To Walk the Earth in Safety: The U.S. Commitment to Conventional Weapons Destruction

Even after a conflict ends and the fighters have gone home, the threats from landmines, unexploded ordnance (UXO), and at-risk weapons and munitions remain. These threats foment instability; as long as men, women, and children fear to move about their communities due to the lingering threat of landmines and UXO, a society can never fully heal and rebuild.

Today’s release of our To Walk the Earth in Safety report shows how the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) works with foreign governments and nongovernmental organizations to deliver programs and services aimed at reducing the harmful effects of at-risk, illicitly proliferated, and indiscriminately used conventional weapons of war worldwide. These programs help remove landmines and UXO from former battlefields, keep weapons and ammunition out of the wrong hands, and aid countries to invest in proper stockpile management and security -- including destruction of conventional weapons no longer needed.

Iraqi volunteers from Spirit of Soccer talk to displaced Iraqi children about UXO risks. [Photo courtesy of Spirit of Soccer]

These programs play a key role in advancing the U.S. State Department’s core mission of shaping and sustaining a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and fostering the conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of all people.

I have witnessed first-hand the consequences of war and the impact of our conventional weapons destruction programs in addressing them. While serving in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Afghanistan, I personally observed U.S. assistance working to reduce the threat to civilians from mines, UXO, and excess stockpiles of weapons and ammunition. In those places and others, I also witnessed the evolution of mine detection dog programs that resulted in the return of previously contaminated land to the community for productive use. 

[State Department graphic]

Since 1993, the United States has provided more than $2.6 billion in assistance in more than 95 countries for CWD programs, delivering the expertise and equipment to secure and destroy at-risk and excess conventional weapons and safely clear mines and UXO. These funds also support mine risk education to prevent accidents, and provide prosthetics, physical rehabilitation services, and vocational training for the injured.

The programs we fund produce tangible, measurable, and positive results. At the turn of the 21st century, mines and UXO were killing and injuring almost 10,000 men, women, and children every year. In recent years, that figure has dropped by a remarkable 60 percent. Many more countries have become free from the impact of landmines due to the efforts of the United States and our international partners. As an example, Mozambique -- which had been one of the most heavily-mined countries -- declared itself mine-free in 2015 thanks in part to U.S. assistance.

A team of deminers in Laos recovering an unexploded bomb. [Photo courtesy of MAG International]

From stockpile security initiatives across the Sahel to the Global Demining Initiative for Colombia and funding increases for Laos and Angola, our CWD programs support stability around the world. I invite you to learn more about these efforts, which are made possible by strong bipartisan support from Congress and the people of the United States. We are grateful for the implementing partners, fellow donors, international organizations, and host countries who work with us toward our common goal: a future in which all can walk the earth in safety.

About the Author: Tina S. Kaidanow serves as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

Editor's Note: This entry also appears on the Department's Foggy Bottom publication on Medium.com.

For more information:

A demining technician in Colombia points to a buried landmine. [Photo courtesy of The HALO Trust]
Posted by Tina Kaidanow
November 17, 2016

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