An online course "Understanding the IMAS" is available on the GICHD website.
The International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) framework is a set of standards and guidelines developed by the IMAS Reveiw Board with representatives from the mine action sector, and endorsed by the United Nations, to ensure that mine action programmes are carried out safely and effectively. It aims to provide a standardised approach to mine action activities, including survey, land release, risk education and victim assistance.
The IMAS framework covers a wide range of topics so that mine action programmes are carried out in a consistent and professional manner: operational procedures, quality management, training and competencies, safety and risk management, and information management.
The IMAS framework is widely used by mine action organizations around the world, including governments of explosive ordnance affected countries, the United Nations, donors, non-governmental organizations and commercial mine action companies. The standards and guidelines are regularly reviewed and updated to reflect the latest best practices in mine action.
International standards for humanitarian demining programmes were first proposed by working groups at an international technical conference in Denmark, in July 1996. They made recommendations for all aspects of demining standards.
Later that year, the principles were developed by a UN-led working group, leading to the publication of the first edition of the International Standards for Humanitarian Mine Clearance Operations by the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in March 1997.
In October 2001, these standards were updated and became the first edition of the International Mine Action Standards (IMAS). Their scope was expanded to include the other components of mine action and reflect changes to operational procedures, practices and norms.
The framework clarifies the practical implementation of a number of key disarmament conventions such as the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) and Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). It is used by affected countries as the basis for national standards, and by donors to ensure that their contribution effectively benefits those most in need.
The UN has a general responsibility for enabling and encouraging the effective management of mine action programmes, including the development and maintenance of standards. UNMAS is the UN office responsible for the development and maintenance of IMAS. The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining provides the Secretariat to both the IMAS Steering Group and IMAS Review Board.
The IMAS framework
The IMAS framework comprises three different types of document:
1. International Mine Action Standards (IMAS);
2. Technical Notes for Mine Action (TNMA); and
3. Test and Evaluation Protocols (T&EP).
1. International Mine Action Standards (IMAS)
IMAS aim to improve safety, efficiency and effectiveness in mine action and promote a common and consistent approach to the conduct of mine action operations. They provide guidance, establish principles and, in some cases, define international requirements and specifications. The frame of reference they provide encourages sponsors and managers of mine action programmes and projects to achieve and demonstrate agreed levels of effectiveness and safety. As they offer a common language, and recommendations for the formats and rules for handling data, IMAS also facilitate accurate and timely exchange of important information.
The IMAS framework supports the work of national mine action authorities (NMAAs) as it establishes a frame of referencetfor national standards. Under specific circumstances, it may be necessary and appropriate for the UN, or other body, to assume some or all of the responsibilities of an NMAA, and fulfil some or all of its functions,. In such cases, IMAS act as de-facto national standards until appropriate local modifications are put in place. IMAS also provide the basis for legal contracts between donors and implementing organizations.
However, as IMAS do not define the way mine action requirements are to be implemented in the field, they do not replace national and local standard operating procedues (SOPs), rules, instructions and codes of practice.
2. Technical Notes for Mine Action (TNMA)
TNMAs are advisory documents that accompany or supplement IMAS. They provide principles, advice and information relevant to a specific IMAS or technical subject.
TNMAs are developed to improve safety and efficiency in mine action by providing guidance on technical issues or the interpretation of specific IMAS. They are designed to enable the free exchange of important information, which may then be used to the benefit of all mine action programmes.
In TNMAs, the words 'should' and 'may' are used to convey the intended degree of compliance. In IMAS, 'shall' is used to indicate requirements, methods or specifications that are to be applied in order to conform to the standard. This term is NOT used in Technical Notes, as their contents are purely advisory. 'Should' is used to indicate the preferred requirements, methods or specifications. 'May' is used to indicate a possible method or course of action.
3. Test and Evaluation Protocols (T&EP)
T&EPs include former workshop agreements for humanitarian mine action produced by the European Centre for Standardization (CEN). They aim to support IMAS and are approved by the IMAS Review Board. T&EP are included in relevant IMAS as a normative reference, which gives them authority within the IMAS system.
In January 2001, the CEN created a technical board (Working Group (WG) 126), which established Workshop Agreements for mine action topics not yet covered by IMAS (such as the test and evaluation of metal detectors, machines and personal protective equipment (PPE), for example). In January 2011, the ownership rights for the CEN Workshop Agreements (CWA) for humanitarian mine action were transferred to UNMAS and the GICHD. As such, these documents have been updated and republished as T&EP for mine action, with a reference to their original name.