To Walk the Earth in Safety: The U.S. Commitment to Humanitarian Mine Action
Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
June 2006

This sixth edition of To Walk the Earth in Safety summarizes the accomplishments of the inter-agency U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program for fiscal years 2004 and 2005. In a strict sense, it is a combined annual report for two years on what was then and still is the world's largest such program. But it is also a chapter in a real-life story that has a beginning, middle, and, we now know because of more than fifteen years of practical experience, an end.

Public safety and regional stability can be endangered by illegally trafficked small arms and light weapons, abandoned ordnance, and poorly secured munitions as well as by persistent landmines left from past conflicts. Some countries are affected by several of these often-interrelated problems. Therefore, this edition also chronicles the efforts of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs' Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement to address the adverse effects in all these areas.

The U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program envisions assisting mine-affected countries in becoming "mine impact-free," or having the indigenous national capacity to achieve such a condition with little to no further outside assistance. A country that is mine impact-free is one where there is no economic or humanitarian justification for large-scale humanitarian mine clearance.

Achieving that goal entails more than mine clearance alone. For example, one facet of the U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program described in this report is training indigenous senior and mid-level national mine action managers so that they may "take ownership" of their countries' programs, run them efficiently, and rationally direct resources to mine-affected areas that have an immediate impact on safety and well-being.

This edition also reflects progress by its omissions. The previous edition of To Walk the Earth in Safety, published in 2004, no longer included an entry for Costa Rica. This is because Costa Rica was finally rendered mine impact free, thanks in large part to the United States. We are also delighted to omit Djibouti, Guatemala and Honduras from this edition for the same reason. Again, thanks largely to the U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program, Djibouti became the first mine-affected country in all of Africa to attain mine impact-free status in January 2004. Honduras followed in October 2004 and Guatemala completed demining in December 2005.

Country by country, the United States' humanitarian mine action and small arms/light weapons abatement programs are helping to remove dangerous threats and enabling more people everywhere to be able "to walk the earth in safety."

Dr. John Hillen
Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs


To Walk the Earth in Safety describes the United States commitment to help rid the world of persistent landmines, abandoned ordnance (AO), unexploded ordnance (UXO), and illicitly trafficked small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) that threaten civilians.

This effort supports the U.S. goal to advance sustainable development and global interests by providing a humanitarian response to the harmful social and economic effects generated by these munitions, and to advance peace and security by promoting regional stability through the use of humanitarian mine action as a confidence building measure. Accordingly, the United States helps to reduce the number of civilian landmine casualties, to return refugees and internally displaced persons threatened by landmines to their homes, and to enhance the political and economic stability of countries affected by landmines, AO, UXO and SA/LW.

A U.S. Government Policy Coordinating Committee (PCC) Subgroup on Mine Action, chaired by the National Security Council, with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approves, develops, and coordinates U.S. humanitarian mine action assistance. A typical U.S. program involves assisting a mine-affected country to establish a mine action center (MAC) or a national demining office, set up a mine risk education program and a demining training program, and often includes funding actual mine clearance operations. As the country develops its mine clearance capabilities, the PCC Subgroup periodically evaluates the progress of the program. When the program becomes self-sustaining, the United States relinquishes its active role to the host nation.

The Department of State, through its Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, is the lead agency in coordinating U.S. humanitarian mine action programs worldwide. The mission of PM/WRA is to develop policy options, implement destruction and mitigation programs, and engage civil society in a synergistic effort to reduce the harmful worldwide effects generated by the indiscriminate use of illicit and abandoned conventional weapons of war. PM/WRA oversees day-to-day management of bilateral mine action assistance programs among its several responsibilities. In addition, PM/WRA encourages the participation of civil society in mine action through a unique public-private partnership program. To learn more about this program, visit

USAID promotes sustainable development by providing humanitarian services in post-conflict situations. Its Bureau of Humanitarian Response, Office of Transition Initiatives, bridges the gap between the emergency assistance and long-term development by supporting organizations and people in emergency transition in conflict-prone countries. In addition, USAID's Senator Patrick J. Leahy War Victims Fund helps to improve the mobility, health, and social integration of the disabled, including landmine survivors. Typically, USAID works through non-governmental organizations to develop a country's capacity for sustainable services for amputees.

In some situations, DoD funds a humanitarian mine action program's start-up costs, and PM/WRA provides subsequent funds to procure the necessary equipment, for training courses (such as for host-nation demining program managers), and for continued support until the program reaches the U.S. Government's end-state. DoD'smine action program includes mine risk education; MAC development; civil-military cooperation; immediate trauma aid for mine accident survivors; and demining training and "Train-the-Trainer" instruction.

The funding history table in To Walk the Earth in Safety on pages 49 to 53 charts all U.S.-funded humanitarian mine action since Fiscal Year 1993. PM/WRA-funded SA/LW destruction endeavors through the end of Fiscal Year 2005 are found on page 7.


The three major pillars of humanitarian mine action (HMA) are: mine detection and clearance; mine risk education; and mine survivors assistance. depending on the needs of a country, the United States may assist with financial support in one, two, or all three pillars. research and development in new demining technologies and advocacy and diplomacy are also considered by some to be components of HMA.


A Landmine Impact Survey (LIS) is the ideal initial step to determine the specific nature and extent of the effect landmines produce in a country. The LIS identifies the broad areas within a country where mines exist and estimates the impact these mines have on local communities. Areas where mines do not exist are also recorded. Although mine clearance and mine risk education often must begin before the survey is complete, the LIS provides mine action authorities an important tool for long-term strategic planning. A technical survey is conducted to document more specific details on the landmine contamination. Mined areas are demarcated, and the number and types of mines or unexploded ordnance (UXO) found are recorded. A technical survey is conducted in preparation for clearance or permanent marking of minefields.

No single technology can be employed in all circumstances, in all terrain and weather conditions, and against all mine types. Metal detectors and hand-held probes are the primary tools to find mines, but these two manual technologies are more than 60 years old. Most deminers recognize the value of mine detecting dogs (MDDs) and are learning how to integrate man, dog, and machine into a combined effort. MDDs can detect the chemical explosives in mines, and they are becoming increasingly important as their success rate increases and their reputation for safe and efficient mine detection spreads. Additionally, various mechanical technologies have greatly assisted mine clearance efforts.

Even with advanced mine-detection methods, the precise location of the majority of landmines in the ground today is unknown. International law requires that those who lay mines must identify the types of landmines emplaced, and make maps of their locations so that they are removed at the conclusion of hostilities. Whether combatants in war between nation-states, or factions in a civil war, hostile parties are increasingly ignoring international law, and placing mines indiscriminately without marking or recording their use or emplacement. Even when maps and other records are available, natural events may, over time, diminish their utility. For example, mines tend to migrate from their original location as a result of shifting desert sands, or from heavy rains in tropical areas that wash away topsoil.

Clearing mines is slow, laborious, tedious, and inherently dangerous. U.S. law states: " a matter of policy, U.S. Forces shall not engage in physically detecting, lifting, or destroying landmines, unless it does so for the concurrent purpose of supporting a U.S. military operation; or provides such assistance as part of a military operation that does not involve the armed forces." Therefore, U.S. military personnel use a "Train-the-Trainer" approach to assist a country to clear landmines. These personnel train an initial team of host-nation personnel in mine clearance techniques that include medical evacuation procedures in the event of a demining accident. In turn, this indigenous cadre is then able to train other indigenous groups until an adequate number of the country's nationals are sufficiently competent to independently clear mines safely and efficiently.

Once found, mines are usually not removed from their location. They are normally left in place, marked and destroyed. If the terrain is suitable, specially equipped vehicles are maneuvered through the minefield to destroy multiple mines.

For buried landmines and UXO, the United Nations standard is that the depth of clearance should not normally be less than 130 millimeters below the original surface level. In conjunction with mine clearance, a quality assurance program is used to assess the efficacy of these operations, and MDDs are very efficient for this process.


Teaching people how to recognize and avoid landmines, and to inform demining authorities of the presence of landmines, helps to reduce casualties significantly. Mine risk education uses a variety of materials and media to convey important messages. The materials, and the manner in which the information is presented, should be sensitive to the cultural mores of the local population.

Mine risk education attempts to encourage people to incorporate safety procedures into their daily lives. Mine risk education teachers discourage children from picking up and playing with mines and UXO. Educating children to the dangers is often difficult because they are fascinated with these metal and plastic objects. However, the majority of mine casualties are young men. Informing adolescents and adults about the types of mines they may encounter, the injuries they inflict, and teaching them the proper procedures to follow if a mine is found helps to save lives and limbs.

U.S. military personnel also conduct mine risk education during "Train-the-Trainer" humanitarian mine action deployments. They are fluent in the language of each mine-affected country to which they deploy, and they undergo country-specific cultural training prior to engaging in this activity.


The third mine action pillar is survivors assistance, an endeavor that requires a long-term commitment to both landmine survivors and their family members. Treating the initial injuries is not enough. For example, as children who are landmine survivors grow, new prosthetic limbs are required, and a lifetime of additional operations and related expenses is necessary. Over time, the psychological injury to a landmine survivor also becomes a factor in that person's recovery and for the family members. For these reasons, mine action programs encourage a holistic approach to providing assistance to the survivors of landmine injuries.

As a general rule, the Department of Defense (DoD) does not use humanitarian demining funds for survivors assistance, focusing its aid on the other mine action pillars instead. However, PM/WRA does support some survivors assistance efforts through limited grants and via the Republic of Slovenia's International Trust Fund for Demining and Victims Assistance. DoD, using Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster, and Civic Action and other operations and maintenance funds, and pays for Blast Resuscitation and Victims Assistance. Additionally, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) fund programs to alleviate the suffering of mine survivors and their families. USAID uses the Leahy War Victims Fund to provide long-term treatment and prosthetics to these survivors. PRM's programs assist with the resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons, many of whom are endangered by landmines in the course of flight from their homes and in their subsequent return.

The Department of Health and Human Services, through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), provides technical and financial support to several non-governmental organizations and UN agencies for public health projects related to survivors assistance. These projects include the provision of direct support to survivors as well as science-based assistance in identifying new survivors and assessing their health needs.

The Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) supports a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Technology Access for Landmine Survivors at the Center for International Rehabilitation in Chicago, Illinois. The Center strives to improve the quality and availability of amputee and rehabilitation services for landmine survivors by focusing on the development of "appropriate technology," i.e., technology that is most suitable to the limited technical and human resources available in most mine-affected regions through the application of research methodologies, the development of mobility aids, and the creation of educational materials, all of which are designed specifically for mine-affected populations and disseminated through a network of rehabilitation service-providers in mine-affected regions.

NOTE: The United States believes that the term "mine impact-free" (i.e., free from the humanitarian impact of landmines) denoting clearance of those landmines that have a humanitarian impact, is a more appropriate term and a more achievable, realistic goal than "mine free." It is impossible to guarantee that every single landmine is cleared from an affected country or region. It is more practically feasible, cost-effective, and morally defensible to clear mines that have a humanitarian impact. Suspected or known mined areas that pose a lesser humanitarian threat or that are less economically critical may be cleared later, while available funds are devoted to clearing other mined areas or countries where landmines and UXO continue to pose a grave menace.


In April 2001, the U.S. Department of State established the world's first and only standing Quick Reaction Demining Force that consists of professional Mozambican deminers working under the supervision of RONCO Consulting Corporation.

The Quick Reaction Demining Force (QRDF) is able to rapidly deploy worldwide, when the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs requests its services. It responds to emergency or crisis situations, such as a cessation of hostilities that results in the rapid return of large numbers of internally displaced persons or refugees to their homes and lands in mine-affected areas. When not deployed, the QRDF keeps its skills sharpened by helping to demine Mozambique's mined areas at the request of Mozambique's National Demining Institute. At the direction of the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, the QRDF made its first foreign deployment to Sri Lanka in April 2002 to survey and demine lands from which ethnic Tamil civilians had been displaced, shortly after the ceasefire between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Almost simultaneously, the QRDF deployed to the Nuba Region in Sudan to support a ceasefire between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army, in order to facilitate the safe return of internally displaced persons and refugees in that region. During May-August 2003, the QRDF deployed to Iraq where it performed invaluable service in clearing mines, cluster munitions, and other unexploded ordnance from heavily populated urban areas, along power lines, and in agricultural fields. Also, from June-August 2003, the QRDF returned to Sri Lanka to clear additional land needed for habitation and farming.

Ethnic Tamil villagers, displaced by fighting, were able to settle, build homes and safely farm again after the U.S. Department of State's Quick Reaction Demining Force, manned by professional Mozambican deminers, cleared landmines and UXO from arable land on Sri Lanka's Jaffna Peninsula.Deborah Netland, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.


The end of the cold war and the subsequent downsizing of a large number of national armies left the world with a huge surplus of small arms and light weapons (sa/lw), as well as surplus production capacity.

Excess stocks of these weapons (including man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS), often poorly secured with nothing more than a rusty padlock and vulnerable to theft, are a major source of arms for terrorists, criminals, and insurgent groups. Such stocks exacerbate regional instability, as black-market arms are exported to conflict areas.

Office of Weapons Removal & Abatement SA/LW Program Funding: FY 2004: $3.932 Million, FY 2005: $6.941 MillionThe United States is a global leader in combating the illicit trafficking and destabilizing accumulation of SA/LW and ammunition. While acknowledging the legitimacy of the legal trade, manufacture, and ownership of arms, the U.S. works to improve global and national mechanisms for controlling SA/LW, counter indiscriminate SA/LW exports, support sanctions against violators of embargoes, enhance the security of national SA/LW stockpiles, and destroy excess weapons around the world.

The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs helps to develop and implement U.S. policies regarding SA/LW. These efforts include supporting initiatives at the United Nations and other international organizations to address illicit transnational arms transfers through marking and tracing of SA/LW and strengthened controls on arms brokers. PM/WRA also manages a program to finance security improvements to SA/LW stockpiles, and to destroy excess and loosely secured weapons and associated munitions in countries that ask for this support.

Destruction and enhanced stockpile security programs are established at the request of the host nation government; interested governments must make a formal inquiry through the appropriate U.S. Embassy. An interagency team will make an initial assessment of the size and condition of excess SA/LW stockpiles, storage procedures, and associated infrastructures. After the survey, PM/WRA may establish U.S.-funded destruction operations within the host country, taking into account factors such as regional stability, counter-terrorism and force protection, and mitigation of the humanitarian impact of illicit SA/LW and abandoned ordnance.

Additionally, through a similar process, PM/WRA and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) offer technical assistance on physical security and stockpile management issues to inform weapons custodians and ammunition technicians of U.S. standards and procedures. The U.S. Department of State and DTRA work closely with the host nation to develop and execute projects that meet the needs of the requesting government, are cost-effective, and promote regional security. Since the program's inception in 2001 through the end of 2005, more than 800,000 weapons, 80 million rounds of ammunition, and over 17,000 MANPADS since 2003, have been destroyed. By the end of 2005, PM/WRA had implemented SA/LW destruction programs in the following countries with their cooperation: Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Guinea, Lesotho, Liberia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Romania, S�o Tom� and Pr�ncipe, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, and Sudan.

This edition of To Walk the Earth in Safety includes current SA/LW programs funded wholly or in part by the United States through PM/WRA. For more detailed information on the comprehensive U.S. strategy on SA/LW, or for recent updates on all PM/WRA activities, visit


Since the November 2002 attempted shoot-down of a civilian airliner in Kenya with the use of man-portable air-defense systems (manpads), the United States has redoubled its efforts to keep them from falling into the wrong hands.

This image identifies the main components of a typical MANPADS.The U.S. Department of State estimates that since the 1970s MANPADS were employed against more than 40 civilian aircraft, resulting in at least 24 crashes and more than 600 deaths worldwide. These attacks have been largely conducted in active conflict zones, clearly demonstrating the threat that MANPADS pose to civilian aircraft. Numerous MANPADS attacks have occurred in Iraq since 2003, but no such attack has yet occurred in the Western Hemisphere.

MANPADS, also referred to as shoulder-fired, surface-to-air weapons, are small, light, and easy to transport and conceal. As highlighted by the January 11, 2005 confiscation of a MANPADS in Nicaragua, the potential for terrorists to acquire MANPADS is a reality today. Estimates of global MANPADS production range from 750,000 to 1,000,000, with thousands outside government control. The exact quantity of MANPADS remaining in the global inventory is difficult to estimate.

The International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations, the G-8, the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Organization of American States and many other international and regional fora have recognized this threat and have encouraged steps to reduce the number of MANPADS that could be made available on the black market.

Countering the proliferation of MANPADS is a paramount U.S. national security priority. At the direction of the White House, the U.S. Department of State, supported by the U.S. Department of Defense, leads United States' international efforts on this critical issue. Within the Department of State, the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and the Bureau for International Security and Nonproliferation have responsibility in this area.

The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs manages the U.S. program to destroy excess, obsolete, loosely secured, or otherwise at risk MANPADS, and to improve the security of MANPADS stockpiles retained for legitimate defense purposes so that they do not fall into the hands of non-state actors.

The Office of Conventional Arms Threat Reduction in the Bureau for International Security and Nonproliferation works to prevent transfers of MANPADS—and the technology to produce them—to undesirable end-users through bilateral and multilateral engagement, with an emphasis on responsible export controls.

The U.S. Department of Defense supports international negotiations by providing expertise on the proper management and control of MANPADS, and by enforcing stringent physical security and accountability for MANPADS in U.S. possession. In 2001 the Department established the Golden Sentry program to monitor end-use sales of MANPADS through Foreign Military Sales to ensure that they are not diverted to criminal use. The Defense Security and Cooperation Agency administers the Golden Sentry program, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the U.S. Army provide support.