U.S. Humanitarian Demining Program in the Balkans
Issue 4.1 | February 2000 |
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As a result of
years of conflict in the Balkans, countless landmines have been laid in Croatia,
Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo. Bosnia-Herzegovina's landmine problem
is severe, with an estimated 750,000 landmines and an undetermined quantity
of unexploded ordnance infesting some 186 square miles of land. These hidden
killers have killed and maimed hundreds, vastly impeded the return of refugees
to their homes and hindered international efforts to help people in the region.
Since 1996, the
U.S. government has provided over $40 million to remedy the problem and has
joined with the government of Slovenia to support demining and mine action
assistance in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The United States has also partnered
with the Slovenian International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victim Assistance
in the Balkans, which has proven to be one of the outstanding success stories
in humanitarian demining assistance.
U.S. humanitarian demining program in Bosnia-Herzegovina has reached the sustainment
phase through the International Trust Fund (ITF), the United States will continue
to support demining efforts there, as well as in other countries. U.S.- Bosnia-Herzegovina
bilateral accomplishments include: the setting up of a U.N. Mine Action Center;
the establishment of three regional demining centers; training and equipping
three civilian demining forces, a total of 180 men and 27 mine-detection dogs;
and setting up three military centers that have trained and equipped 1000
deminers and 70 instructors.
of the ITF is an excellent example of regional and international cooperation
and an effective mechanism for addressing the landmine problem throughout
the Balkans. In Croatia, for example, the United States funded, through the
ITF, six demining projects in communities that welcome the return of ethnic
minority residents. These projects support U.S. and Croatian policies to re-establish
a multi-ethnic society in Croatia.
The United States
is also supporting the cleanup effort in Kosovo. Once that conflict ended,
the United States worked with the United Nations and other countries and international
donors, to implement an operation that provided mine-awareness education,
mine-survey operations and mine-clearance support. Altogether, U.S. fiscal
1999 assistance for demining in Kosovo amounted to almost $3 million.
donor nations deposit funds into the ITF and the United States matches the
funds, the United States plans to deploy similar demining teams in Albania
and Macedonia to resolve landmine problems in those two countries.
Thanks to the
initial U.S. funding assistance for humanitarian demining, the subsequent
infusion of Slovenian International Trust Fund monies and the support of other
international donors, mine-affected Balkan nations are making great progress
toward the eventual elimination of their landmine challenges. ushdp
There are an
estimated 60-100 million landmines worldwide. People are displaced. Their
homes are abandoned. Their fields lay fallow from the encroachment of mine
fields. Food, water, wood and other necessities for subsistence are impossible
to retrieve without mortal danger. These people need a helping hand and the
U.S. Humanitarian Demining Program is one that reaches out to them.
The U.S. program
seeks to relieve human suffering while promoting U.S. interests. In addition
to demining, the program's objectives are to establish sustainable, indigenous
demining programs, reduce civilian casualties, allow for the return of refugees
and displaced persons to their homes, enhance a nation's stability and encourage
international cooperation and participation.
countries usually make requests through the U.S. Embassy, who then reviews
each situation and forwards their findings to the Interagency Working Group
(IWG), which is chaired by the Department of State and vice-chaired by the
Department of Defense. After determining the nature of the mine problem and
the suitability of U.S. assistance, a formal program is established in coordination
with the host nation's existing capacity for demining and helps to develop
a program that is managed and executed by the host nation. Typically, the
U.S. program involves assisting in the establishment of a mine action center,
a mine-awareness program and a demining-training program. With the goal of
creating a self-sustaining host nation, the United States periodically evaluates
the program and passes off its active role to the host nation, although some
U.S. funding may continue to aid demining efforts.
of Defense is generally responsible for funding the training part of the program,
while the Department of State assists the country in implementing the program
and achieving a level of sustainment. Through the Department of Defense the
U.S. military has been engaged in humanitarian demining since 1994, providing
equipment to demining operations, training in mine awareness and clearance
as well as the establishment of self-sustaining programs.
When a direct
U.S. military bilateral program is inappropriate, the United States contributes
to programs by the United Nations, non-governmental organizations or international
Since 1993, the
United States has established humanitarian demining programs in 26 countries
and expects to expand to several more in 2000. The Unites States supports
the Cambodian Mine Action Center, whose work has reduced the death rate from
landmines by 50 percent. In Namibia, deminers have been able to reduce the
casualty rate by more than 90 percent and have restored most previously mined
land to productive use.
In late 1997,
secretaries Madeline Albright and Willam Cohen announced the Demining 2010
Initiative to execute the president's directive that all landmines threatening
civilians be eliminated by 2010. To meet this initiative, Albright established
the Office of Global Humanitarian Demining, which is responsible for developing
and coordinating of a U.S.-led international campaign to increase global cooperation
and resources. With the U.S. Government Humanitarian Demining Program being
led by the departments of State and Defense, the United States is leading
the international community in the new millennuim of mine eradication.
of State (PM/HDP)
Office of Humanitarian Demining
2201 C Street, NW Room 3328-NS
Washington, D.C. 20250-3817
Tel: (202) 647-4350
Fax: (202) 647-4357