February 24, 2022 changed the life of every Ukrainian, and the public sector was no exception. In more than 100 days of the full-scale war, activists proved: no matter how new and challenging the task, they will get it done.
Even when it comes to a dangerous but necessary cause: demining our territory. There are more than 300,000 square kilometers to survey, half of Ukraine, and we can do this with the joint efforts of emergency workers and CSOs.
Association of EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Specialists operates in Ukraine, it was engaged in mine clearance even before the full-scale invasion. Tymur Pistriuha, Chairman of the Board of Association of EOD Specialists of Ukraine, told CEDEM Project Manager Yuliia Diadiuk about the adaptation of the organization’s activities to new conditions, mine action, cooperation between CSOs and business and authorities.
What are the main activities of your organization?
The main sphere of our activity is mine action. What mine action means is explained in the Law of Ukraine “On Mine Action”.
In general, if we rely on international practice, our sphere covers the so-called five pillars – like the five pillars of Islam. Five pillars of mine action – it is a very popular phrase in the field of mine action. We cover all 5 pillars, from educating citizens on how to prevent the risks of explosive ordnance, right through to practical tasks such as humanitarian demining. I will also note that these five pillars include another important component, humanitarian and social assistance to victims of mines and explosives.
And what has become more relevant during the war?
Regarding what has changed since February 24, 2022: first, we have intensified and expanded our activities in the very first days of the large-scale invasion. We got in touch with a donor that was supporting existing projects and asked to refocus them. After all, some projects have become irrelevant: we were working mainly in the east of Ukraine, carried out demining there, trained people. Currently, this we are doing this all over Ukraine.
Therefore, in fact, in the very first days of the invasion, we received permission to expand activities and refocus projects, as well as increase the budget, especially spending on helping people affected by the war. In fact, we have expanded the scope of our activities from the Ukrainian-controlled territory in the Joint Forces Operation zone to the whole territory of Ukraine.
The Association of EOD specialists launched online training “Explosive ordnance risk education (EORE)”. What is it about and who should take this course?
We have several courses, and they are aimed at different target audiences. One of our most popular courses, “Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE)”, is designed for educators. The purpose of the course is not just to inform educators that the hazard exists, that there is a certain acceptable algorithm of actions and so on, but to train them and teach them to be instructors. In this way, educators will be able to conduct information sessions in their classrooms and schools.
Today I will notice, that with the help of this course more than 21,000 educators from all Ukraine have passed and received certificates (after all, this is a certificated activity, and course participants take exams). About 10,000 students are currently continuing their studies. The course covers all regions with the exception of the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
According to our statistics, some regions, such as Dnipropetrovsk, are more active, some are lagging behind, especially when it comes to territories temporarily occupied by Russian troops. The course is quite effective, we continue to receive applications, and there are many requests to expand our activities in this area. Moreover, in addition to the course for educators, instructors of the Association of EOD Specialists travel throughout Ukraine and conduct a similar course for communities. We are also training future instructors who will continue to spread messages about the prevention of risks from explosives. We work according to the “ToT – Training of Trainers” principle, because as our practice shows it is the most effective one. After all, even with all our efforts, we will not be able to cover all of Ukraine. But by training trainers, we reach more beneficiaries, thus fulfilling the goal set by EORE (Explosive Ordnance Risk Education) – saving the lives and health of citizens.
What useful resources would you recommend for civilian Ukrainians in the combat zone or liberated territories?
We recommend everyone to follow our Facebook page. There is a lot of very useful information. We regularly make fact sheets, algorithms of actions in case of a certain type of danger. In addition, we produce video tutorials that we upload to our YouTube channel, and also share them on Facebook. Facebook is our main communication channel. We invite people to come in and get the information they need. All messages and useful action algorithms can be found right there.
You cooperate with the Association of arms and military equipment manufacturers of Ukraine. How does interaction with businesses help you in your work?
No matter how much we say that we do everything on a voluntary basis, it is difficult to work in this mode for a long period of time. Especially when it comes to solving serious, global problems concerning mine clearance. So it is almost impossible to do without business. World practice shows that it is commercial organizations that can provide the services necessary to perform a particular task.
Regarding the Association of Arms and Military Equipment Manufacturers: when we established the Association of EOD Specialists in 2018, we signed a memorandum of cooperation with them, because the AAMEM members can help with products specifically for humanitarian demining, for example, personal protective equipment. If we need to purchase 100 pieces of personal protective equipment, of course we contacted the Association, which includes many companies. The Association provided us with the necessary contacts. In fact our cooperation is all about communication. Sometimes the Association needs some advice, for example, on demining. It all starts with communication.
To date, there are about 30 partners with whom the Association of EOD Specialists has signed strategic documents, including foreign partners. The level of cooperation with each partner varies, but for the most part it is very fruitful.
In what areas do you cooperate with the state?
First and foremost, mine action. Yesterday, we talked with the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, we talked about optimizing the sphere given current developments. Unfortunately, the mine action system that worked in the east of Ukraine currently needs to be adapted to the current context. There are a number of different issues, and we talked about what we can offer as an organization, and representatives of government agencies talked about their request, so it’s a constant communication. Without it, important processes such as humanitarian demining cannot take place, because we understand that all this is coordinated and regulated by the state. Accordingly, we cooperate with the Civil-Military Administration on the ground, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine and other structures, such as the State Emergency Service, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories.
Our communication is not limited exclusively to demining issues. At one time, we actively participated in the lawmaking process by submitting proposals to the Law “On Mine Action”.
Sometimes we conduct joint training. For example, last year, together with the Ministry of Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories, on the occasion of the International Mine Awareness Day, we held information sessions in the east of Ukraine on Explosive Ordnance Risk Education. In general, we cooperate in various areas.
How can you join or support the Association of EOD specialists?
Joining the Association of EOD Specialists is voluntary and does not require any membership fees. In addition, we welcome people into our team if they find a place in our formation. That’s why we have a separate section on the site called “Join”, where you can apply. If you are not directly involved in mine action, but want to be of some use, then please attach your motivation letter and describe how you would like to help. There are plenty of tasks, because in addition to the practical “field” work, there is also a lot of office work related to project management, reporting, meetings, and communication. There is no way we can do our job without this work.
Therefore, all people who want to help are encouraged to go to the “Join” page of our website and indicate their motivation, and we will decide on membership at the board meetings – which are very frequent.
As for full-time employees, we post vacancies on our Facebook page from time to time. We are currently looking for a deputy project manager.
This material was prepared as part of the Project Ukraine Civil Society Sectoral Support Activity implemented by the Initiative Center to Support Social Action “Ednannia” in partnership with the Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research (UCIPR) and Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law (CEDEM) with the sincere support of the American people through United States Agency for International Development.