Land Mine Clearing Work in Latin America Receives Boost from Italy

U.S.-backed program works to destroy explosive devices


The Organization of American States (OAS) has received a pledge of 282,000 euros (about $355,000) from the government of Italy to support the inter-American body's land mine clearance program that involves the destruction of explosive remnants of war in Latin America.

In a June 19 statement, the OAS said the new contribution brings Italy's total donations to OAS mine action programs to more than $1.4 million.

William McDonough, director of the OAS Office of Humanitarian Mine Action, said the donation "reaffirms Italy's commitment to the humanitarian cause of eliminating antipersonnel landmines, which have caused great suffering in post-conflict situations."

The OAS said that during the June 4-6 OAS General Assembly in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Italy underscored its commitment to "concrete collaboration" with the inter-American body, particularly in strengthening democracy, protecting human rights and supporting humanitarian land mine removal. Italy has been an OAS observer country since 1972. This means that while not an OAS member, Italy follows the organization's activities and assists in development programs for OAS member states.

The OAS said that for more than a decade, it has coordinated an international program to remove tens of thousands of anti-personnel land mines in Latin America that posed a threat to civilians in countries affected by conflict.

In the past three years, the OAS has completed mine-action programs in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Suriname, while continuing programs in such countries as Nicaragua, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The OAS said that its mine action removal efforts on the border between Ecuador and Peru started in 2002. As a result of that effort, the OAS said a new bridge is planned that will connect the two Andean nations in an area that has been cleared of land mines.

The United States has joined a number of other countries and nongovernmental organizations in Latin America and elsewhere to support the efforts of the OAS mine action program. Since the program's inception in 1991, financial and in-kind contributions from these donors have totaled more than $75 million.
The United States has contributed more than $31 million over the last 10 years, primarily to the Inter-American Defense Board, for humanitarian action against land mines in Latin America. The board is an international committee of nationally appointed defense officials who provide technical advice and services to the OAS.

U.S. support since 1993 for mine action programs worldwide has surpassed $1 billion, the State Department reported in its newsletter, called Safe Passage. In that newsletter, John Hillen, the State Department's assistant secretary for political-military affairs, said "the goal of a world free" from the effects of land mines "is attainable in our lifetime provided we all continue to apply lessons learned and focus on the landmines that pose an imminent threat to the safety of communities and that hinder economic development."
For more information on U.S. efforts to address the world's land mine problem, see the electronic journal Protecting Lives, Restoring Livelihoods: The U.S. Program to Remove Landmines.

Information about U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program, which provides assistance to countries suffering from the presence of land mines, also is available on the State Department Web site.

Von: 20.6.2006

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