Government of Sweden. To achieve the practice’s objective, so that the ex-combatants develop the capabilities to manage an HDH organization and execute quality MA activities, UNMAS has designed, applied, and evaluated a series of training packages. Training was held on administrative management, budget and project management, reporting, development of administrative processes and procedures, IT tools, EO clearance, mine risk education (MRE) and advanced medical support, among others. Also, the practice generates soft skills such as leadership, teamwork, communication and conflict resolution. The ex-combatants participating in this practice have developed not only professional but also personal skills mitigating the risk of recidivism since they acquired capacities, technical tools and resources for their transition into civilian life. The External Quality Management Component of HDH operations is led by UNMAS. It monitors the quality of the activities of the project and the MA operations, under international MA standards and applicable national standards. Regarding operational deployment, HDH reached a milestone as an organization in October 2020, by deploying its Non-Technical Survey teams for the first time in La Montañita. Also, HDH has been offering Explosive Ordnance Risk Education sessions since 2018 to inhabitants of rural communities of Caquetá.
The practice impacts in terms of reintegration and improves the lives of ex-combatants and their families, by giving them decent employment to avoid recidivism. 67% of ex-combatants perceived the income generated under the project as sufficient to cover their basic needs. Also, it impacts by increasing Colombia´s capacity to comply with its Ottawa Convention obligations. Likewise, it has opened spaces for reconciliation, all of which are direly needed in Colombia’s peace process, aiming to leave no one behind and to sustain peace. Observing the project impact evaluation, 100% of the community members recognize the contribution of HDH to reconciliation. The inhabitants of Caquetá will be able to recover areas of land for productive uses. Improvement of infrastructure that had been neglected due to contamination with EO will be facilitated, and it will allow the provision of health, social and education services in the areas, as well as open access to economic opportunities.
The Peace Accord enabled the creation of the organization since MA and reintegration are cross-cutting themes in the agreements. Also, the support of international actors, MA organizations and the UN to foster local peacebuilding initiatives, was key to the development of HDH as a promising MA organization. Regarding the constraints, the ex-combatants had very different levels of education and the project had to create special lessons to level their basic knowledge and then start the technical and organizational training. The importance of having psychosocial support was also evidenced, especially when working within reintegration processes.
The consolidation of HDH with the technical assistance provided by UNMAS offers a highly visible and sustainable example of successful reintegration that is complementary to broader Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration processes. This success is tangible evidence of viable and positive options for former combatants within the MA sector, which also is helpful for the peacebuilding and reconciliation processes in the regions affected by the armed conflict. All the lessons learned under this practice are documented to facilitate the replicability of this model with improvements. Other actors can adjust similar projects to their contexts by following the project evaluation document. In the project impact evaluation led by UNMAS, improvement opportunities were identified: e.g. it should be a longer-term intervention of at least 5 years, such organization cannot only be composed of ex-combatants, and training needs to be adjusted to individual levels of education of ex-combatants.
The UNMAS project team worked together with HDH to implement strategies reducing the COVID-19 impacts, such as adapting the methodology for labour skills training (organizational capacity development) to the virtual realm, equipping the HDH regional base and the office in Bogota with relevant biosafety protocols, and defining a MA training and operational plan for gradual, progressive and controlled deployment of personnel at the regional base, with strict biosafety protocols in place. UNMAS Colombia evaluated the impact of the COVID-19 emergency in the work plan to guarantee that there were alternatives to reach project objectives and goals. Despite the pandemic, the project has been able to move steadily towards its objectives.
SDGS & Targets
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Deliverables & Timeline
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This project is implemented in the municipality of La Montañita, Caquetá, the municipality second most affected in number of landmine victims in Colombia during the armed conflict.