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The Ambitious Challenge of Adopting a Mine Field
by Larry Levine, U.N. Association

Issue 4.1 | February 2000 | Information in this issue may be outdated. Click here to link to the most recent issue.

Dropci is a tiny, devastated and currently empty community of family farmers, in northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina, near the border with Croatia. Its people are still refugees from the war, as the land is strewn with landmines, booby traps and unexploded ordnance. Monterey County, Cali., is known as the "Salad Bowl of the World" for its agricultural abundance, the "Golfing Capital of the World" and the site of the spectacular Big Sur coastline. Dropci and Monterey County are worlds apart.

What is the cord that binds these two communities? The Adopt-A-Minefield Campaign, a program coordinated by the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA) to raise funds for landmine clearance and to raise awareness about the global landmine crisis. The UNA Monterey Bay Chapter was among the first groups to consider working with UNA/USA to raise funds to sponsor demining efforts overseas.

When our chapter's Board of Directors first considered this concept in early 1999, there was considerable caution. The chapter had never undertaken a major fund-raising campaign before. It had no staff or consultants, no large mailing listor database, no major sponsors or wealthy members ready to help. At the same time, the Adopt-A-Minefield Campaign encouraged its sponsors to raise funds within four months of undertaking an adoption, so that the mine action centers could plan their demining schedules accordingly. We hated what landmines were doing to people and communities all over the world and we wanted to make a difference, so we accepted the ambitious challenge.

For the rest of their lives, whenever reference is made to landmines, our donors will know that when given the choice between doing something and doing nothing at all, they chose to do something.

We focused on Bosnia, as our community had some ties to this country, and everyone had at least heard of it because of the war in the Balkans. From the mine fields available, we chose one in the family farming community of Dropci. We committed ourselves to raise $33,500 to sponsor a month's work of the three teams of deminers and mine-sniffing dogs needed to turn the community back into a community. Sam and Edie Karas, long-time Monterey community leaders and UNA members, offered to chair the Campaign Committee. Their personalities lent inspiration and credibility to our campaign: Edie had been present at the birth of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945, and she and Sam had both served three times as official election supervisors in Bosnia. Retired Gen. Robert Gard, Jr., an internationally known advocate for banning and clearing landmines, agreed to be our Honorary Chair, leading a group that included former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, our Congressman Sam Farr and other respected local residents.

Our community is overwhelmed with fund-raising events, large and small, gala and low-key, so we decided to simply tell the horrendous story of the landmine crisis and ask for help, rather than plan one more series of banquets, film premieres or rummage sales. Our committee created bulk mailings by hand, from lists they found in their desk drawers. We fought for every bit of attention we could muster from the local press. We approached religious congregations, women's groups, service clubs, youth groups and businesses.

Our UNA members responded generously, along with many neighbors in our community from many backgrounds and perspectives. Thanks to the efforts of Princess Diana and the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines, we found that many local people had been concerned and upset about landmines for years, but had never before found an avenue to do something about it. One by one, the dollars came in and we kept plugging away. In the end we received contributions from almost 500 individual donors, plus over 25 community organizations, religious congregations and businesses. Low and behold, to our surprise and great relief, we reached our target of $33,500 in early November 1999, two weeks ahead of our four-month goal, faster than any other community-based group so far to successfully complete a local Adopt-A-Minefield Campaign.

It's winter now in Dropci, but we know that soon after the snows melt, and the frozen Bosnian terrain begins to thaw, the mines will be cleared and the refugees will be able to return to their homes, their farms and the beginning of a new, more normal life. We know that we in Monterey County can never solve the global landmine crisis, but we also know that we can make a difference. For the rest of their lives, whenever reference is made to landmines, our donors will know that when given the choice between doing something and doing nothing at all, they chose to do something.

The Adopt-A-Minefield™ Campaign engages individuals, community groups and businesses in the United Nations effort to remove landmines around the world. The Campaign helps save lives by raising funds to clear mine fields and by raising awareness about the global landmine crisis.

The idea behind Adopt-A-Minefield™ is both powerful and simple. Designed to move beyond the political and policy debates typically associated with banning the use of landmines, the Campaign provides a practical solution to ridding the world of the tens of millions of mines that contaminate it. Adopt-A-Minefield™ combines elements of two successful national programs Adopt-a-Highway and Sister Cities and applies them to the landmine problem.

The Campaign seeks national and international sponsors to adopt mine fields that the United Nations has identified as being in urgent need of clearance. Sponsors raise funds in their communities to clear their adopted mine fields and return land to productive use. The cost of clearing these areas ranges from thousands to millions of dollars, depending on the size and type of minefield and the complexity of the demining task. Sponsors may adopt entire mine fields or contribute smaller amounts, which are pooled with other contributions. Every dollar raised is forwarded to the United Nations for mine clearance.

Adopt-A-Minefield™ is coordinated by the U.N. Association of the USA (UNA/USA) in partnership with the United Nations, the Better World Fund, the U.S. Department of State, and Medical Missions for Children. The Adopt-A-Minefield™ Campaign is formalized by an exclusive agreement between UNA/USA and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). UNDP has overall management responsibility for the Adopt-A-Minefield™ Campaign within the United Nations system and works closely with the U.N. Office forProject Services, to whom it has subcontracted the coordination of Adopt-A-Minefield™ demining activities.

The United Nations undertakes mine action programs with the goal of developing local capacities to address the landmine problem. It works closely with national mine action centers to train local deminers and to certify that all mine fields are cleared according to international standards for humanitarian mine clearance. UNA/USA monitors this process and ensures that sponsor funds are properly allocated.

The Adopt-A-Minefield™ Campaign has been widely endorsed by the international landmine community. It is regarded as a model of the public-private partnerships envisioned by President Clinton when he launched the U.S. Demining 2010 Initiative, which seeks to eliminate the threat of landmines to civilian populations around the world by 2010. Adopt-A-Minefield™ has also been endorsed by U.N Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan, Ambassador Donald K. Steinberg, Special Representative of the President and Secretary of State for Global Humanitarian Demining; Jody Williams, 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Recipient; and the United States Campaign to Ban Landmines.

The hundreds of thousands of landmine survivors worldwide bear witness to the indiscriminate nature of anti-personnel landmines. While a mine can cost as little as $3 to produce, it can cost up to $1,000 to remove. Local communities in mine-affected countries often do not have the resources to clear their own land. They typically depend upon financial assistance from governments and international organizations. Adopt-A-Minefield™ is a grassroots effort to provide this aid. It is our hope that in the process of raising funds and mine awareness in communities around the world, sponsors will establish long-lasting bonds with the mine-affected communities that will benefit directly from their efforts.


Adopt-A-Minefield™ Campaign
United Nations Association of the USA

Phone: (212) 907-1300
E-mail: info@landmines.org
Website: http//www.landmines.org