Harmonizing Mine Action into Development ProgramsJohn Stevens, Foreign Affairs Officer
Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement
Remarks at the Linking Mine Action to Development: Second Dialogue Meeting, GICHD
December 5, 2005
Ambassador Nellen, Madame Co-chair Bragg, on behalf of the United States we thank you for this opportunity to present the U.S. perspective.
We also thank the Canadian International Development Agency and the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining for organizing this continued dialogue on such a critical humanitarian issue. We appreciate their kind invitation to participate.
The United States Humanitarian Mine Action Program involves close cooperation between the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Agency for International Development, and also the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accordingly, the United States wholeheartedly agrees that mine action is a development issue as well as one that impacts on public health and social stability.
We also agree that mine action should be integrated in national development plans, both on the part of the donor nations, and on the part of the mine affected nations.
As the world’s largest donor to humanitarian mine action – we have invested over $1 billion dollars in mine action since 1993 - the United States has learned many lessons over the years about rationally prioritizing and directing expertise and resources to initiatives and areas where they will generate the greatest good across a broad spectrum of humanitarian and socio-economic objectives.
The United States already expects that our contributions to mine action programs will result in measurable economic returns. We do this in part through the use of landmine impact surveys, many of which we have helped to fund. The survey findings have helped us to – as I indicated before – rationally prioritize and direct expertise and resources to clearing mined areas that have a genuine humanitarian and economic impact.
We want to eradicate those persistent mines that prevent farmers from farming, that prevent children from growing up safely and from going to school, that prevent workers from making a living. But we do not want to expend or divert our finite resources – or encourage the diversion of host countries’ resources - to seek out some landmine in a remote, unpopulated stretch of desert or mountain peak just so that we can say "We got it!"
While we applaud and already apply many of the precepts to mainstreaming development in mine action, we must note that if one applies the tools of economic analysis - to include a business model, which is the central feature of economic development - as part of the funding criteria for mine action projects, we will find that a significant portion of minefields are literally not worth clearing. More lives will be lost and funds expended during clearance than will be gained. And that is why we have adopted a pragmatic approach based on achieving a mine impact free status.
We must avoid absolutist goals, making sure that mine action is not one day viewed as a financial "black hole" that sucks money away from other, more beneficial economic development options.
Finally, we must point out that not only is mine action a key element in facilitating economic recovery and development, it also has strong international security and diplomatic – bilateral and multilateral – components.
It is for all of these reasons that the U.S. Department of State, which is the lead agency in the United States for humanitarian mine action, will continue to operate a robust mine action program and help to set U.S. mine action policies.
We look forward to working with all countries and organizations that are interested in ensuring that mine action funding generates the highest possible returns.
Released on December 15, 2005