Once the fighting ends, peace treaties are signed, and armies are disbanded, the world assumes too often that life in former conflict areas will soon return to normal. But left-over landmines and unexploded munitions stand in the way of post-conflict stabilization and inhibit long-term development. They render thousands of hectares of land unusable and destabilize communities.
To mitigate long-term damage and help war-ravaged communities move toward a sustainable peace, the United States has, since 1993, provided over $2.6 billion for conventional weapons destruction programs that help to safely clear landmines and explosive remnants of war, such as ammunition, artillery shells and air-delivered bombs.
Still, in many countries, landmines and unexploded ordnance can kill and maim their victims decades after the original conflict is little more than an ugly memory. Completely ridding former battlegrounds of these explosives is therefore a long-term project. This effort cannot succeed without building local expertise in partner nations and training leaders that can take control of mine clearance programs in their own countries.
The Center for International Stabilization and Recovery at James Madison University in the state of Virginia has, for many years, conducted management training for leaders in humanitarian mine action around the world. Since 2010, the State Department’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement has sponsored the course, which seeks to integrate the latest ideas in business management with the practical experience of mine-clearance professionals. The goal is to train senior managers of national demining programs to make the programs function more effectively and efficiently.
In late spring of this year, the University hosted 21 demining management professionals from Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Palau, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Tajikistan, Vietnam and Yemen. They honed their technical and managerial skill, which they will now apply improving their countries’ capacity to clear contaminated land.
The United States is investing in mine and explosives clearance because by doing so, we not only protect civilians from explosive remnants of war, but we also enable lasting peace.