Shaping a Lebanese NGO

with the help from DanChurchAid

©Rikke Østergård

Lebanon still has many minefields and it is essential that Lebanese humanitarian mine action organizations take responsibility for clearing their own land from explosive remnants of war. DanChurchAid is helping with the capacity building of the new national organization LaMiNDa.
Established in 2014, The Lebanese Association for Mine and Natural Disaster Action, LAMiNDA, evolved from a conception of a humanitarian NGO to reach the status of a recognized and accredited National NGO who took its dynamic and natural place among the international organizations active in Lebanon in the field of Humanitarian Mine Action.

By Rikke Østergård

In Lebanon, 18 years have gone by since the gruesome civil war finally came to an end and eleven years have now passed since the last time the country was struck by war. Peace has found its way in Lebanon, yet the the war is still kept alive in a hidden and severely dangerous form lurking under the surface of the Lebanese soil. The remains of cluster bombs and mines are unfortunately still plenty and they are posing a major risk to the Lebanese population as well as the more than one million Syrian refugees who have sought refuge here. The country's resources are restricted by the dangers and the economic impact still takes its toll.

The rise of a Lebanese NGO

International humanitarian mine action organizations have been working in Lebanon for a long time. For DanChurchAid (DCA) it has been more than ten years by now. However, Lebanon has only recently seen the rise of their own national humanitarian mine action organizations, which can take ownership of this complicated challenge. Three years ago, the organization LaMiNDa was founded and Badwi El Sakkal was one of its creators:
“When I worked in the Lebanese Mine Action Center, I always wondered why all of the humanitarian mine organizations were not Lebanese,” says Badwi El Sakkal, retired Brigade General from the Lebanese Mine Action Center, (LMAC) which is a part of the Lebanese army.
“Creating a national humanitarian mine action organization became my dream,” Badwi El Sakkal explains as he sits in his office.
He and his colleague Smeha Fallakha made that dream come true in 2014 with the creation of LaMiNDa, the Lebanese Association for Mine and Natural Disaster Action.

A strong partnership

Back then, another partnership also quickly took shape. DCA, which was founded back in 1922 and today has extensive experience within demining and humanitarian work all over the world, offered to assist and support LaMiNDa in the initial phases as a humanitarian organization.
“We can learn a lot from DanChurchAid,” says El Sakkal. “We are very happy about this cooperation.”
It was the donations from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Netherlands and from the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement under the U.S. State Department (PM/WRA) which made the partnership possible.
And there is a lot of capacity building for DCA to help LaMiNDa with. It has for instance focused on how to work with finance in a non-governmental organization, how to approach donors and how to implement the international standards for removing mines and other types of explosives.

“We in DCA are pleased with the performance of the LaMiNDa team,” says Fatmire Uka, programme manager in DCA Lebanon.

Great ambitions

The Lebanese Mine Action Center has also been very supportive of this fruitful cooperation between DCA and LaMiNDa as 40 square kilometers of the country is still contaminated, so there is a great need for the Lebanese to take this work into their own hands.

“They Lebanese really take ownership of this work, because it is their country,” says Brigade General Ziad Nasr from the LMAC.
“And it is great to have DanChurchAid assisting with their experience within this field. We encourage Lebanese organizations to work in the ways that DCA does,” he emphasizes.

In DCA, the programme manager sees it as a great possibility for the future to keep working with Lebanese organizations which desire to go into this field.
“We want to continue building national capacities in Lebanon to enhance the country’s ability to address the remaining threat posed by explosive remnants of war (ERW)”, says Fatmire Uka.

LaMiNDa has actually been so succesful that the organization recently independently managed to attract several major donors for their work. And Badwi El Sakkal believes that they have excelled in their learning curve.
“It won't take long now before we can work on our own,” says Badwi El Sakkal and smiles.
His ambitions reach far.
“In a few years, there will be no more mines and explosives to be cleared from Lebanon. Then we can move on to Syria. We know the language and the culture. We can do it.”