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Clearance of improvised explosive devices in the Middle East – Wilton Park dialogue

The increasing harm caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, has seen IEDs become a growing priority in humanitarian, disarmament and security sectors. Last year, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) recorded 19,246 deaths and injuries caused by IEDs, of which 74% (14,301) were those of civilians. IEDs caused more civilian deaths and injuries than any other explosive weapon type.

Between May 22nd – May 24th 2017 some of the leading IED experts, including AOAV’s Executive Director, Iain Overton, were invited to Wilton Park to discuss the challenges in addressing the threat posed by IEDs.

The meeting aimed to:

  • Explore the nature of the challenge posed by IEDs to the stabilisation of countries in the Middle East and North Africa
  • Provide an opportunity to discuss how to maximise operational effectiveness in the region
  • Examine the lessons which can be learnt from past initiatives in the region and other parts of the world

A report on the main findings from the dialogue identifies some of the key points and recommendations that came out of the event:

  • While the threat of IEDs is not new, the scale of contamination in the Middle East is unprecedented. Non-state actors such as Daesh are deploying ever-more sophisticated devices to level the playing field in asymmetric warfare.
  • The evolution of IED technology is rapid, and security contexts in contaminated areas can change on a daily basis. Effective information sharing is needed and should be formalised through a functional operational platform.
  • Successful risk management is dependent on information sharing. Experienced actors should share regional expertise with new entrants to minimise risk to personnel.
  • Donors should recognise the complexity and high risks around IED clearance in the Middle East. They should be accordingly flexible in their expectations of outcomes.
  • IED clearance should ideally be coordinated by a functional national authority. Where this is not possible, international authorities should coordinate clearance funding in collaboration with donors, while working to build the capacity of national authorities.
  • There is a wide range of views within the sector on whether new, separate IED clearance standards are necessary. Work should be done to assess whether IMAS can accommodate IED clearance. If distinct standards must be developed, inclusion of all relevant stakeholders at all stages of development is essential. New standards should be complementary to IMAS.

Further points and recommendations focus around key themes, such as defining the threat, information sharing, risk management, funding, and standards.

To read the full report from Wilton Park, please see here.