Director's Letter

 

Dear Readers,

In hindsight, we often forget the consequences of our successes. It is easy to lose perspective on monumental achievements and their origins, especially when so many have worked for so long to realize them.

In 1991, the Organization of American States responded to a request from member countries for assistance with regional mine-action activities. Hundreds of thousands of landmines later, Central America is the first region in the world to be declared mine-free.

In a celebration on 9 December 2010 at the OAS building in Washington, D.C., I was privileged to speak as one of a distinguished group that included U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, Nicaraguan landmine survivor Mois├ęs Antonio Valle, Latin Grammy-winning musician Miguel Bosé, and Infanta Cristina de Borbón, the younger daughter of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofìa of Spain.

One of the largest hurdles to this mine-free achievement was surely the contamination in Nicaragua, which stemmed from armed conflicts in the 1980s. According to the OAS, over 180,000 anti-personnel mines affected more than 1,000 areas—endangering half a million people in over 200 communities.

The government of Nicaragua, working with the OAS program Acción Integral contra las Minas Antipersonal (Program for Comprehensive Action Against AP Mines) and the international community, tackled this challenge in a remarkable way. Emphasis was put not only on clearance but also on individual and community projects to increase the productivity of cleared land.

These successes were echoed across the region in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The region has showed us what we can do to obtain a mine-free world not just for ourselves but for future generations. These countries completed clearance and stockpile destruction while also providing victim assistance, mine-risk education and land rehabilitation.

I applaud the OAS and Central America’s tenacity. Yet much remains to be done both in this region and others affected by conflict around the world. While clearance and destruction remain central to our work, we must not assume our commitment ends there. Central America’s long-term success is owed as much to clearance as it is to the vital social services it provides to victims and their communities. We must not lose this important perspective as we review past successes and look forward to future challenges.

Sincerely,
Ken Rutherford