Landmine clearance in Colombia Credit: Halo Trust

PODCAST: Meet the Head of the UN’s Bomb Squad

Daniel Craig, UN Global Advocate for the Elimination of Mines and Explosive Hazards. Agnes Marcaillou, Director of UNMAS, and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Photo credit: Stuart Ramson/UN Foundation

Agnès Marcaillou is the director of the United Nations Mine Action Service. This is the UN agency that helps clear mine fields, defuse IEDs and clean up unexploded ordinance around the world. It is the UN Bomb Squad.

In this conversation, we discuss the problem of landmines and unexploded ordinance around the word, the work of UNMAS, and how funding shortages are preventing her agency from being maximally effective in places like Iraq, where UNMAS has received high praise for defusing a bomb-laden bridge in Fallujah to allow aid to enter the city following ISIS’ defeat.

Agnès has had a long career in the UN. Early in her career, as a junior staffer working on the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weaposn, Anges skillfully navigated the tricky diplomacy around these negotiations and ended up having a very big and lasting impact the resulting treaty. It’s a great story she tells in the episode.

Last month, I saw Agnès give an acceptance speech at the Global Leadership Awards, which is an event hosted by United Nations Foundation. The way in which she both described the work of UNMAS and her own long experience in the UN system compelled me to reach out to her for an interview.

This is a great conversation with a true bureaucratic entrepreneur.

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