“To Walk the Earth in Safety”: Progress in Conventional Weapons Destruction

August 3, 2010
Angolan Woman Walks Next to Minefield

About the Author: Andrew J. Shapiro serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs.

In many countries struggling to recover from conflicts, landmines and unexploded ordnance obstruct the path to stabilization and inhibit long-term development. When you remove these deadly hazards, you enable communities to unlock their own potential, realize the benefits of a return to peace, and further the larger goal of promoting stability and security.

The United States is proud to be the world's single largest provider of financial and technical support for conventional weapons destruction, including humanitarian mine action and disposal of excess small arms and light weapons and surplus ammunition, as featured in the latest edition of our annual report released this week, "To Walk the Earth in Safety."

In my travels, I have witnessed first-hand the long-term impact of landmines on communities from Afghanistan to Vietnam. I have been inspired by the bravery and dedication of the men and women around the world who join us in the dangerous and painstaking effort to make their countries safer, one kilometer at a time.

In 2009, the Department of State continued to lead the international donor community in providing assistance for the clearance of landmines and other explosive remnants of war, as well as the destruction of at-risk and unsecured weapons and munitions, by providing $130 million in aid to 32 countries. Since 1993, through the U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action program -- a partnership among the State Department, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- the United States has provided more than $1.8 billion toward landmine clearance and conventional weapons destruction in more than 50 countries. This cooperative “whole-of-government” effort is coordinated through our Bureau's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.

In addition, the United States government also works with other governments and international organizations to coordinate mine clearance efforts, enact stricter controls on weapons, and provide assistance to victims of landmines and unexploded ordnance. We also engage civil society in a public-private partnership program to raise awareness and expand resources for humanitarian mine action. Our shared commitment to the cause is reflected in the passion of these individuals and organizations, and together, we augment the work of other donor nations and international organizations, and help raise awareness of these issues.

Although significant progress has been made over the last decade, including several countries which have been declared mine impact-free, there still remains much to do to make the world a safer place for everyone. Today's post-conflict battlefields are littered with much more than landmines and unexploded munitions, and we are adapting to these new realities with an renewed focus on disposing of surplus or abandoned caches of small arms and light weapons, including shoulder-fired man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS), which pose a significant potential risk to civil aviation. In addition, we are partnering with countries in Europe, Africa, and elsewhere to promote safer and more secure storage of armaments through our Physical Security and Stockpile Management program.

I invite you to read the report to learn more about what we are doing together to allow everyone “to walk the earth in safety.”



New Mexico, USA
August 3, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Andrew Shapiro,

Do you remember ever hearing about something called a "flail" developed by the Brits for the D-day landings in WW2?

Developed to remove landmines by detonation it was basicly an amhibious tank with a rotating drum on the front that when spun up, steel cables were drawn out by centrifical force and flailed the ground ahead about 10 yards or so, clearing a path.

I'm wondering if some throwback technology from another era will help with landmine removal in this one with a little adaptation.

The radio-controlled M-wrap "flail" IED detector?

I'd think the farmers would approve being that their fields will be nicely turned for planting.

And our troopers would have a mechanical dog to sniff out roadside bombs and deal with them.

I'd be curious to see what folks @ DoD would think about this.

Mine removal has got to be the one occupation that even the employed would gladly let autonmation put them out of a job permanently.

South Korea
August 3, 2010

Palgye in South Korea writes:

To think that there is no free lunch, I think more people will want. It's hard. Where to live.


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