In May 1998, the U.S. Congress appropriated $28,000,000 for the Slovenian International Trust Fund (ITF) for Demining and Victims Assistance to assist mine-affected countries in the Balkan region. Congress specified that the U.S. contribution would be determined by matching the contributions from other governments, entities, or persons to this fund. In 2002, Congress appropriated an additional $14,000,000 in matching funds for the ITF. Humanitarian mine-action operations using these funds began in May 2002.
Since the United States provided its first matching contribution to the ITF in December 1998, the concept 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 in Albania, Croatia, and Kosovo. A further extension of demining services to Macedonia and Yugoslavia occurred in 2000-2001. Emergency clearance of mines and UXO continued in Macedonia in 2002. A companion program trained and equipped Macedonian teams to assume clearance tasks by the end of 2002. The ITF also provided technical advice and mine-clearance assistance to Yugoslavia. U.S. funds, joined with funds from the European Union, will support survey work and training and equipping teams from Serbia and Montenegro that will conduct battlefield clearance operations in their respective Republics. The United States is also funding specialized training on underwater clearance to tackle UXO off the coast of Montenegro, coupled with mine clearance along the border region in the Republic of Montenegro. The United States and the ITF, at the request of Yugoslavia and NATO, provided technical assistance on the removal and destruction of large pieces of UXO.
Contributions to the ITF come from international organizations, such as the European Union, UNA/USA (Adopt-A-Minefield Program), CARE, the Siemens Corporation, and a host of governments: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, Slovenia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the major donor.
Through the end of 2001, the ITF had received contributions from 53 donors totaling just over $70,000,000; additional pledges of $3,300,000 are forthcoming. The donor community includes the United States and 21 other governments, two regional governmental organizations, 14 commercial firms, 15 international civic or humanitarian assistance organizations, and two individuals. Of the total contributions received, the United States has matched $28,000,000, representing the amount authorized and appropriated by the U.S. Congress. The United States has also made several unilateral contributions to the ITF, totaling more than $9,000,000 to meet pressing demining needs in the Balkans that have not been addressed by other donors. In September 2001, the United States donated $1,000,000 to meet emergency clearance needs in Macedonia supporting the return of refugees and IDPs. In addition, the DoD provided almost $4,000,000 of the U.S. unilateral donation to help eliminate the threat posed by landmines and UXO accumulated during the conflict in Kosovo.
A total of 43 different international and local commercial firms and NGOs have been engaged by the ITF to conduct survey, training, and demining operations. These demining organizations have undertaken more than 340 discrete projects coordinated by MACs in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Yugoslavia. The combined results of these operations include more than 19,300,000 meters2 of land returned to safe use, and some 9,700 mines and 12,000 pieces of UXO destroyed. In addition, almost 600 people 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-Herzegovina.
The ITF has become the demining instrument of choice for the international community in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in the rest of the Balkans. All demining operations in Albania, and more than 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, Macedonia, and Yugoslavia. 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." The United States strongly encourages other members of the international community to continue to attack the landmine and UXO problem in countries in the Balkans through contributions to the ITF.