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Reducing Harm Inflicted by Persistent Landmines

Reducing the Harm Inflicted by Persistent Landmines

James F. Lawrence, Deputy Director of the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
Prepared Statement of the U.S. at the Plenary of the Intersessional Standing
Committee Meeting of the Anti-Personnel Mine Treaty
Geneva, Switzerland
June 14, 2005

(As prepared)

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to address this body. The United States is committed to reducing the harm inflicted by persistent landmines that remain from past conflicts and that continue to be misused in some parts of the world. We place great emphasis on strategic planning, transparency, and accountability in our mine action program and in the programs of the countries and international bodies to which we render assistance.

I will briefly describe the U.S. Department of State's spending within the interagency U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program. We remain committed to generously funding humanitarian mine action in the years ahead and have requested $82 million for the U.S. Department of State's mine action programs in fiscal year 2006, a 16% increase over the $68.9 million mine action budget in fiscal year 2005. This is a realization of President Bush's commitment to significantly increase the Department of State's mine action funding, a key component of the United States landmine policy that was announced in February 2004.

In addition to the nearly $70 million in normal appropriations, the U.S. Department of State continues to provide funds drawn from supplemental accounts to support a robust humanitarian mine action program in Iraq. To date the Department has provided over $80 million to mine action in Iraq and next year funding will be incorporated into our normal budget process. We urge other countries to consider contributing to mine action in Iraq.

As I have indicated, the U.S. Department of State is but one of several Federal agencies that participate in the U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program that was established in 1993.

Later this year, the accumulated total United States interagency contribution to humanitarian mine action worldwide since 1993 will reach the $1 billion mark.

We believe that local capacity building and national ownership are key to the long-term success of mine action programs. We will continue to invest in those programs that emphasize committed national staff, development of indigenous demining and of local mine action-related organizations, clearly articulated and realistic priorities, and sound strategic planning.

We believe that civil society has an important role to play in supporting humanitarian mine action. To that end, the United States encourages the development of public-private partnerships between governments and civic associations, non-governmental organizations and corporations.

Last June, Mr. Richard Kidd, the Director of the U.S. Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, addressed this body. I would like to reiterate one of the central themes that he laid out then and which is still a pillar of our mine action program. This concerns the role of mine action in development.

Mr. Kidd noted then and I repeat now: "the United States supports the concept that mine action should be responsive to and informed by development priorities. Progress should not be measured simply by the number of mines destroyed or area cleared, but rather in terms of social and economic benefits. While in some locations the rate of return on mine clearance can be very high, many minefields are simply not worth the cost of clearance. Clearing these minefields will kill more deminers and cost more money than the cleared land will return." We will focus our attention and resources on "high impact" threats. Our support is designed to help countries achieve a "mine-safe" or "mine impact-free" status, where resources are prioritized to meet the most pressing humanitarian and economic concerns.

Finally, the United States remains firmly committed to working with and alongside other nations in practical and meaningful ways to eliminate the harm done by illicit and dangerous conventional munitions of all types, including landmines, unexploded ordnance, abandoned ordnance, and small arms and light weapons.

Thank you.

Released on June 15, 2005


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