2008 Nansen Refugee Award winner Chris Clark: Former soldier shares humanitarian prize
GENEVA (UNHCR) - Chris Clark, this year's co-winner of the prestigious Nansen Refugee Award, has spent half his life working in dangerous environments. First as a decorated soldier with the British army and more recently as the coordinator of mine clearance programmes in war-ravaged nations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Born in London, 44-year-old Clark joined the British army in his late teens. His 17-year service was highlighted by the award of a Military Cross (MC) for conspicuous bravery under fire.
On leaving the military in the late 1990s, Clark decided on a change of career, but one that would enable him to work in the humanitarian field and utilize the leadership and practical skills picked up during his years in the army.
He was appointed UN chief of operations in Kosovo. He also worked in the Sudan as head of the UN's mine action programmes in the African country. In 2003, Clark became Programme Manager for the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre-South Lebanon (UNMACC-SL). As such he ran the UN's Mine Action Programme in the south of the Middle East nation.
His team of Lebanese and international mine clearers and supervisors have since detected and destroyed large quantities of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and tens of thousands of mines.
After the five-week war in southern Lebanon, they concentrated on clearing villages and agricultural land of lethal submunitions (bomblets) scattered via clusterbombs. They cleared 145,000 submunitions, helping pave the way for the return home of up to 1 million displaced Lebanese.
During this period, Clark also helped to evacuate vulnerable Lebanese. For this work, he was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE). He remained in the southern coastal city of Tyre during this period and was, as a result, familiar with the contamination caused by the use of clusterbombs in the south.
Clark is also a senior technical advisor and senior mine action programme manager for the UN Mine Action Service, mother organization of UNMACC-SL. He is also a qualified manager and instructor with expertise in humanitarian mine action; mine warfare and clearance; explosives; counter-terrorist search and procedures; explosive ordnance disposal and supporting subjects. He has twice been awarded commendations for helping to improve UN coordination and effectiveness.
The UN refugee agency announced on September 15 that Clark and his staff, including almost 1,000 Lebanese civilian mine clearers, were the winners of the 2008 Nansen Refugee Award. The Award, consisting of a medal and a US$100,000 monetary prize, is given out yearly to a person or group for outstanding services in supporting refugee causes.