Monitoring Mine Risk Education (MRE) effectiveness solely by
reference to a reduction in reported civilian accidents is unlikely
to be accurate - although most efforts will prove "successful"
that way. MRE is not that simple - and people learn from events
more readily than from "experts". For example, there are two
incidents around a particular town in one month. An emergency
MRE response team goes in. There are no more incidents over
the following six months. Why? Perhaps because the two incidents
themselves taught a powerful lesson? Perhaps because the two
incidents involved the only two operational devices in that
vicinity? Perhaps because the MRE was effective.
of this kind of educational effort should be by assessing how
the sharing of "appropriate" knowledge has changed behaviour
(among both children and adults). This is complicated by the word
"appropriate" - which should take account of the "students'
" current knowledge and behaviour. In some areas, people need
to know what mines and UXO actually look like: and they are
unlikely to learn that from a crude sketch or touchy-feely screen-print
made by a local artist who has not seen one either. In Kosovo,
many children were taught how common AP mines worked in school -
and the children themselves are far more experienced at recognising
and even disarming them than the MRE specialist (who often has
not really seen one). The content of the instruction MUST be
varied appropriately for the audience, but in my experience,
it rarely is. One reason for this is that many MRE people do
not know much about the mines and devices they are teaching
about. I believe that they should - and so that it is not necessarily
inappropriate to use ex-soldiers as MRE people. But all MRE
instructors need to be taught something about how to communicate
and train.... Sadly, this is often not the case whether the
trainers are ex-soldiers or civilians.
Canada carried out a structured study of MRE effectiveness in
Afghanistan and Angola. It was supposed to be published to 2001,
but I do not know whether it was. I saw parts of it during preparation
because I wanted to ensure that the Mine Action training materials
I was producing took note of any appropriate lessons. I was
surprised how honest and "direct" some of the CIET conclusions
were (and if it has not been published, that honesty may explain
why it was not widely publicised).
example, the Afghanistan study report found that several mine
awareness agencies were teaching technical details of devices
- where fuses and pins are, the kind of explosion mines/UXO
create, etc. In their operational areas, there was an increase
in the number of mine injuries among their target audiences.
It was almost certainly inappropriate to show young men how
the devices worked but, as always, the report begs other questions.
If they had also shown the results of human-interaction with
the device (shock-horror photographs of carnage) perhaps the
effect would have been different? Giving people half the story
can be worse than leaving them in ignorance.
and evaluating the effectiveness of MRE is as difficult as monitoring
any other training in a field environment. A mere accumulation
of knowledge is not the main aim. Changing behaviour in real
situations is.... This can be achieved when IDPs are pouring
into an area simply by telling them the places to avoid (after
a protracted conflict they are unlikely to need to be told that
mines and UXO are nasty). When IDP movement is over, changing
behaviour is a greater challenge. How do you stop a child being
naturally curious - in a way that is selective enough not to
inhibit the learning that they need to do? Maybe by shock/horror
images of the consequences? Maybe not in areas where the kids
have seen plenty of that for real?
put very few restrictions on the content of MRE (and should
put none at all). This is probably because they recognise that
the training must be tailored to achieve the effect with the
audience - and there are as many ways of doing that as there
are audiences. Genuinely effective monitoring may have to be
just as varied - but will always be assessing behavioural change.