|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at Public-Private Partnerships for Global Humanitarian Demining Dinner
Washington, D.C., November 4, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Excellencies; colleagues from the Administration, Congress, and the UN system; guests from the private sector; and friends from the NGOs and the mine action family: Welcome to the Department of State. I am very, very pleased to have you all here.
During the next few minutes, you will hear the words, "thank you," many, many times. But the repetition is appropriate, because we have here, this evening, the heroes of a unique kind of army, dedicated to eradicating one of the most tragic by-products of modern conflict.
In recent years, I have visited with landmine survivors in many countries. I recall especially Angola, where then-Ambassador Don Steinberg accompanied me to a village in which mothers keep their children tethered to poles, because wandering into the adjacent fields would mean certain disasters.
But you, here tonight, know better than anyone the grim realities surrounding the landmine crisis: That as this bloody century draws to a close, 90 percent of the casualties of war are civilians, and that in our time together tonight, odds are that half-a-dozen more people will be killed or maimed by landmines.
Most of all, you know the staggering human costs of this crisis. Mines are a terrible humanitarian problem, but they also retard political development and economic progress. They keep refugees away from their homes and the displaced away from their lands, long after the guns of war fall silent. And they endanger those who endanger no one, fostering fear in the innocent and young.
That is why President Clinton and Vice President Gore have made it our goal, before the next decade ends, to eliminate the threat landmines pose to civilians in every region of every continent around the world.
To this end, since 1993, the United States has provided well in excess of $350 million -- four times that of any other country.
Today, we are helping some 30 countries to map and clear their most dangerous minefields, train local deminers, and teach children and adults how to identify and avoid landmines.
We have launched programs to assist the survivors of landmine accidents, and we have challenged our best scientists to advance the state of the art in mine detection and clearance. And we have recognized that -- with up to 70 million landmines still infesting a third of the world's countries -- the landmine crisis will not be resolved by governments alone. Far from it.
We rely on NGOs for huge infusions of energy and expertise, and on the private sector for innovative ways of harnessing donor generosity and participation. As attested by the public-private partnerships we honor tonight, we know that what we can achieve working together far exceeds what we can do if we act separately.
And we appreciate, as well, the major contributions of such groups as CARE, Save the Children, the Open Society Institute, Africare, Rotary International, and Operation USA.
The partnerships we recognize this evening have toiled, between them, in all four vineyards of mine action: survivors assistance; demining; mine awareness in affected areas; and landmine education among broader publics. Whatever their particular focus, all have contributed to the same goal of enabling people everywhere to walk safely on this earth. And do not doubt, we are making progress.
In Cambodia, the landmine accident rate has been reduced by 90 percent, and that's the difference between health and death or injury for more than 5,000 Cambodians this year alone. In Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of acres once lost to mines are now supporting crops. In Mozambique, refugees have returned home on thousands of miles of cleared roads. And in Central Europe and Central America, there are many success stories as well.
In a few minutes, you will be hearing eight brief presentations about partnerships that have helped us stride forward. First, however, I want to say a few words about a number of other groups from whom we will not be hearing separately tonight, but whose remarkable contributions are no less worthy of recognition.
The University of Denver's Graduate School of International Studies has developed three innovative curricula for teaching about the landmine crisis to American elementary, middle, and high school students. I feel not only gratitude but a special kinship because, years ago, a professor named Josef Korbel was not only a father of that school -- he is also my father.
The Los Angeles Unified School District was the first to introduce this new curriculum in its classrooms. I was delighted to take part in the kick-off event last month at Narbonne High School, and I'm grateful to everyone involved for making it both meaningful for the students and memorable for me.
The Rockefeller Foundation has joined with Huntington Associates and others to produce the first interactive CD-ROM on mine action. Congratulations for finding new ways to demonstrate that we are finally getting ahead of the problem.
The UN Foundation has provided invaluable support to Adopt-a-Minefield and other programs designed to identify and clear minefields worldwide. Our thanks go as well to CNN International, for throwing open its archives to mine action groups seeking footage.
Speaking of Adopt-a-Minefield, I know that everyone here feels very keenly the loss this summer of David and Penny McCall, while in Albania on a mine action mission, and they will always be with us in spirit. Our prayers and best wishes also go out tonight to Tore Skedsmo, Director of the UN Mine Action Service, who is well on his way to recovery after brain surgery.
The Mine Action Service is just one of the UN agencies and programs that have been doing valuable work. Together with the UNDP and UNICEF, we are immensely grateful to all.
James Madison University's Mine Action Information Center has grown into far more than a clearinghouse for knowledge. It is expanding the boundaries of knowledge about a host of mine-related topics. We have some 80 professors and students at the University to thank for that.
MURI, the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative, conducts basic research into new demining technologies. Funded by DoD, 14 universities and nine industrial partners are pitting human ingenuity against human inhumanity. And we're betting on the right team.
Physicians Against Landmines works with our country's leading rehabilitation doctors to end the death, dismemberment and disability caused by landmines. We are grateful to their far-flung and innovative work in survivor assistance, prosthetics, and Internet medicine.
The Leahy War Victims Fund invests in a number of groups, many represented here tonight, which work to assist civilian victims of war who suffer from mobility-related injuries, and it has been a pioneer in prosthetic services. It is named after a genuine pioneer and visionary, Senator Patrick J. Leahy.
Pat, landmine victims and opponents alike have no more passionate or effective advocate anywhere than you, and for your work we are just immensely grateful. You will always be remembered as a giant.
I should add that several years ago, we were talking with DC Comics about which superhero would be best to warn children about the dangers of landmines. I wanted Wonder Woman and Senator Leahy, of course, wanted Batman. DC Comics decided on Superman. Ultimately, we ended up with all three.
We have many other passionate opponents of landmines here tonight, including individuals and groups that shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for their work within the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. I want to express gratitude for the vast attention you have brought to the truth that it is wrong to endanger civilians with landmines, and the Campaign deserves tremendous credit for that.
We may not always agree on tactics or timing, but we do agree on the imperative of ending civilian landmine casualties throughout the world -- in a matter of years, not decades. And we are pulling in the same direction here this evening.
In our common campaign to end the landmine crisis, every one of the groups and people I've mentioned has been able to stand and deliver, and so now I would ask everyone representing them here tonight to stand and be recognized.
I don't want to cut into the time of our other presenters, or make anyone faint from hunger so I will now cede the podium -- one of them, anyway -- to Ambassador Don Steinberg, who will introduce our other speakers, and also recognize the vital contribution of our Executive Branch colleagues in this cause we all care about so very, very much.
Thank you all for being here this evening but, more importantly, thank you very much for everything that you do.
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