The Dutch approach to clearing landmines

Landmines and cluster bombs are often left behind in war zones. This threatens the safety of the people who live there. More than 60 countries and regions face problems stemming from landmines. The Netherlands spends over €15 million a year to help with demining efforts.

Landmines harm people and economies

Landmines and other explosive remnants of war claim many victims. They also make it impossible to build and farm in large areas, forcing many people to spend needlessly long periods in camps.

Demining access roads and residential areas makes a country’s economic and social recovery possible. Informing local residents about the risks of landmines and explosives also helps. Teaching them how to recognise a landmine limits the number of victims, for example.

The Netherlands’ contribution to humanitarian demining

The Dutch government gives over €41 million in 4 years in grants to demining programmes. Its current grant programme will continue until mid-2024.

Three international NGOs involved in humanitarian demining are recipients of Dutch grants. These are independent organisations working to enable civilians to rebuild their lives in affected areas. Their work includes:

  • reducing risks for local residents by clearing mines and providing information about risks;
  • detecting the location and size of minefields and marking and clearing them;
  • helping victims of mines resume their daily lives, for instance by offering psychiatric support;
  • educating local authorities so they can help make these areas safer themselves.

The Netherlands also makes annual financial contributions to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), the UN organisation responsible for demining. In addition, the Netherlands supports the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), an independent expertise centre.

The Ottawa Convention: ridding the world of landmines

The Netherlands primarily supports demining in countries that have ratified and comply with the Ottawa Convention. This convention bans the production, transfer, stockpiling and use of anti-personnel mines worldwide: mines that explode when someone walks over or near them. It also obliges member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to have mines on their territory cleared.

Sometimes, however, the Netherlands supports demining programmes in countries that do not meet these requirements. For example, we support demining in some countries where there is no recognised central authority but demining is badly needed.