2013 To Walk the Earth in Safety: A Message From Acting Assistant Secretary Thomas Kelly

Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
August 1, 2013

Date: 2011 Description: Thomas Kelly, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs - State Dept ImageIn 2013, we celebrate 20 years of U.S. Government agencies working together to lead the international donor community in supporting the clearance of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), as well as the destruction of at-risk and unsecured weapons and munitions. The United States first became involved in humanitarian demining in 1988 by sending a team to assess the landmine situation in Afghanistan. In 1993, U.S. assistance took an important step forward when the Department of State (DOS), Department of Defense (DOD), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) formed an interagency partnership to coordinate U.S. humanitarian demining programs globally. U.S. efforts have helped numerous countries reduce the impact of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO), contributed to a dramatic reduction in the worldwide annual casualty rate from these threats, allowed refugees and internally displaced persons to return safely to their homes, enhanced the political and economic stability of nations affected by landmines, and increased international security.

This edition of our annual report, To Walk the Earth in Safety, examines how far we have come in two decades of sustained support for humanitarian mine action (HMA) and details the programs and partnerships that comprise the U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction (CWD) Program, which includes HMA. Since 1993, the U.S. has contributed over $2 billion to more than 90 countries around the world to reduce the harmful worldwide effects of at-risk, illicitly proliferated, and indiscriminately used conventional weapons of war.

In Fiscal Year 2012 (FY2012), DOS provided more than $149 million in CWD assistance to 35 countries, helping post-conflict communities and countries recover and rebuild. In 2012 we laid the groundwork for addressing emergent humanitarian and security challenges in Syria and Burma, and continued such efforts in Libya:

  • Since 2011, in coordination with the government of Libya and other partner nations and organizations, the United States has committed approximately $40 million in targeted technical assistance to mitigate threats from unsecured weapons, including man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS), throughout Libya. We are also building Libya’s independent capacity to carry on this vital work after the completion of our assistance program.

  • In Syria, we have been coordinating plans with more than two dozen international nongovernmental organizations to prepare for emergency CWD activities when conditions permit. As soon as safely possible and we are requested to do so, we will deploy rapid response UXO experts to provide humanitarian support, mitigate potential proliferation threats and ERW hazards, and secure loose conventional weapons, including MANPADS. Currently, we fund ERW risk education projects for displaced Syrians in Jordan and Iraq.

  • In Burma, DOS is working in concert with other parts of the U.S. Government to make HMA an important component of our broader development and assistance efforts, while helping to strengthen the ongoing peace process in the country. We currently provide funding for landmine survivors assistance and risk education in Burma for the most vulnerable populations. In FY2013 we will work closely with USAID to expand these programs.

Our increasing engagement in the Pacific has cleared World War II-era UXO in Palau, the Solomon Islands, and other Pacific nations. We are deepening our cooperation with DOD to clear UXO and build local capacity in the region. Our combined efforts will mitigate the threat that 70-year-old, deteriorating munitions pose to local populations and to the sensitive ecosystems of Pacific island nations.

Looking back on 2012, we saw several significant milestones reached. In the Balkans, we completed two significant UXO clean-up projects resulting from unplanned explosions in 2008 at munitions depots in Gërdec, Albania, and Chelopechene, Bulgaria. After achieving significant progress in mine clearance in the Balkans, we are increasingly focused on helping countries reduce their stockpiles of excess or obsolete small arms and light weapons and ammunition, which pose an even greater threat than landmines in that region.

Also in 2012, we continued collaborating with private-sector partners, including many of the nearly 70 organizations in our Public-Private Partnership Program, leveraging their ingenuity, innovation, and core business resources to extend the reach of U.S. funding for CWD. These partnerships help maximize the impact of our efforts to raise awareness, encourage grassroots participation, and engage new resources to solve these challenges.

As we reflect upon two decades of U.S. efforts to help communities rebuild and move forward after conflict, I invite you to read this report and learn more about how the United States continues to clear a path to a safer world. I extend my appreciation to the U.S. Congress and American taxpayers who support our efforts to help everyone “to walk the Earth in safety.”

Thomas Kelly
Acting Assistant Secretary
U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Political-Military Affairs