Ambassador Wood’s Remarks at the Opening Ceremony of the 4th Afghanistan Donor Coordination Workshop for Mine Action
Monday, April 9, 2018
Good morning everyone. Many of you have traveled quite far to be here, and I extend my appreciation for your participation. Welcome to you all.
I would like to take a moment to recognize Ambassador Dalil. Our partnership with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is critical to the success of the mine action sector. Thank you, Ambassador, for your leadership and for joining us today.
I also want to thank my friend Ambassador Toscano and the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) for the tremendous collaborative effort that went into organizing this workshop jointly with the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
It is my distinct pleasure to be here today and to share the podium with our distinguished guests. The United States is proud to support the humanitarian mine action sector in Afghanistan. Eliminating explosive hazards from communities is essential to achieving peace and stability. The presence of these hazards and the availability of explosive material presents a continued danger to Afghan and international security forces. They imperil civilians going to work, children going to school, or farmers cultivating their fields. As long as these dangers persist, it will be difficult for communities to recover from conflict.
In light of these dangers, the government of the United States has invested well over 450 million U.S. dollars in conventional weapons destruction in Afghanistan since 1993. This number is not just an expenditure of cash but an investment in the safety and security of the people of Afghanistan.
With funding from other donors and the support of the Government of Afghanistan, conventional weapons destruction programs have been uniquely successful in removing the threat of explosive hazards and in securing or destroying stockpiles of weapons and ammunition that could be proliferated or pose a risk to communities.
The Mine Action Program for Afghanistan is known globally as a leader in its field. Established in 1988, MAPA has remarkable capacity and tenacity. As the largest and most mature mine-action program in the world, its workforce of over 7,200 personnel has worked tirelessly to reduce the threat from explosive devices.
I particularly want to highlight the role of the MAPA at this year’s workshop as the DMAC promotes the core theme “One MAPA.” This theme highlights a critical component of mine action: the dangerous work undertaken, with the generous support of the donor community and leadership of the Government of Afghanistan, is greater than any one organization. It is only because you have worked as “One MAPA” that casualty rates from legacy mines and explosive remnants of war have fallen from global highs to record lows. “One MAPA,” working as a coordinated group, has managed to clear upwards of 45 square kilometers of legacy contamination per year.
We especially appreciate that other donors who contributed to Afghanistan’s progress in demining and have pledged to continue to do so are a part of this year’s workshop. Your voices are especially pertinent as we plot a course together for the “One MAPA” program.
At this workshop, I would encourage donor representatives and implementing partners to speak frankly, to ask questions, and most importantly, to reach consensus on how best to support and assist the Government of Afghanistan in achieving its goal of becoming mine free in 2023.
Afghanistan faces many threats to its success—insurgent activity, declining donor resources, new contamination from improvised explosive devices—and there are no easy answers. But I know that in this room we have the talent and energy required to meet these challenges.
GICHD and the DMAC have developed a rigorous agenda of panel discussions and open dialogue that I believe will move our conversation forward to new successes.
The United States supports programs to safely dispose of aging and obsolete weapons, secure remaining stockpiles from proliferation, and clear explosive hazards. We do so not only as a humanitarian issue but also as a common sense solution for national security concerns. Over the next three days, I believe we can strengthen the “One MAPA” plan to address the challenges of this evolving landscape.
Finally, allow me to convey my sincerest respect and gratitude for the implementing partners in Afghanistan and their staff who risk life and limb on a daily basis to make the world a safer place. Thank you for your service, and best wishes for a successful workshop. Thank you.