I recently had the privilege of visiting James Madison University to attend the closing ceremony for the 2012 Senior Managers' Course in Explosive Remnants of War and Mine Action, where I met a select group of individuals serving on the front lines of humanitarian crises and post-conflict environments around the world.
This year, the 17 participants represented 13 different countries, including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Iraq, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Uganda, and Vietnam. These "Senior Managers" are each leaders in their respective national mine action and ERW programs. This diversity the students bring in terms of background and experience is one of the main reasons the course is so valuable. Participants share unique perspectives and exchange ideas with classmates from countries facing similar challenges.
It was a pleasure to spend time speaking with these students, learning about the challenges they face in their countries, and hearing the innovative ways in which they are working to improve lives and livelihoods in their communities by removing explosive remnants of war that keep people from cultivating land, attending school, and raising families in safety. During my tenure as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs (PM), I have been fortunate to visit some of these countries -- including Afghanistan, Jordan, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam -- and see firsthand the impressive work that is being done to improve lives through humanitarian demining, small arms/light weapons destruction, and ensuring the safety and storage of conventional munitions stockpiles.
JMU's Center for International Stabilization and Recovery (CISR) has hosted the Senior Managers' Course for the past eight years, and this course was the third sponsored by the PM Bureau's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA). The Center brings together an exceptional team of experts from across the university, including the JMU College of Business, to effectively integrate lessons in management, communication, and leadership within the context of post-conflict stabilization.
Since 1993, the United States has spent close to two billion dollars for Conventional Weapons Destruction, including humanitarian mine action, but if we do not also build local capacity to sustain this important work, we have not done our job. Our support for the CISR/JMU Senior Managers Course is a sound investment for the U.S. taxpayer because we are investing in training leaders. Leaders trained in effective management and stewardship expands local capacity for mine action and broadens the potential for development efforts as a whole. Senior mine action program managers must be prepared to understand, lead, monitor, assess, and implement programs and activities at all levels, from the local operator to top organizational leadership. This course is helping these men and women do just that.
As donors' budgets for mine action go down over time, the U.S. government's investment in people -- in their knowledge and skills -- is even more important. In terms of U.S. funding for mine action, we will continue to focus on those countries with the greatest need, along with support as needed to ensure those with established capacity are able to continue their programs. In this regard, it is imperative that available resources are used as efficiently as possible. The United States will champion those efforts and organizations that exhibit the greatest effectiveness, financial transparency, managerial competence and demonstrated performance. With certificates from CISR's 2012 Senior Managers' Course in their hands, the 17 graduates are well on their way to guiding their organizations and countries toward a future free of the hazards associated with the explosive remnants of war.