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OAS and Canada Evaluate Progress on Action against Antipersonnel Mines in Colombia

Guatemala

Joint OAS-Canadian delegation walks with locals through rural areas of the Department of Santander in Colombia. Photo: OAS AICMA.

A delegation of representatives from the OAS and the Government of Canada traveled to the Department of Santander in Colombia on November 27 to meet with local and national officials in order to assess advances in the effort to eliminate landmines and discuss needs for future international support.

During the visit, the joint OAS-Canada delegation heard from the mayors and people of the municipalities of San Vicente de Chucurí and Carmen de Chucurí, two communities that remain seriously affected by the presence of antipersonnel mines laid by illegal armed groups during Colombia’s decades-long internal conflict. Among those who spoke for their communities in addition to the two mayors were landmine survivors and community leaders who work with the OAS Mine Action Program (AICMA) to educate “chucureños” about the risks of landmines and how to avoid these dangers. Following the community presentations, local farmers offered samples of their products, principally a high-quality chocolate produced from cacao cultivated in the area.

The visitors also watched a demonstration on mine clearance procedures put on by members of the Colombian Army’s Humanitarian Demining Battalion and walked to see a site that was recently cleared by these deminers. Teams from the military unit, which carries no armament and focuses exclusively on this humanitarian effort, continue to work to eliminate the threat of antipersonnel mines and improvised explosive devices to the people of these communities. Since 1992, more than 10,000 Colombians have been injured or killed by landmines, and the Battalion, which is made up of nearly 400 deminers, is an important part of the government’s response to this scourge.

OAS Secretary for Multidimensional Security, Ambassador Adam Blackwell, Canadian Ambassador to Colombia, Tim Martin, and Executive Director of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs Stabilization and Recovery Task Force Marie Gervais-Vidricaire were part of the joint OAS-Canadian delegation.

The AICMA Program of the OAS has worked with the Colombian government since 2005 to clear landmines throughout the country with the generous support of the Canadian government, as well as with important financial contributions from the United States, Italy and Spain. Most recently, Canada provided a grant to AICMA totaling CAN$ 1 million, which is currently being used to support mine action in Santander and other areas of the country.

The OAS not only supports demining activities, but also coordinates these efforts with provides mine-risk education for affected communities, assists landmine victims with gaining access to physical and psychological rehabilitation service and socio-economic reintegration, and provides micro-financing for emergency community development projects. These fully-integrated actions are designed to restore safe conditions, promote the return of displaced populations, and facilitate land restitution and economic reintegration of Colombian communities. As stated by Ambassador Blackwell, “The Mine Action Program is one of the jewels of the OAS because of its notable successes in helping Central America to become mine-free and its support for Colombia’s efforts to protect its citizens from the threat of landmines.”

 
 
 
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