Strategic and operational guidelines

As mentioned above, the physical destruction of ammunition is a highly specialized task that can only be efficiently and effectively undertaken by appropriately trained and qualified personnel. Detailed guidance on the practicalities involved can be found in a number of documents and guides. The UN Department for Disarmament Affairs (DDA) Destruction Handbook: SALW, Ammunition and Explosives (UNDDA, 2001) is designed to assist planners in the field to choose methods of destruction that are most appropriate to the theatre of operations they find themselves in.

The OSCE has developed best practice guides for small arms and light weapons, which are really strategic-level guidelines. The equivalent guide for ammunition will be published soon. The South Eastern Europe Regional Micro-Disarmament Standards and Guidelines (RMDS/G) have been developed by South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC) to support the operational and programme level. This means that national governments and international organizations in South Eastern Europe have strategic guidelines (OSCE) and operational procedures (SEESAC) available to assist them to develop safe, efficient, and effective destruction programmes.

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The UN Mine Action Service, through the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), has developed International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) that cover the destruction of stockpiles of anti-personnel mines, but these standards are generic in outlook and can be effectively applied to cover the destruction of most types of ammunition (SEESAC, 2006a). Their aim is not to provide ‘template solutions’, but to inform national authorities of the technical and logistic issues involved in stockpile destruction, and to outline the advantages and disadvantages of the various available options.

The problem is not the lack of technical guidance, but the global shortage of qualified technical staff experienced in the best international technical practice in demilitarization project development and operations. Few people have had the experience of establishing a demilitarization capability or facility from scratch in post-conflict environments. The technical standards of staff in those countries with large ammunition stockpiles are often not in accordance with best international practice. Commercial industry experience is often limited to its own techniques and the military are generally not trained in demilitarization. Consequently, with a few exceptions, programmes in post-conflict or developing countries are often not designed in the most safe, effective, and efficient manner. Because no UN department has overall responsibility for the coordination of ammunition destruction, and regional organizations are often competing for the limited amount of donor funding available, there is no international strategy or policy to deal with the issue, or international standards for planning and conducting ammunition destruction, although high quality national and regional guidelines do exist which could easily be adopted with only a few changes to reflect global needs.

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