Ambassador Delawie’s Remarks Demining Handover Ceremony, November 9, 2017
Thank you very much. It’s great to be here today. I’ve been to many mine clearing ceremonies when I lived in Croatia – ten or more years ago. This is my first in Kosovo and it’s such a pleasure to be here today on such a positive occasion.
I have to say that one of the great privileges that I think that I have as an Ambassador is that sometimes I get to participate in transformational events that improve the lives and well-being of others. This is clearly one of those events. Halo Trust has completed clearance operations in this area and it’s great to be here while they are officially handing this land back to the residents of the area and I think that this makes a real and lasting contribution to people’s daily lives.
I don’t have to remind anyone here about the devastating impact of landmines, cluster munitions, and other unexploded ordnance, which can all have an appalling impact on individuals.
But the problem with these devices goes well beyond the bodily harm that they can cause. They are also noteworthy for the long-term social and economic destruction that they leave in their wake. They can render large tracts of land completely unusable and prevent entire communities from accessing essential commodities.
People end up living their lives in fear, afraid of walking on their own land.
That’s why I’m so pleased to be a part of today’s ceremony where we are reversing this trend and returning this previously unusable land back to the community.
This positive day, of course, would not be possible without the excellent work of Halo Trust. The clearance of unexploded ordnance is dangerous work and I want to recognize absolutely the bravery and dedication of the field teams that carried out this effort. The United States is extremely proud to partner with Halo Trust and to support these efforts with a $400,000 grant. It’s important for us to assist; to be part of this effort. We know the stakes are high when it comes to unexploded ordnance.
A former Secretary of State once said: The United States had a goal of sending a man to walk safely on the moon. And we did that. A man did walk safely on the moon. Now the United States has a responsibility to ensure that all people, everywhere, have the ability to walk safely right here on earth.
In furtherance of this effort, the U.S. is the world’s largest single financial supporter of conventional weapons destruction, which includes efforts to clear unexploded ordnance and landmines. We have contributed more than $2.8 billion since 1993 to this effort in more than 100 countries.
I was in charge of the State Department’s office that supported mine action and mine clearance around the world years ago in one of my prior jobs. And it was always wonderful to come to work on those days when I had to work on mine clearance issue.
This is a global problem. It affects countries around the world. And it is a problem that real often requires local solutions and that’s certainly the case here, which is another reason we are proud to partner with Halo Trust in Kosovo, with local government officials here, with the Kosovo Mine Action Center, and with all the other tremendous actors that are operating here in this country. We will continue to work together to make sure all of Kosovo’s citizens have the ability to walk safely, and without fear, in their own communities.