The Solomon Islands was recently represented at the 26th annual meeting of National Mine Action Directors and United Nations Advisers (NDM-UN), which was held in Geneva from 21 to 23 June 2023.
The annual meeting gathers officials from over 60 landmine and UXO affected countries, along with United Nations advisers, NGOs and commercial companies, to discuss issues of common concern, examine technical matters and review progress in clearing unexploded ordnance.
Some of the topics considered this year included increased attention on the effect of UXO clearance work on the environment, looking at the impact of UXO on displaced people, and looking at ways’ technology can improve UXO survey and clearance.
Representatives from heavily landmine and UXO affected countries attended the meeting – such as Ukraine, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Syria, Libya, and Laos.
The Solomon Islands was represented by Chief Inspector Clifford Tunuki, the head of the RSIPF Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, and Ms Julia Twumasi, the Deputy Secretary CS, MPNSCS.
At the meeting, Chief Inspector Tunuki was invited to participate in a panel discussion that looked at the issue of liability between UXO clearance operators, the national authorities, and the public.
Chief Inspector Tunuki explained that in the Solomon Islands, the RSIPF EOD team are the only body authorized to move and destroy items of UXO.
He explained that when responding to a civilian callout, the RSIPF obtain a ‘Landowners Approval Certificate’ before undertaking any work. Chief Inspector Tunuki acknowledged that the government rules regarding local UXO-search companies could be tightened up, to include licencing, accreditation and obtaining insurance cover.
International commercial UXO companies are required to take out insurance and retain responsibility for cleared areas until there is a material change in the use of the land, for example construction work starts on a previously cleared area.
The Solomon Islands delegation also held side meetings with United Nations and donor country representatives, and with the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) to discuss the requirement for ongoing support and assistance to help better manage and coordinate the UXO sector in the Solomon Islands.
The delegation also met with senior staff from the international NGO the HALO Trust, who have just commenced undertaking a national level non-technical UXO survey in the Solomon Islands. Funding for the survey is provided by the United States, States Department.
The survey is expected to take 18 months to complete, and it will result in a comprehensive and accurate data-base of known UXO contaminated areas in the country. This will help the MPNSCS and the RSIPF EOD team better plan and prioritize UXO clearance work.
It is hoped that the Solomon Islands will continue to be represented at future NDM-UN meetings.