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Every armed conflict leaves behind explosive ordnance (EO ), also sometimes referred to explosive remnants of war (ERW ) in lesser or greater quantities depending upon the nature and duration of the conflict and the types and quantities of weapons used. How EO are dealt with reflects local circumstances and conditions, as well as commitments made by affected states under international humanitarian law (IHL), the availability of resources, and prioritisation choices made by governments, international institutions and agencies.
In almost every case, an initial period of proactive effort to clear the threat posed by EO is followed by the adoption of more reactive policies and practices. Whether states are signatories to international treaties or not, the principle of using ‘All Reasonable Effort’ to remove EO and landmines should be followed. The duration of the transition period varies from state to state, but in every case a situation eventually arises when the EO that remain, and yet remain unknown to the relevant authorities, are treated as ‘residual’. The potential for a given weapon to cause harm to human activities is a fundamental part of the long-term risk assessment and management process. A policy that assumes potential for interaction, when such potential does not in fact exist, is likely to be inappropriate and inefficient. A lack of information and understanding (meaning uncertainty), leads to poor risk management polices / procedures. Conversely, evidence-based decision-making and policy-development are more likely to be appropriate, well targeted and efficient.
No post-conflict environment is risk-free, and risk cannot be totally eliminated, but it can and should be mitigated and managed. It is the responsibility of the national or regulatory authority to ensure that residual risk mitigation and management policies / procedures are in place to ensure that the EO residual risk is at a level agreed as ‘tolerable’ by authorities and stakeholders. What constitutes “All Reasonable Effort” to survey locations of EO is currently unclear and is a key area where Information Management and historical data become critical to evidence-based decisions making . It should be noted that risks are not only those that have the potential to cause direct human harm, but may also include those that can influence economic activity, freedom of movement, and other aspects of importance to a society and economy.
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