On this International Mine Awareness Day, the Organization of American States wishes to highlight the successful humanitarian demining efforts throughout the Americas. National authorities in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are to be commended for increasing awareness of the dangers posed by landmines, for reducing the number of landmine victims, and for assuming responsibility for their national programs.
Awareness has brought safety to numerous affected communities. From the municipality of San Carlos, in Colombia, where all indications of mines and other explosive artifacts were surveyed and resolved, to the Shuar communities along the Peruvian-Ecuadorian border, people have gained the ability to walk in their communities without fear of injury or death. Throughout the course of the past year, the OAS has supported national programs for the safe removal of landmines, for educating the public about mine safety, for the physical and psychological rehabilitation of victims, and for the socio-economic reintegration of survivors of land mine accidents. These programs are crucial to the security, and economic growth of mine-ridden areas.
Although many factors contribute to the overall reduction of landmine incidents in the Americas, awareness certainly contributes toward fewer numbers of landmine accidents and therefore towards fewer victims. The OAS program has been coordinating and conducting mine risk education programs in at risk communities educating people of all ages. This has proven effective in parts of Colombia where risk education has led the trend towards fewer landmine accidents since 2006. In addition to the success in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have not registered a landmine accident in almost a decade.
This success begins with national programs that care for their people. The OAS program is proud of the assistance it has provided to each of the national humanitarian demining programs in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador since their beginnings. The newer Colombian program is evolving as it authorizes civilian demining organizations and reviews plans to support new land restitution priorities. The national programs in Ecuador and Peru have matured to the point their governments can rightly claim national ownership of all mine action activities.
Restoring safe, productive communities must continue to be the goal. Safety opens doors for small communities to make good use of their new freedom to go anywhere in their community to grow their local economy.
The OAS continues to make available the expertise found in its humanitarian mine action program; and thanks the international community for the support it provides. I invite all people of the nations of this hemisphere to reflect on what can be done to help provide mine-affected areas with the priceless sense of safety found in their own community.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.