January 31, 2003



Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.5 (January 2003)
"Unique NGOs in Japan" Article Series No.2


We would like to introduce you to an organization named the Japan Alliance for Humanitarian Demining Support (JAHDS). This is a unique non-governmental organization in Japan that works with many leading companies in various sectors that contribute their own technologies, products, know-how and networks to support activities to remove land mines from former war zones.

In 1992, Mr. Patrick Blagden, the first director in charge of demining at the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), visited Mr. Hiroshi Tomita, President of Geo Search, a company that had developed a technology to detect sinkholes below pavement. Mr. Blagden asked Geo Search to contribute their technology to detect landmines in the field.

Mr. Tomita brought detection equipment to Cambodia for testing with the company that had cooperated for development of the equipment, but when he witnessed with his own eyes the horrible situation in mine fields, he realized that demining could not be pursued by one individual or one company working alone. After returning to Japan, he worked with Mr. Ryo Iida, then chairperson of SECOM, and many other people to establish JAHDS in March 1998.

JADHS first started to develop the radar-based detector for buried mines that had been requested by Mr. Blagden in the first place. The detector helps an operator to visualize things buried underground, regardless of its material composition. It was named "Mine Eye."

At present, in most cases, metal detectors are used for demining in mine fields in the world. Increasingly, however, plastic mines are manufactured that have few magnetic components. In addition, metal detectors will detect anything made of metal, requiring much time and effort to differentiate between actual mines and the other debris of bombshells and metal scraps buried in mine fields. As a solution, JAHDS developed "Mine Eye" as an effective eye to visualize things buried beneath the ground surface.

"Mine Eye" uses the latest technology to use electromagnetic radar to visualize the shape and the depth of mines buried underground. Images appear on a liquid crystal display, and there is no need to touch the ground surface. Geo Search developed the basic concept. The sensor was developed by Omron, the computer component by IBM Japan, and the liquid crystal display by Sharp.

In order to plan demining and the subsequent restoration activities, accurate maps are indispensable. The needed maps are rarely available for most mine fields, however. To help with the accurate mapping needed for demining activities, a device called JAHDS VISION is now under development. First, aerial photographs of mine fields are taken by helicopter or light airplane. Then, using Sony digital visual technology, images from the air are translated into a digital map and fed into a geographic information system (GIS) developed by Pasco. By adding information on demining progress and local residents to the system, JAHDS VISION is expected to offer data important for evaluation of demining projects and restoration planning.

Other companies have contributed to this project as well. Automaker Toyota Corporation provides a special automobile equipped to run in rugged fields. Honda Motor Co. offers motorbikes, power generators and pumps. Nippon Yusen Kaisha, a shipping company, transports equipment and machines to their destination and donates cargo containers. Mori Building offers office space, Japan Samsung contributes office equipment and Kokuyo Co. provides office furniture for JADHS. Many other companies help JADHS in outreach and fundraising activities.

After eight years of development, Mine Eye was introduced to projects in Thailand in March 2002. It started full-fledged operations at a demining project in December 2002.

JAHDS has been supporting demining activities in collaboration with the United Nations, international organizations, NGOs and people in affected areas. Many companies, organizations and individuals in Japan also have contributed to JAHDS activities. This is a new form of non-governmental organization that has no similar group in the world, and for this it is attracting attention from the United Nations and other international organizations.

Various people from many sectors participate in JAHDS as directors and officials. And as shown in this story of development of Mine Eye and JADHS VISION, many companies support JSDHS, not only by donating funds for activities but also by contributing their strengths in technology, products, service and networks.

In order to sustain its activities, JAHDS needs a solid organization and structure. People with management skills supported by experience are indispensable. Many workers at JAHDS are employees on secondment from their companies, and Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs also provides trainees.

Demining requires special skills and knowledge. At present, demining specialists from Britain and South Africa also work at JADHS, which has an "open-door" policy. It is an alliance of various people regardless of nationality or sector, working together to accelerate the restoration of countries affected by war. We think that JADHS serves as a wonderful model from Japan to the world.

Last, let us explain about the Anti-Personnel Landmine Ban Convention and Japan's stance on landmines. The Anti-Personnel Landmine Ban Convention (Ottawa Treaty) was enacted on 5 October 1996. This is a convention on the prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of antipersonnel mines and on their destruction.

According to a survey in 2001, the following countries still produce antipersonnel mines: China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, the United States, and Vietnam.

Japan signed the Anti-Personnel Landmine Ban Convention on 3 December 1997 and ratified it on 30 September 1998. After the ratification, Japan stopped production of antipersonnel mines and closed its production facilities. Japan has neither imported nor used antipersonnel landmines since 1954.

Inside Japan, the work has been underway to destroy the landmines owned by the country's Self Defense Forces. The last antipersonnel landmine in Japan is scheduled to be destroyed by explosion on 8 February 2003.

Japan has provided various kinds of aid to countries affected by landmines, including three main kinds of support for demining: aid through United Nations and other international organizations, bilateral aid, and Japan's grant assistance for grass-roots projects to national or international demining NGOs. In fiscal 2001, Japan contributed 341 million yen for international aid for this cause, 55 million yen for bilateral aid and 441 million yen for grass-roots projects, making a total of 837 million yen (about U.S.$7 million).