Media Center

Press Release


  December 15, 2006

The Organization of American States (OAS) will receive a contribution of some 53,000 Euros (approximately U.S. $70,000), from the Italian government, to support Colombia in humanitarian demining operations which will be carried out in civilian communities threatened by antipersonnel landmines.

This new phase in Colombia’s humanitarian demining, scheduled to begin during the first quarter of 2007, will provide a rapid response when civilians report risks related to landmines. These explosive devices, which have been buried in a significant part of Colombian territory by illegal armed groups, cause an average of three victims per day, according to government statistics.

William McDonough, Director of the OAS Office of Humanitarian Mine Action, said that 40 military sappers will begin landmine removal operations in the first quarter of next year, and it is expected that “with generous international support, the number of sappers could reach 64.”

During the last OAS General Assembly, held in June in the Dominican Republic, Italian Ambassador Gerolamo Schiavoni stressed the commitment and interest of his government, as an OAS observer, to support the hemispheric organization with “concrete donations,” with an emphasis on the strengthening of democracy, protection of human rights and the support of humanitarian demining. Italy has had permanent observer status at the OAS since 1972.

The Landmines Observatory in Colombia is the national authority that coordinates humanitarian demining operations in that country, while the Colombian armed forces are responsible for executing the operations, with technical support and supervision from the OAS and the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB).

Canada, the United States and Italy were the first countries to support these types of activities in Colombia. The average costs of OAS annual operations in that country exceed half a million dollars.

The areas where humanitarian demining operations will take place will be determined by a governmental committee next year, based on the risk levels of the communities.

Reference: E-283/06