Libya: DCA welcomes new Danish presence, calls for further support
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DanChurchAid welcomes Danish Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal's visit in Libya this week and Denmark's plans to establish a presence in Tripoli. But Denmark still needs to step up funding for mine action.
24.02.2012 by Tove Gerhardsen
© DanChurchAid
Head of DCA HMA in Libya, Knut Furunes talks to Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal.

 Danish Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal visited Libya on 19 February to announce the establishment of a Danish mission in Tripoli. He also met with DCA's Humanitarian Mine Action team, which it has supported with DKK10 million in 2011 and 2012.

"DCA and Danish Demining Group are doing a remarkable and professional job here in Libya in Bani Walid and Sirte, where the population has been badly affected by the conflict. Children are especially vulnerable and it is a really good investment to remove the dangers before they cause further damage," said Søvndal.

Mine action priority

Denmark has so far granted Libya 26.5 million in humanitarian assistance, including for mine action.

In addition to strengthening human rights, mine action remains one of Denmark's top priorities for Libya. Beyond funding DCA and Danish Demining Group, Søvndal indicated that Denmark wants to focus on supporting the new Libya Mine Action Authority, which will coordinate all de-mining work in Libya.

But DCA's main message to Søvndal was that the work is not done yet.

From emergency to development

DCA's mine action unit has been active in Libya since May 2011. It has cleared some 2,500 buildings (houses, schools and shops/industrial) in Misrata, and 284 residential buildings in the outskirts. DCA has released over 4.4 million sqm of buildings, agricultural land and infrastructure in Misrata, Bani Waled and Dafniya/Zlitan, and disposed of 2,479 unexploded items.

The operation started off as an emergency response, but there is now a general need for a longer-term effort to boost the re-building and general development of the country. The work is lined up: Libya is overloaded with various dangerous explosives left over from the fighting that need to be removed, and people need to be educated about how to avoid accidents with small arms.

Funding gap

Support is needed until Libyans can fund and carry out clearance  themselves. This was one of DCA's main messages to Danish Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal when he recently met its staff in Libya.

-The Libyans have been active in clearing explosive remnants of war on a volunteer basis, but they now need professional training and equipment as well as help to get the enormous task done. For this, DCA and other operators need funding. DCA welcomes the DKK5 million contribution it received from Danida recently, but more is needed to bridge the funding gap, says Head of DCA HMA, Richard MacCormac.

NTC not ready

International donors maintain that while they funded the emergency clearance in 2011, they now want the National Transition Council to pick up the clearance bill itself. DCA explained to Søvndal that while this is a noble goal, the frozen assets from the Ghaddaffi era are just not available yet.

-Libya is gearing up to meet the challenge, but the Libyans need help now. Denmark and other international donors need to keep the focus to clean up after the fighting and NATO bombings and save lives, says MacCormac.

Building capacity, combating arms

DCA is working on clearing the actual items from the ground so that Libyans again can use their houses, agricultural land and roads. But it is also aiming at helping the National Mine Action Authority build its competence by training personnel in Libya as well as inviting them to a training course in Denmark.

Moreover, DCA his teaching people about the dangers of handling small arms, even if it is for celebrations or in defense. The vast amount of uncontrolled small arms. This was also part of DCA's message to Søvndal.

Another major aim for DCA's work is to have Libya sign up to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions to avoid new contamination once the clearance is done.

Welcomes DK presence

DCA especially welcomed the Danish Foreign Ministry's opening up of a new office in Tripoli. This gives a good signal to Libya and will be good for the development of the country.

  • dotThe Libyans are rising to the challenge, but they need help.
  • dotMoney is needed to bridge until the Libyans can fund their own clearance.
  • dotLibya should be encouraged to accede to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Also, as DCA considers Denmark a major partner, it welcomes the opportunity to have representatives close to the actual work.

Finally, in terms of funding, DCA is looking forward to getting in touch with major Danish companies to learn more about possible corporate social responsibility collaboration.

-Until Libya is able to fund for the clearance activity itself, funding is urgently needed, also beyond institutional donors. A Danish presence in Libya will be very helpful in this respect, says MacCormac.

Donors

DCA is currently working in the area around Misrate and is looking into deploying to Misrata. Its main donors are Danida, ECHO (EU) and LEGO.


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