In May 1998, the United States Congress appropriated $28 million (Public Law 105-06) for the Slovenian International Trust Fund (ITF) for Demining and Mine Victim Assistance to assist mine-affected countries in the Balkan region. The law specified that the U.S. contribution would be used to match contributions to the ITF by other governments and private donors. On November 4, 1998, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Dr. Boris Friec, Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Slovenia, jointly announced the establishment of the ITF at a formal ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Since the United States provided its first matching contribution to the ITF in December 1998, it has been successful both operationally and financially. Initially, donations to the ITF were used to address demining needs in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Success there led to an expansion of demining operations to include Croatia, Kosovo, and Albania. A further extension of demining services to include Macedonia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslovia is planned for 2000-2001. In addition to financing a range of mine action activities, from mine awareness to mine clearance, the ITF has also funded surgical treatment and rehabilitation projects for Bosnian, Kosovar, and Albanian mine victims.
Contributions to the ITF stem from international organizations, such as the European Union, UNA/USA (Adopt-A-Minefield Program), CARE, and the Siemens Corporation, and include support from the governments of Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, Slovenia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
To date, the ITF has received contributions from 48 donors, totaling just over $29 million; additional pledges are forthcoming. The donor community has included 22 governments in addition to the United States, seven international commercial firms, and 18 international civic or humanitarian assistance organizations. The United States has matched $28 million of those contributions, which is the amount authorized and appropriated by the U.S. Congress. The United States has also made several unilateral contributions to the ITF, totaling over $8 million, to meet pressing demining needs in the Balkans that have not been addressed by other donors.
A total of 34 different international and local commercial firms and nongovernmental organizations have been engaged by the ITF to conduct demining operations. These demining organizations have undertaken over 200 projects, coordinated by Mine Action Centers in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Albania, and Kosovo. The combined results of these operations include over 14.3 million sq. m of land returned to safe use, and over 7,700 mines and 11,500 pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO) destroyed. In addition, more than 500 mine victims have received rehabilitation assistance for mine-related injuries. This includes treatment at the Institute for Rehabilitation in Ljubljana, Slovenia, as well as at rehabilitation centers in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The ITF has become the demining instrument of choice for the international community in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the rest of the Balkans. All demining operations in Albania, and over 70 percent of those in Bosnia-Herzegovina are now conducted through the ITF, which has also played a major role in financing demining in Croatia and Kosovo as well. This is due to the ITF's demonstrated ability to deliver high-quality demining results quickly, efficiently, and in a financially transparent manner, at costs that are "donor friendly."