George C. Marshall, author of the Marshall Plan, soldier and statesman.
MLI was founded in 1997 by General Gordon Sullivan, following his retirement as Chief of Staff of the United States Army. The Board of Trustees of the Marshall Foundation asked General Sullivan to commemorate the life and work of George C. Marshall for the 50th anniversary of the Marshall Plan (European Recovery Program). General Sullivan decided to establish a non-profit organization to carry the vision of the Nobel Peace Laureate into the 21st century. As George Marshall had engineered the remarkable effort to help Europe rebuild itself after World War II, MLI would extend this legacy by helping emerging democracies create conditions that would promote social-economic growth and development.
General Sullivan and MLI co-founder Daniel Layton were determined to apply technological, educational and informational skills to build indigenous capacities in developing nations through action-oriented initiatives to alleviate human suffering, restore hope and nurture stability. While focusing its initial efforts on telemedicine and related medical activities, MLI sought to coordinate its humanitarian work with like-minded organizations to leverage resources through the formation of public-private partnerships. An early project was the assessment of education and training requirements worldwide to treat landmine injuries.
The 1990s presented a spurt of complex crises in northern Iraq, Somalia, Rwanda and Haiti that highlighted the need for partnerships and close cooperation between military and civilian organizations responding to these emergencies. MLI asked recently retired Colonel Perry Baltimore to organize a conference at Harvard University to review civil-military relations in humanitarian crises. An outgrowth of this conference was a renewed focus on landmines, which present major obstacles for growth and stability in war-torn countries. The untimely death of Princess Diana and the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) further heightened awareness of the landmine issue during the formative years of MLI.
As a 36-year military veteran, General Sullivan was well-aware of the deadly effects of landmines and UXO. Daniel Layton had previously worked as Director of the Office of International Security and Peacekeeping Operations at the U.S. Department of State, where he had oversight of demining programs in 14 countries. With its Board of Directors steeped in international peace and security issues, MLI resolved to focus on the development of technology, information and operational programs to mitigate the effects of the global landmine problem. MLI committed itself to helping severely contaminated countries in establishing affordable and sustainable mine action programs to free the land from the scourge of mines, while also assisting landmine survivors and precluding injury through community-based mine risk education (MRE).
MLI engaged in victims' assistance and landmine awareness projects in Central America following the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch. In collaboration with the U.S. Department of State and the Humpty Dumpty Institute (HDI), MLI provided medical support for a young Nicaraguan boy named Julio Tinoco Perez, whose medical needs exceeded the capacity of local doctors. MLI also sponsored a two-year MRE program in the heavily mine-infested areas of Nicaragua to teach threatened populations, especially children, how to avoid landmine injuries and how to help mine victims. Additionally, MLI has provided management training to national leaders charged with mine action responsibilities in Mozambique, Nicaragua and Zambia.
Following a trip to Africa in 1998 sponsored by the United Nations Association of the USA to engage the private sector—business executives, media representatives and non-governmental organizations—to the landmine issue, MLI became interested in the role of mine detection dogs (MDDs). The mission participants observed dog teams at work in Rwanda, sniffing for landmines. When asked by the head of state of Eritrea for dogs to find plastic mines that were virtually invisible to metal detectors, the delegation expressed great interest and wanted to learn more about the use of dogs in landmine clearance operations. MLI subsequently conducted a global assessment of MDDs on behalf of the U.S. Department of State. After traveling to breeding facilities, visiting MDD trainers and handlers, observing dog teams in the field, and meeting with demining operations managers and scientists in Africa, Europe and North America, MLI produced its report and became a strong advocate for highly trained dogs as a valuable and versatile component in the deminer's tool kit. MLI began a program to provide MDDs to the neediest countries around the world.
One of MLI's chief challenges has been fundraising—getting Americans to understand the seriousness of global landmine problem and to take action. Not faced with the everyday reality of stepping on a landmine, most Americans are unaware of the issue. In 1996 and 1997, Princess Diana brought attention to the horrific scourge of landmines during her travels to Angola and Bosnia, when she became an advocate on behalf of landmine survivors. More recently, the former Special Representative of the President and Secretary of State for Mine Action and the Partnership Office at the U.S. Department of State, as well as the ICBL and prominent celebrities such as Her Majesty Queen Noor, Sir Paul McCartney and singer Sheryl Crow have helped to educate the public about this international humanitarian issue.
The unfortunate loss of life and limbs of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq caused by landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has also heightened awareness about these hidden killers that strike without regard to nationality, age or gender. Most Americans will never have occasion to visit a severely or even mildly landmine-contaminated country, let alone know first-hand what it is to live with the daily threat and effects of these weapons.
MLI has found that man's best friend, the canine, is not only an important resource for finding landmines, but is also a valuable asset in generating support for the landmine issue because of the widespread appeal of dogs. Prospective donors often become interested in helping with the mine problem when they learn how dogs are part of the solution.
Khoder Shreif and Rex, a mine detection dog team supported by MLI in Lebanon.
Following its global assessment of MDDs in the fall of 1998, MLI realized that few people outside the humanitarian demining community knew of the role that dogs can and do play in mine clearance operations. While many people knew that sniffing dogs were used to find drugs or agricultural products in airports, few knew anything about MDDs.
Fully appreciating the potential value of dogs in landmine clearance operations, MLI launched its K9 Demining Corps (K9DC) Campaign in 1999 to increase both the quantity and quality of MDD teams worldwide. MLI found campaign partners in the U.S. Department of State, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), DC Comics, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and HDI. The U.S. Department of State supported formation of the Campaign Task Force and production of a video documenting the work of MDDs to promote awareness and education of the legacy of landmines, human-dog partnerships and the activities of the U.S. government in global humanitarian demining. HDI provided funding to meet the Eritrean request for six dogs. HSUS endorsed the Campaign and use of MDDs after its president, Dr. Paul Irwin, visited dog teams in action in Bosnia. MLI served on the Advisory Board for the Mine Dog Study conducted by the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) to improve the quality of operations and establish international standards.
MLI travels extensively throughout the United States to raise private funding to give highly trained dogs to the neediest of countries. MLI has visited businesses, churches, civic organizations, foundations and philanthropists in California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Texas, Virginia and Washington to deliver landmine presentations and dog demonstrations, illustrating the significant impact of people and dogs working together to make a safer world for all people and animals. Most recently, MLI Business Manager David Berlan was the keynote speaker for a dinner hosted by Lipscomb University students who raised over $11,000 (U.S.) for landmine action.
MLI has been pleased to witness the growth of MDD teams working worldwide from 150 dogs in nine countries in 1998 to over 800 dogs in 24 countries today. In the past several years, MLI has provided highly trained MDDs to Armenia, Eritrea, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and in collaboration with the U.S. Department of State, has trained local handlers to employ these dogs effectively in landmine clearance operations.
In 2003, under the leadership of Diana Enzi, wife of Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), MLI developed an initiative to involve American youth in the fight against landmines. The Children Against Mines Program (CHAMPS) is an education and outreach project to inform schoolchildren of the landmine issue and to foster global citizenship. CHAMPS provides students an opportunity to make a difference by sponsoring their own MDD. CHAMPS links the resources of MLI, the U.S. Department of State, participating schools and neighboring civic organizations to learn about an important humanitarian issue and to take action to help others.
Students are naturally eager to learn about children in far away places and typically love dogs. CHAMPS helps schoolchildren realize that they can have an impact on improving the lives of other people and animals. By sponsoring an MDD named for their city or state, children receive photos and updates on their dog and its work as well as information on the beneficiary country in which it is sniffing out mines and returning land to productive use. The schoolchildren of Wyoming have set the standard in successfully placing "Wyoming," a female Belgian Malinois now working in Sri Lanka.
MLI reaches out to other mine action organizations to work together for the common good. Clear Path International (CPI), a Vermont-based non-profit that provides assistance to landmine survivors and their families in southeast Asia, recently joined MLI's CHAMPS team visiting schools throughout Vermont. The kick-off event in Montpelier featured Governor Douglas and Mrs. Marcelle Leahy, wife of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The CHAMPS tour in Vermont raised funds for dogs and landmine survivors. Tom Vajda, Foreign Service Officer in the Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, also participated. By coordinating activities such as this, the mine action community as a whole becomes stronger.
The development of a funding base is a challenge typically faced by all non-profits. MLI has found a successful strategy in focusing on international businesses and expatriate communities to help free their homeland of mines. For example, the well-organized Armenian-American community responded overwhelmingly to MLI's appeal. The community disseminated information on the landmine threat and canine demining through its own publications. MLI co-hosted a donor recognition event at the Armenian Embassy and appeared on Voice of America's Armenian broadcast. These efforts resulted in funding for 12 dogs for the Armenian Humanitarian Demining Center to free land for agricultural use in Armenia.
The Sri Lankan embassy and expatriate community also generously supported MLI's efforts to provide lifesaving dogs to Sri Lanka. The embassy hosted awareness dinners. Also, the Sri Lanka Association of Greater Washington sponsored an MDD named Hannah to help the island nation of Sri Lanka recover from two decades of civil war, and has an additional dog, George, in training. The Defense Attaché from the Sri Lankan embassy frequently traveled with the CHAMPS Team to describe life in a mine-affected country.
By working with international businesses that operate in mine-contaminated countries, MLI links business sense with corporate responsibility. By providing support for demining activities, MLI demonstrates global citizenship while enhancing its visibility and corporate image in the beneficiary country. In Thailand, for instance, MLI received funding from Shell Oil Company to provide six MDDs to the Thailand Mine Action Center to sniff out landmines and save lives along the Cambodian border. MLI has had a challenging but productive history with many lessons learned and looks to the future with great hope and optimism, wishing great success for all mine action organizations and mine-affected countries.
*All photos courtesy of MLI.
Program Manager Program Manager
K9 Demining Corps
The Marshall Legacy Institute
2425 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 313
Arlington, VA 22201
Tel: (703) 243-9200
Fax: (703) 243-9701