On October 24, 2013 my colleague Anna Radivilova, a Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, had the honor of representing the U.S. Government at a wonderful event commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Mine Detection Dog Center (MDDC) in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The event brought together friends and supporters of the MDDC to celebrate the Center’s contributions over the last decade to reinforce humanitarian demining throughout the Balkans. Deputy Minister of Civil Affairs Ms. Denisa Sarajlić-Maglic and representatives of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Armed Forces demining unit also attended.
The MDDC opened on October 24, 2003 with the full support of the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs is proud to have provided the initial funding to support the MDDC for the first three years. Since then, under the capable leadership of its Director, Mr. Nermin Hadžimujagić, the MDDC has developed into one of the world’s centers of excellence for providing dogs to safely sniff out and detect landmines and other explosive remnants of war, such as unexploded bombs, mortars, and artillery shells, as well as conduct training for the dogs’ human handlers for deployment globally. Once mine detecting dogs signal the precise locations of landmines or unexploded ordnance, clearance teams can get to work to remove these hidden hazards, allowing residents to return safely to roads, fields, and communities, promoting post-conflict recovery and renewed economic development.
Over the past ten years, MDDC has trained over 300 dogs that went on to work, not just in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo, Iraq, Angola, Lebanon, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Afghanistan. The MDDC also provides mine risk education to raise awareness of potential hazards from landmines and unexploded ordnance. The Center has trained dogs for law enforcement purposes as well, helping our partners to improve their capabilities to better secure their borders, collect customs duties, and address shared security concerns such as trafficking in illegal drugs and arms. Drawing on its extensive technical expertise in humanitarian demining, the MDDC has also expanded into training people in skills required in manual demining. Its human deminers are currently accredited in Serbia and Kosovo.
Thanks to start-up funding from the United States, and continuing support from other government and private donors, the MDDC has made a significant improvement in peace and security in the Balkans and around the world. Over the last decade, efforts such as these to clear anti-personnel mines, anti-vehicle mines, and ERW have helped decrease the worldwide number of landmine casualties from 15,000-20,000 annually, to approximately 4,000 in recent years.
To learn more about the United States’ Conventional Weapons Destruction efforts worldwide, which encompass humanitarian mine action and demilitarization of other countries’ stockpiles of old, unstable, and excess munitions, visit the Department’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement website and check out our annual report on the U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction Programs, “To Walk the Earth in Safety.”