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Canada funds mine clearance in Colombia

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Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) has today announced that it will commit CAD$12,500,000 to The HALO Trust for mine clearance in Colombia over the next five years.

The announcement follows the historic ‘End of conflict’ agreement reached last month between the Colombian Government and the FARC-EP.

Canada’s funding for mine clearance, announced as part of a wider commitment to restoring peace in Colombia, will benefit over 27,000 people living in some of Colombia’s poorest and most vulnerable rural municipalities and create secure conditions for 60,000 displaced people / victims to return home safely.

The contribution will provide employment to 66 local people. 20% of the work force will be demobilized former combatants who will work together to create an environment of forgiveness alongside victims of the conflict. 30% of staff recruited under this project will be women, thus sending a powerful message for gender equality by empowering women in traditionally male-dominated rural Colombia.

The project staff will be distributed in 2 non-technical survey teams, 4 manual mine clearance teams, 1 mine detection dog team as well as a Victim Assistance and Mine Risk Education team who will all work in collaboration to identify and clear minefields in Colombia and help to rebuild the livelihoods of the many victims of this fifty-year long conflict.

HALO’s survey teams will identify safe areas for development, land restitution and IDP return/resettlement initiatives in 150 village administrative areas (an area encompassing over 7,500km²). Meanwhile, the manual clearance teams will work to safely clear 340,000m2 of high-impact mine contaminated land.

Chris Ince, Programme Manager for The HALO Trust in Colombia said:

This is excellent news at a time of immensely positive change in Colombia. Canada’s generous contribution to humanitarian civilian demining will improve lives and security in the region by preventing mine accidents and restoring access to land, markets and public services. It will also enable more IDPs to return and improve stability in the region through the employment of victims of the conflict and demobilized combatants.

Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, Government of Canada commented:

Colombians can continue to count on Canada’s support in this new era of peace. The projects announced today will help Colombian women and youth by giving them the tools they need to be real agents of peace in their communities.

The HALO Trust started mine clearance in Colombia in 2013. The programme currently employs 250 Colombian men and women in the departments of Antioquia, Meta and Tolima.

This project in Colombia will run for five years culminating in 2021, the year that Colombia has set to be landmine free, in line with its Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty commitments and peace process implementation objectives.