2015 To Walk the Earth in Safety: Management of Residual ERW (MORE)

Bureau of Political-Military Affairs

Date: 2015 Description: Heavy bombs such as this one often are discovered at depth only once construction projects have begun. Risk-management approaches can guide policy in dealing with residual contamination.  © Photo courtesy of Project RENEW.

Hazards from abandoned and unexploded ordnance can last decades after conflicts end. One hundred years since the start of the First World War, for example, Belgium still recovers nearly 200 tons of unexploded bombs and artillery shells dating back to the Great War annually, while France recovers as much as 500 tons of World War I-vintage munitions from construction sites and farmers’ fields every year. These nations have developed responses that evolved with time and continue to manage the risks from what are known as “explosive remnants of war” (ERW). The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining supports these ongoing efforts through its Management of Residual ERW (MORE) study, based on experience and lessons learned from European countries, to assist other countries around the world to manage long-term dangers from abandoned and unexploded ordnance.

The MORE study, supported by the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, is working to influence current approaches to the long-term management of risk from unexploded ordnance in post-conflict countries. While unexploded ordnance contamination cannot be totally eliminated, Europe’s experiences show that hazards associated with buried and abandoned munitions can be mitigated through a risk-management approach that combines outreach and risk education with responsive local threat assessments and, as needed, professional explosive ordnance disposal operations. By capturing the lessons learned and best practices of dealing with the challenge of unexploded ordnance in Europe, the MORE study benefits countries such as Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, by adopting a more sustainable long-term risk-management approach rather than larger, more expensive, and ultimately less effective comprehensive survey and clearance efforts.

As other landmine and ERW-affected countries approach the completion of their mine and cluster munition clearance obligations under the Ottawa Convention and Convention on Cluster Munitions, and States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons clear battle areas of ERW in accordance with Protocol V of that agreement, attention is turning to the challenging tasks related to residual contamination. Deeply-buried bombs and widely-dispersed unexploded ordnance are difficult to map, and with no established baseline of contamination, pose a challenge that requires new policies and practices to support sustainable national responses. Modern risk-management techniques such as MORE focus efforts on addressing actual threats, and support land release where only the perception of risk is present.

Point of Contact:
David J. Gertiser
Ammunition Technical Operations
Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD)

telephone: 41 (0)22 730 9316
email: d.gertiser@gichd.org
website: http://www.gichd.org/mine-action-topics/land-release/residual-contamination