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Minefield marking User Focus Group Workshop
ABSA Conference Centre, Pretoria, South Africa, 24/25 June 2003

On June 24-25 2003, the USER FOCUS GROUP (UFG), an international group established by CSIR, South Africa, met to discuss a minefield marking kit.

Background of the UFG:
In order to determine the views of a broad spectrum of people with knowledge of current Mined Area marking systems and the problems associated with those systems, the CSIR selected a range of Humanitarian Demining (HD) exponents with varied field experience to join a Mined-area marking User Focus Group (UFG). Group members are drawn from commercial, UN and NGO demining groups, with additional selected consultants and representatives of the R&D community.

The User Focus Group was asked to consider the HD community's needs regarding Mined-area marking, and to share their knowledge of current marking systems. The group were invited to consider problems with current marking systems and to suggest solutions and examples of best-practice that they had experienced. It was decided to bring the group together at a Workshop to accelerate communication and allow the CSIR to hear all sides of the discussions in open forum.

Conclusions of the Workshop:
The UFG concluded that while current marking systems are imperfect, most of those imperfections could be addressed procedurally without the introduction of any new equipment. The action most likely to relieve the failings of current systems was the greater involvement of the leaders of the local community before and during the placement of markers. The import of any manufactured items and materials not available locally would be likely to worsen problems of pilferage and reduce contact with the local community.

Their deliberations led them to decide that the "Minefield Marking Kit" project was most likely to achieve its aims if it were restricted to the perimeter marking of dangerous areas as a part of a Level 1 survey – something which is not currently done. It was felt that this would enhance current marking systems and would be appreciated within the HDC. The resulting kit should also be useful during Technical Survey. Such an approach would provide a kit that was appropriate for use in immediate post-conflict situations, when its use would improve safety for civilians and make subsequent Technical Survey and area-clearance easier.

The UFG was concerned that any generic kit designed should not lead to any reduction in the effectiveness of current marking systems, and should not increase cost. As a result, the group strongly recommended that such a kit should have the following features as a minimum:

1) A kit should contain generic MRE materials and the means to produce area specific MRE materials, including training templates and guidance for achieving success in cross-cultural, post-conflict training scenarios.

2) Such a kit should be a generic perimeter marking kit, including generic advice for the safe placement of markers outside the suspect area. If a barrier with a long life is required, provision for the manufacture of the barrier using local materials should be considered.

3) Any actual markers must be designed to remain in a fixed position. This is more important than all other features they may have. The next most important feature is that the markers should conform with the IMAS.

4) The design of the kit should show concern to involve the local population as much as possible, taking great care not to disturb the local economy, unrealistically increase expectations or inadvertently give any person reason to deliberately interfere with the markers.

The complete minutes of the UFG-meeting are here available!

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