On August 3, the State Department released the annual report called “To Walk the Earth in Safety,” which underscores U.S. efforts around the world to eliminate the threat of a variety of conventional munitions to civilian populations, particularly those in post-conflict societies. The U.S. has delivered more than $1.8 billion in 50 countries for conventional weapons destruction/humanitarian mine action programs since 1993.
The Department of State has played a central role in the government-wide effort, providing funding, technical support and 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, to 32 countries -- places as diverse as Afghanistan, Angola, Mozambique, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. Since 2001, the Department has helped other nations destroy over 1.4 million small arms and light weapons, 80,000 tons of munitions, and almost 32,000 man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) missiles.
The report released this week highlights successes such as community-baseddemining in Afghanistan, conventional weapons destruction in Bosnia and Herzogovina; mine awareness through sports programs in Jordan; the clearance of 900 kilometers of roads and 300 acres of arable land in Angola; mine victim rehabilitation in Yemen, and Albania's announcement of mine-safe status. The report also underscores that conventional weapons destruction is much more than demining. Today's post-conflict battlefields -- and even those of many yearsago -- feature caches of small arms and light weapons, and ammunition that can be used to continue hostilities or can be fashioned into improvised explosive devices. Weapon stockpiles pose threats from pilferage and accidental detonation, and MANPADS threaten civil aviation.
For all these reasons, a focus on conventional weapons destruction is “smart power” in action. The Department works closely with a wide array of partners, from the U.S. Department of Defense, USAID, and Health and Human Services to dozens of public and private non-governmental and international organizations to address the challenge of conventional weapons destruction -- a challenge at the center of diplomacy, defense, and development.