2014 To Walk the Earth in Safety: A Message From Assistant Secretary Puneet Talwar

Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
September 30, 2014

Date: 08/18/2014 Description: Assistant Secretary Puneet Talwar - State Dept Image

The 13th edition of To Walk the Earth in Safety describes the programs and partnerships that comprise the U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction (CWD) Program. Since 1993, the U.S. has led the international donor community in reducing the harmful effects of poorly secured, unstable or illegally traded conventional weapons of war. We have contributed over $2.3 billion to more than 90 countries around the world.

This mission resonates with my own experience. I started my career in Afghanistan, where explosive remnants of war had already claimed thousands of lives. I am proud to be in a position to oversee U.S. efforts to address this threat. Our work, combined with contributions from the rest of the donor community, has significantly reduced the impact of landmines and unexploded ordnance. The worldwide annual casualty rate from these threats has plummeted. Communities are safer. Citizens are better able to rebuild their homes and livelihoods, fostering regional stability and international security. Collaboration with host nation governments has been critical to this progress, as have significant contributions from the private sector and civil society.

Our programs are part of a broader U.S. framework on conventional weapons destruction. For example, at the Third Review Conference of States Parties to the Ottawa Convention in Maputo, Mozambique in June 2014, the United States announced that the United States will not produce or otherwise acquire any anti-personnel munitions that are not compliant with the Ottawa Convention, including to replace stockpiles as they expire over the coming years. Meanwhile, we are diligently pursuing other solutions that would ultimately allow us to accede to the Convention.

In fiscal year 2013, the Department of State provided over $142 million in CWD assistance to 49 countries. Our program helped post-conflict communities and countries recover and rebuild by clearing landmines and other explosive remnants of war, providing victim assistance and mine/unexploded ordnance risk education, and destroying or securing conventional weapons. This report details the significant accomplishments and milestones we achieved in fiscal year 2013. A few highlights include:

Increased Engagement in Southeast Asia-Pacific Unexploded Ordnance Remediation: During Secretary Kerry’s visit to Vietnam in December 2013 the United States signed a memorandum of understanding with Vietnam expanding bilateral cooperation on unexploded ordnance issues. We also drafted a multi-year strategy to accelerate clearance of U.S.-origin unexploded ordnance in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Sahel and Maghreb Regional CWD Initiative: After the fall of the Qadhafi regime, the U.S. quickly designed and implemented a regional CWD response that builds African partner countries’ capacity to counter the regional threat of weapons stockpiles illicitly flowing across borders. The initiative improves physical security and stockpile management, and destroys excess small arms and light weapons.

The Quick Reaction Force led by a nongovernmental organization: The Quick Reaction Force (QRF)—a Department of State funded team of civilian Explosive Ordnance Disposal technical experts—is a one-of-a kind capability that can deploy anywhere in the world within 48 hours at the request of foreign government partners. The QRF reduces the harmful effects of landmines, explosive remnants of war, unplanned explosions at munitions sites, and at-risk, illicitly-proliferated, and indiscriminately-used small arms and light weapons and conventional ammunition. Golden West Humanitarian Foundation maintains this capability at a significant cost savings to our previous, contractor-based system.

Progress in Libya: Despite political turmoil and a non-permissive environment, we assisted the Libyan Mine Action Center in coordinating its activities with Libya’s Ministry of Defense and also advanced CWD projects.

Also in 2013, we continued collaborating with private sector partners, including many of the nearly 70 organizations in our Public-Private Partnership Program. These partnerships help maximize the impact of our efforts to raise awareness, encourage grassroots participation, and engage new resources to solve these challenges.

Looking forward, our support for mine clearance will continue. We will increasingly focus on helping countries reduce their stockpiles of excess or obsolete small arms, light weapons, and ammunition. These stockpiles can pose an even greater threat than landmines. 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 that help everyone “to walk the Earth in safety.”

Puneet Talwar
Assistant Secretary
U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Political-Military Affairs