A Path Toward Peace: The United States and Norway Energize International Support for Landmine Clearance

When wars end, landmines and unexploded bombs remain behind, posing a threat to communities, as well as a serious impediment to humanitarian aid and reconstruction. These hidden hazards can keep families from returning to their homes, children away from schools, farmers from their fields, and goods from reaching markets. The United States is proud to be the world’s leading financial supporter of efforts to clear landmines and unexploded ordnance worldwide, but this is truly a global effort that requires coordinated and collaborative action among nations, non-governmental organizations, and private sector participants. This year, for example, the United States and Norway have opened a new chapter in their history of close partnership in addressing this serious humanitarian challenge through the U.S.-Norwegian Demining Initiative.

The United States and Norway are no strangers to demining collaboration. Today, both countries are working together to help Colombia rid itself of hazardous remnants of conflicts. On February 4, the United States and Norway announced the Global Demining Initiative for Colombia, a new effort meant to focus international support for Colombia’s demining efforts. To date, 25 countries plus the European Union have committed to the Initiative. Secretary Kerry and Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende will host a special Ministerial meeting during the United Nations General Assembly in September to solidify this support.  

Colombia isn’t the only place where the United States and Norway have worked together to tackle the challenges of landmines and unexploded ordnance. On June 15 in Oslo, Norway, Secretary Kerry and Norwegian Foreign Minister Brende announced the creation of the U.S.-Norwegian Demining Initiative. This new effort will bring an additional $15 million this year in U.S. support for clearing cities in Iraq liberated from ISIL and approximately $8 million next year to do the same in liberated cities in Syria. Norway intends to provide an additional $9.8 million for mine action this year, with a particular focus on Iraq and Syria, and plans to increase its financial support for global mine action by $15 million next year. In July, the United States and Norway also joined more than 24 other countries at a Pledging Conference in Washington, D.C. to help Iraq confront the challenge of demining, along with related issues of humanitarian support and stabilization.

A demining team member from Norwegian People’s Aid consults a survey map with a local resident in southern Iraq. [Photo courtesy of NPA]

While more government-to-government cooperation is important, we need all the help we can get to address the challenges of landmines and unexploded ordnance. I recently took part in an event to promote public-private partnership at the Washington residence of Norwegian Ambassador Kåre Aas. Representatives from governments, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector met to discuss collaboration and innovation in humanitarian mine action. Tackling the dangers of landmines and unexploded ordnance is about more than just clearing hazards.  This work, which requires the cooperation and participation of many actors, also serves to restore some form of order and peace in the affected areas, allowing the citizens to return safely to their homes.

The United States is the world’s single largest financial supporter of efforts to clear unexploded ordnance and landmines. Since 1993, the United States has contributed more than $2.6 billion to more than 95 countries around the world to reduce the harmful worldwide effects of at-risk, illicitly trafficked, and indiscriminately used conventional weapons of war. International support, not only from governments, is essential to saving lives and preventing injuries in the aftermath of war. Nations and civil society, including businesses, can work together to ensure that all people are able to walk the earth in safety. 

About the Author: Rose Gottemoeller is the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security at the U.S. Department of State.

For more information:

  • Learn more about U.S. humanitarian demining and Conventional Weapons Destruction programs by reading the latest edition of our annual report, To Walk the Earth in Safety
  • Follow the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs on Twitter @StateDeptPM. 
Japanese First Secretary Hiro Matsumoto, Norwegian Ambassador Aas, Special Envoy Aronson, Under Secretary Gottemoeller, Director Stan Brown, and Colombian Ambassador Pinzon at the Colombia Donors’ Coordination meeting.
August 17, 2016

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