Posted by Stan Brown
Just 15 years ago -- in many places around the world -- landmines and other explosive remnants of war killed or injured scores of men, women, and children every year. Back then, the number of deaths and injuries caused by these hidden hazards left behind in communities struggling to recover and rebuild from conflict reached nearly 10,000 per year, more than 25 each and every day. Today, thanks to a concerted international effort, that figure has now dropped by more than 60 percent.
There is no doubt that it is in the interest of the United States to help war-torn countries break the cycle of violence to recover and thrive. That recovery process beginswith the simple concept -- but incredibly complex task -- of enabling people to “walk the earth in safety” so that they can rebuild their communities, tend their fields, and safely transport goods to markets. Without these programs, development and reconstruction may stall, resulting in the anger and resentment that contributed to violence in the first place to persist or resurface.
Our success in the reduction of landmine deaths and injuries is due in large part to the efforts of the State Department's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement. This office works with a host of partner organizations to help make the world safe from the humanitarian impact of landmines, unexploded and abandoned ordnance, deteriorating stockpiles of munitions, and illicit conventional weapons. Our joint efforts have made it clear, that governments alone can't solve the many problems caused by landmines and explosive remnants of war in post-conflict countries around the world. In fact, we benefit immensely from the expertise and innovative approaches our collaborations with these partners bring to bear.
To this end, we are partnering with Roots of Peace, a California-based humanitarian organization, in our post-conflict recovery efforts. Roosts of Peace, is a non-government organization dedicated to restoring economic vitality by creating livelihood opportunities in post-conflict regions. They do this by empowering farmers and families to reclaim their land, restore agriculture, and rebuild their communities.
The United States is helping turn over the seeds of war and plant harvests of hope around the world, by supporting organizations like Roots of Peace, which has trained over 2,000 farmers to grow fresh pepper on former battlefields in Vietnam. There, Roots of Peace has partnered with the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) to turn “mines to vines” in Quang Tri province, where much of the land had been contaminated by the explosive remnants of war.
Our partnership with Roots of Peace is just one example of how U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction programs touch thousands of lives all over the world—promoting peace and security by setting the stage for post-conflict recovery. For more than two decades, the United States has invested beyond $2.5 billion to clear or destroy landmines, unexploded ordnance, and other dangerous conventional weapons and munitions. In Fiscal Year 2014, the Department of State allocated approximately $140 million to conventional weapons destruction programs in over 40 countries, helping post-conflict communities and countries recover and rebuild.
Thanks to the tremendous support of Congress and the American people, we will continue to prioritize these efforts, which reflect the very best of our values. Our partnership with Roots of Peace and other organizations, we will make the implementation of our vision a continued success. Together, we can literally taste the fruits of our labors along with many deserving communities and individuals who are working to rebuilding their countries.
About the Author: Stan Brown serves as the Director of the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.