In many countries, from Angola to Laos, and from Afghanistan to Colombia, landmines and unexploded munitions are a daily danger to innocent civilians, even years after conflicts end.
Today is the United Nations’ International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, which provides an opportunity for the world to reflect on both the progress made and the challenges remaining in clearing these hidden hazards which still endanger communities in more than 60 countries around the world. Since 1993, the United States has invested more than $2.8 billion in more than 95 countries around the world to reduce the harmful worldwide effects of at-risk, illicitly proliferated, and indiscriminately used conventional weapons of war.
While the United States is proud to be the world’s single largest financial supporter of efforts to clear unexploded ordnance and landmines, the United States is not alone in this effort. We work closely with partners worldwide, including countries like Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Norway and the United Kingdom who also support demining programs. We work with more than 50 international NGOs who undertake this slow, difficult, and dangerous work. And most importantly, we work with the recipient countries working to address this serious humanitarian challenge in their own countries.
The programs we and our partners support and deliver produce tangible, measurable, positive results by providing the expertise and equipment to safely clear landmines and unexploded ordnance. They also provide landmine survivors with rehabilitation and reintegration support, and ensure countries get the training they need to manage these challenges by themselves over the long term.
At last month’s Ministerial of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, Secretary Tillerson underscored the essential role of demining in the stabilization efforts underway in Iraq and Syria, particularly as civilians seek to return home to areas liberated from ISIS. This is only one example of how U.S. support for conventional weapons destruction programs is making a difference.
As land is cleared, displaced families can return home and rebuild their communities and livelihoods. Clearing landmines opens the way to trade and economic development: farmers can return to their fields, goods can be transported to market, and countries can recover from war. On this day of mine awareness, we urge other nations to join us in a robust international partnership with the shared goal of reducing the impact of landmines around the world.
About the Author: David McKeeby serves as a Public Affairs Specialist in the Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
Editor's Note: This entry is also published on Medium.com/StateDept.