A Landmine Model for Peace
The word ‘landmine’ is often used in a metaphorical sense to mean an obstacle. For example, distrust between parties is often a landmine in the path to peace. In some larger context it may be worth an exploration into the militarization of modern language, but for now, I’m comfortable with continuing the landmine metaphor. Mine clearance is a huge global concern because of the inherent dangers of the indiscriminate weapon. As such, clearance is an evolving practice with new tools and strategies being developed to make the process more efficient and effective. One of these tools is gender and diversity mainstreaming. This mainstreaming has had a profound impact on physical mine clearance, and perhaps by utilizing some of the same tools, the metaphorical mine clearance in the peace process may also benefit.
The Gender and Mine Action Programme is a humanitarian NGO and part of the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining . As their name suggests, the Programme develops tools, conducts research, and advocates for gender considerations in mine action around the world. They also work to incorporate diversity considerations in mine action to ensure that it benefits all people. GMAP and its partners offer training to mine action groups and national leaders to ensure that these considerations are implemented. But what exactly is the importance?
First of all, humanitarian mine action differs from the mine clearance conducted by militaries. Humanitarian mine action is not solely isolated to clearance, but also includes victims services and mine risk education. In clearance, service, and education, humanitarian mine action is meant to improve the lives of everyone rather than clearing specific target areas for military objectives. Gender and diversity considerations come into play when an agency wants to ensure equitable treatment and equal participation of every group of people in the area.
The concept of gender and diversity mainstreaming is based on the idea that people have different daily mobility patterns or everyday needs and concerns . This means women of one religious group might be exposed to landmines in different areas than other people due to their daily practices and children of a minority ethnic group might need to have targeted mine risk education in a language other than the one children in a larger ethnic group would. If diversity or gender were not considered during mine action, practitioners might unintentionally exclude people from the process, particularly those who may often be overlooked, whcich causes them to be at heightened risk of mine exposure. If the practitioners chose only to speak to leaders of a community, they might not get a representative sample of the general population. Perhaps the leaders may all belong to one ethnic group or one gender or one religion, and then everyone with different life experiences would not have a voice in addressing the issues of mine exposure. By taking diversity and gender into account, practitioners can have a larger impact on communities and be more certain that they are taking all necessary steps to remove landmines, promote universal understanding of mine risk, and adequately provide services for direct and indirect victims of mine violence. The Gender and Mine Action Programme champions this understanding of gender and diversity mainstreaming.
It is important that practitioners of peace undertake similar action. The challenges to peace processes around the world are going to look very different from the eyes of children than they will from the eyes of an elder, but neither is less valid than the other. A woman of a minority ethnic group may see systemic obstacles to sustainable peace that men in the majority might not even consider. If these needs and concerns are not heard and given equitable attention, whatever peace is achieved can only ever be a partial one. For a whole peace process, the whole community must be considered. Trying to create peace without addressing the needs of everyone in the community will essentially be like building a house without a solid foundation. Cracks will eventually appear and it will be harder to repair than if it had just been done properly in the first place. In peace or in mine action, lives depend on getting it right the first time.
For a video representation of why gender and diversity matter to sustainable mine action, click here.
“Gender and Mine Action Programme.” Gender and Mine Action Programme. GICHD. http://www.gmap.ch/.
“Why Gender and Diversity Matter.” Gender and Mine Action Programme. GICHD. http://www.gmap.ch/gender-diversity-matter/.