The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office in Tajikistan (OiT) facilitates regional cooperation and coordination in the field of mine action in Central Asia, predominantly focusing on but not limited to inter-military cooperation. This approach falls under the OSCE concept of comprehensive and cooperative security. One of the best examples of this cooperation is the OSCE extra-budgetary project, the Integrated Cooperation on Explosive Hazards Programme (ICExH), which has been running since mid-2013. The project received financial support from the governments of Austria and the Netherlands in the past, while the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) has provided funding since 2014.
OSCE developed the project in an effort to improve the explosive hazards situation in Central Asia as well as in Afghanistan.1 This encompasses issues related to explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and includes demilitarization of explosive ordnance and countering improvised explosive devices (IED).
Building Confidence in Central Asia
Tajik and Afghan students share their experiences with EOD operations in Dushanbe, Tajikistan (November 2015).
Photo courtesy of OSCE/Nozim Kalandarov.
Although the scale and threat of explosives hazards vary in Central Asia, the governments, military forces and humanitarian demining organizations face similar challenges—from the illicit use of abandoned or uncontrolled explosives, unsafe storage and transportation of munitions, to inadequate investment in the life management of serviceable ammunition.
A series of unplanned explosions at munitions sites in Central Asia during the 2000s—and particularly in Abadan, Turkmenistan, on 7 July 2011—demonstrated that the regional explosive hazards problem was a broader threat than those covered by the traditional framework of mine action, and included the illicit use of abandoned and uncontrolled explosives and the unsafe storage and transportation of munitions. Thus in early 2012, the OSCE OiT’s emphasis changed from a top-down regional coordination of mine action in Central Asia to a bottom-up approach via EOD, risk education and management trainings, conventional ammunition destruction, stockpile security, stockpile management, and the encouragement of regional technical dialogues during exchange visits. This important change in emphasis helped shape the design of the activities, outputs and intended outcomes of the ICExH project.