Focusing on the humanitarian mine action (hma) sector, this article argues that rooting peace building in concrete activities carries considerable promise, diversifying the repertoire and enhancing the robustness of peace building. However, the assumption that mine action necessarily contributes to building peace is problematic and permits the neglect of harmful effects and a failure to capitalise fully on the potential for positive ones. If peace building is seen in terms of three major domains—security, development and politics—the current tendency is to emphasise security primarily, development secondarily, and the political only marginally when addressing the impact of hma on peace building. Several examples indicate that mine action may have a significant impact on the political aspects of peace building, including confidence building, conflict resolution and reconciliation. At the same time, linking mine action to peace building creates certain dilemmas, and a rigid subordination of mine action initiatives to a centrally directed peace building strategy is unlikely to be productive. Ultimately, a focus on the peace building role of mine action carries a dual promise for the sector: it documents impacts that are currently unacknowledged, while encouraging new and refined practices.
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