'Colombia is one of the countries in the world that is most contaminated by landmines. It will be essential to clear the mines and other unexploded ordnances in order to enable many of the over six million internally displaced people to return to their homes once a peace agreement is in place. Mine clearance is therefore a crucial task for Colombia, partner countries such as Norway and the US, and the rest of the international community,' said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.
US President Barack Obama launched a global anti-landmine initiative for Colombia at an event at the White House today. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was also present. This is a joint US-Norwegian initiative that will raise awareness of the issue of humanitarian mine clearance and the goal to make Colombia mine-free by 2021.
At the launch, Norway announced a contribution of NOK 180 million over three years to support humanitarian mine clearance in Colombia.
'Rural development will be crucial to achieving lasting peace, once a peace agreement has been signed. Without a large-scale mine clearance effort, the prospects of development will be undermined. Norway is therefore providing NOK 180 million for this purpose over a three-year period,' Mr Brende said. In March 2015, the Colombian Government and FARC-EP launched a pilot project to clear mines and explosives in two regions of Colombia as part of the peace process. Norwegian People's Aid has had responsibility for leading and coordinating the project, the first project involving cooperation between FARC and the Colombian Government in the field.
'The pilot project, led by Norwegian People's Aid, has played an important part in building trust between the two parties in the peace process. I hope that the US-Norwegian global anti-landmine initiative will help to achieve the goal of making Colombia mine-free by 2021, and that it will also support the peace process, which is now in its final phase. I am pleased that more countries already have joined the initiative, and hope other countries will follow,' Mr Brende said.
Norway and Cuba are acting as facilitators of the peace talks, which were formally launched in Oslo in 2012. So far, the parties have reached agreements on four out of six agenda items. Issues that remain to be resolved are related to a definitive bilateral ceasefire, the laying down of arms, security guarantees and mechanisms to support the implementation of a peace agreement. The parties are expected to sign a peace agreement in the coming months.