Thank you so much, Mr. President, for calling this meeting. And I want to thank the Bolivian delegation as well for calling the Council’s attention to this important issue. And, of course, I want to thank Assistant Secretary-General Zuev for your briefing to us here today. We hope that today’s discussion will highlight the importance of mitigating the threats posed by mines and other explosive hazards, and the potential life-saving impact of addressing this issue effectively. The United States urges other Member States to join us in a robust international partnership to reduce the impact of unexploded ordnance, improvised explosive devices, and mines on vulnerable communities around the world.
The clearance of mines, IEDs, and unexploded ordnance, plays an essential role in reconstruction and stabilization in many regions of the world, as many have mentioned here. We remove explosive hazards in order to protect civilians, to ensure a secure environment for the providers of a range of follow-on assistance, and to clear the lines of transportation and communication for commerce. In the international realm, the United States is the chair for the Mine Action Support Group for the next two years. We will strive to increase donor participation and commitment to this very important work.
Protecting civilians from these weapons is a prerequisite for achieving lasting peace and stability. Whether it is children on their way to school, businessmen and women conducting trade and commerce, farmers cultivating their fields, or shepherds tending their flocks, civilians must be protected from the risk of abandoned landmines and unexploded ordnance. As long as these types of dangers persist, affected communities will not fully recover from the remnants of conflict.
The United States has been the world’s single largest financial supporter of humanitarian mine action, providing more than $2.9 billion in aid for conventional weapons destruction in more than 100 countries since 1993. This includes clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnance. In fact, the United States is more committed to conventional weapons destruction assistance now than we have ever been. Our State Department provided $179.5 million in conventional weapons destruction assistance in 2016, and we project the final contribution for 2017 to be $266.5 million, an unprecedented single-year investment.
This assistance is not focused solely on clearance of explosive hazards, such as landmines, IEDs, and unexploded ordnance. Rather, the Conventional Weapons Destruction program provides the United States a broader framework with the flexibility to assist states with munitions management. Around the world, stockpiles of excess, poorly secured, or otherwise at-risk conventional weapons remain a serious challenge to peace and prosperity. Poorly secured munitions are illicitly diverted to terrorists, armed groups and other destabilizing actors, threatening the lives of our citizens and those of our partners. Deteriorating or mishandled stockpiles could threaten to devastate nearby population centers. They can also prevent the safe use of land, which can suppress economic development and prevent displaced persons from returning home.
These programs don’t merely seek to protect civilians from the threat of unexploded ordnance. They also provide a vehicle to prevent the spread of disease, stave off starvation, and provide a sense of hope and confidence for populations afflicted by these threats so that they might more actively engage their communities and participate in their economies.
Rapid stabilization assistance, critical to promoting security and securing peace dividends in a post conflict environment, cannot take place until IEDs, unexploded ordnance, and other conventional munitions are removed safely and securely.
To close, in light of the unfortunately high number of armed conflicts today, conventional weapons destruction assistance will continue to play a critical role as we strive to build a more peaceful, secure, and prosperous world.
I thank you very much, Mr. President.