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10th Anniversary of the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance

Maryruth Coleman, Chargé d'Affaires
Remarks at Decennial Honorary Session (10th Anniversary) for International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance Board of Advisors
U.S. Embassy, Ljubljana, Slovenia
April 11, 2008

Thank you President Turk, and other distinguished guests for being here to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance (ITF). Thank you especially for the generous contributions that you and your countries have made and that have enabled the ITF to excel at its vital mission for a decade.

During the ITF’s existence, nearly 130 entities, including 27 countries, commercial enterprises, municipalities, civic associations, and individual citizens have contributed to its success. My own country, the United States of America, has been a steadfast supporter of the ITF from the beginning. Since 1999, we have contributed more than $104 million dollars, an average of over $10 million dollars annually. Most of the United States’ funds go to match other donors’ contributions to the ITF. Together, all of us have made the ITF a successful model of multi-lateral diplomacy.

These contributions from around the world, matched with the ITF’s own efforts and expertise, have enabled the clearance of tens of thousands of mines and explosive remnants of war from more than 81 million square meters in 13 countries. Equally important has been the treatment and rehabilitation of nearly 1000 mine survivors and the mine risk education provided to 80,000 children and adults.

This is extraordinary progress, compared to the situation that existed 10 years ago, thanks to the ITF! The government of Slovenia also deserves tremendous credit for this work and for exemplifying the ideal of good neighborliness in the region. Slovenia was fortunate to avoid a protracted armed conflict following its independence and thus did not suffer the scourge of landmines. Nevertheless, moved by the condition of its neighbors, Slovenia took the lead to assist its Balkan neighbors through programs such as ITF. Thanks to Slovenia’s vision, to ITF’s great efforts, and to the commitments made by the donor community and the mine-affected countries, we are well along the road to making Southeast Europe “impact free” by 2010, in line with the ITF’s stated vision.

Now that we can foresee the day when landmines will no longer pose a serious threat in the region, it’s time that we begin to look to new ways in which ITF can use its skills and experience to continue its mission of bringing greater security and stability to the Balkans and beyond. I just returned from a visit to Tirana and heard many people talk about the tragic munitions explosion in Grdec. I was impressed to hear that ITF is already on the ground in Albania ready to help neutralize the remaining unexploded ordinance. The continuing presence of these at-risk arms and munitions depots scattered throughout Southeast Europe provides just one example of an important mission in which ITF could play a leading role. Whatever direction ITF chooses to follow in the future, I am confident that it will continue with the same success it has achieved for so many years.

Thank you esteemed officials of the ITF for your decade of accomplishments. The past ten years of successful cooperation have set the stage for future collaboration on bringing greater security and stability to the world. Thank you again, distinguished guests, for your contributions over the years and for your presence here today.



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