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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal Pat Patierno, Director, Office of Humanitarian Demining Programs, Bureau of Political Military Affairs
Address at the forum, "Landmines: Human Rights and National Security" sponsored by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, New York City, May 15, 2000

Blue Bar
The Why and What of the U.S. Humanitarian Demining Program

Good morning. Since I assumed my current position 2 years ago, I have made a number of presentations on the U.S. Humanitarian Demining Program, its objectives, and its accomplishments.

Before I launch into an abbreviated version of that general presentation, I thought it useful, particularly for this forum, to talk about why we have a program of this nature.

U.S. National Security Strategy

The U.S. National Security Strategy is one of engagement -- we must lead abroad if we are to be secure at home.

Humanitarian engagement is a fundamental precept of the national security strategy. Our principal humanitarian objectives are:

  • To alleviate human suffering; and

  • To address the economic and social root causes of internal displacement and international flight
When you get beyond the level of national security strategy and into the inner workings of that strategy in action, you will find that our interaction with other nations is based on political-military relationships, sometimes complicated and complex.

Political-Military Relationships

In today's world -- a world characterized by globalization, not insulation -- foreign and domestic policy are no longer separate. That is particularly true of our humanitarian interventions.

While we categorize most of the assistance we provide to other nations as foreign aid, we should recognize that, in providing such assistance, we are aiding America as well.

  • When we provide resources to secure and destroy excess weapons in Europe, or to help provide defense and counter-narcotics resources to aid the war on drugs, or train foreign peacekeepers, we are aiding America.
  • When we take steps to keep regional disputes from exploding into conflicts that could require the presence of U.S. troops, we aid America.
  • When we negotiate agreements, which protect technology secrets and yet ease the way for additional trade, we are helping America.
  • When we assist other countries in meeting such needs as clearing landmines or caring for refugees, we are serving America's long-term interests and staying true to America's permanent values.

Taken together, U.S. political-military relationships make our citizens safer, our economy stronger, and our world more stable. Such engagement should be viewed as an investment and not a cost.

With that as background, I want now to spend a few minutes explaining the U.S. Humanitarian Demining Program, which has, in my view, been one of our government's success stories over the past few years.

U.S. Humanitarian Demining Program

Modern warfare no longer is targeted solely at an opposing nation's military forces. With increasing frequency, innocents are the targets. At the start of this century -- I happen to be a strict constructionist and believe that the new millennium begins next January -- 90% of wartime casualties were soldiers. As we near the end of the century, 90% are civilians, and their injuries are not necessarily sustained during the period of conflict. In the case of landmines, the casualties occur long after the guns have been silenced and the peace, however fragile, has been brokered.

The United States has been providing assistance to mine-affected nations since 1988, when it came to the aid of war-torn Afghanistan, a nation facing an enormous challenge from the more than 7 million landmines estimated to have been planted in its soil.

The goals and objectives of the U.S. program are clear. We seek to relieve human suffering and promote U.S. foreign policy interests by:

  • Reducing casualties among the civilian population of mine affected nations.
  • Creating conditions for the safe return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes and farms.
  • Restoring infrastructure that is critical to a nation's capacity for economic recovery and political stability.

Since 1993, the United States has provided approximately $320 million to more than 35 mine-affected nations around the world. In addition, we have spent another $80 million-plus supporting research and development efforts to find better and more cost-effective mine detection technologies. This combined figure of nearly $400 million has positioned us as a world leader in humanitarian mine action.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the significant contributions of other nations as well to this noble endeavor. Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and other like-minded donor nations are equally engaged. International organizations such as the United Nations, the European Union, and the Organization of American States contribute their fair share as well.

But the aggregate contributions of these generous mine-action benefactors fall far short of what is required to clear the more than estimated 60 million landmines that pollute the earth in more than 70 nations.

The United States, like other donors, focuses its humanitarian mine action assistance to address one or more of the following requirements:

  • Mine Awareness -- educating the people of mine-affected nations as to the dangers of landmine and unexploded ordnance and what to do should they encounter such devices.

  • Mine Detection -- using a variety of technologies, including manual probes, to locate mines and unexploded ordnance.

  • Mine Clearance -- lifting and removing, or destroying in place, mines and unexploded ordnance.

  • Mine Victims' Assistance - providing long-term care, including prosthetic support, and rehabilitative services, including societal reintegration to the victim and his/her family.

The U.S. has provided, or is currently providing assistance to the following countries: Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Chad, Costa Rica, Croatia, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guatemala, Honduras, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Macedonia, Mauritania, Moldova, Mozambique, Namibia, Nicaragua, Peru, Rwanda, Swaziland, Thailand, Vietnam, Yemen, Zimbabwe, Kosovo, and NW Somalia. Within a few months, we will begin programs in Armenia, Oman, and Zambia.

The U.S. program is an interagency one, with various elements of the Department of Defense and the U.S. Agency for International Development joining with the Department of State in providing assistance in a number of ways.

U.S. Special Forces train indigenous personnel on mine awareness, mine detection, mapping and marking techniques, mine clearance, and trauma care in case of an accident involving mine clearance personnel. When they train, they provide some essential equipment that they then leave behind.

The Department of State provides equipment such as detectors, protection gear, explosives, tents and other comfort requirements, foodstuffs, and vehicles, including ambulances, to support mine-detection and -clearance field operations. We also provide office equipment and data base capabilities to help the host nation establish a mine action center that coordinates and monitors mine action operations within its boundaries. And we fund mine clearance operations provided both by non-governmental and commercial demining organizations. The nature of our assistance to a specific mine-affected nation depends entirely upon what that nation has determined its requirements to be.

U.S. efforts in this current fiscal year will exceed $100 million. The State Department's principal demining appropriation is the Nonproliferation, Anti-terrorism, Demining and Related Programs Appropriation, which has an fiscal year 2000 budget of $40 million.

In addition, the State Department manages a special appropriation that supports the Slovenian International Trust Fund for Demining and Victims' Assistance. The Fund is a unique initiative that allows the Department to match, dollar for dollar, contributions made by other donors to support mine action in mine-affected Balkan states. Over the last year, we have provided $14 million in matching contributions; we have another $14 million available.

The Department of Defense administers the Overseas Humanitarian Disaster and Civic Aid Appropriation, which funds the train-and-equip program executed by U.S. Special Forces. This year, OHDACA has been budgeted at $25.4 million.

DoD also will provide $18.7 million this year to support research and development into new and promising mine detection technologies.

Resident within the U.S. Agency for International Development is the Leahy War Victims Fund, which will provide approximately $11 million this year to support programs that seek the rehabilitation of landmine victims and their reintegration into society.

So, has our assistance and that of other countries paid off? Are we seeing indications of progress? I believe the answer is yes.

In Cambodia, the casualty rate has declined by more than 90%. In February, the number of landmine casualties was 42, compared to 550 per month just three years ago. Namibia and Rwanda have built highly successful and sustainable programs. Namibia is close to being able to declare itself mine-safe. So, too, are the countries of Central America. Although suffering a bit of a setback when Hurricane Mitch roared through in 1998, Honduras and Costa Rica should be mine-safe by next summer. Nicaragua should reach that plateau by 2003. In Bosnia, more than 2,000 deminers have been trained and certified and are helping to return land to productive use. In Croatia, a highly capable and focused mine action center, created with and sustained by international funding, enjoys enormous support from the Government as it coordinates all mine action activity. In Kosovo, the casualties last summer were far less than feared, due in large part to a focused international effort to educate Kosovar refugees while they still were housed in camps in Albania and Macedonia.

Humanitarian mine action is an ambitious undertaking, but one that has enormous personal satisfaction for those involved. I, for one, am pleased and proud to play a small part in this truly global, humanitarian mission.

[end of document]

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