It is with great pleasure that I address today’s event, hosted by the bipartisan UXO Caucus spearheaded by Representative Speier of California and Representative Johnson of Ohio to raise awareness of the threats posed by landmines and unexploded ordnance. We appreciate your efforts to highlight this important issue and congratulate you on the success of the caucus thus far.
I would also like to acknowledge the co-chairs from the International Conservation Caucus, for co-hosting this event. Thank you Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN). Ambassador Agostinho Tavares, thank you, your Excellency, for your countries’ partnership in this important endeavor.
Since 1993, the United States has provided over $3.4 billion in conventional weapons destruction, or CWD, assistance to more than 100 countries worldwide to reduce the harmful effects of at-risk, illicitly proliferated, and indiscriminately used conventional weapons of war. In 2018 alone, the United States provided over $189 million in global CWD assistance to nearly 50 countries on five continents.
The United States is fortunate in that our demining assistance is part of a broader CWD program designed to enhance civilian security and help communities recover from conflict. Our CWD programs also work to reduce the threats associated with stockpiles of at-risk small arms, light weapons, and conventional munitions and MANPADS.
Angola exemplifies how humanitarian mine action is crucial to help countries recover from conflict and lay the groundwork for reconstruction and development. Since 1995, the United States has invested over $131 million in conventional weapons destruction efforts in Angola, the vast majority of which has supported demining operations. Over 1.4 million Angolans have directly benefited from U.S. assistance, both in terms of increased safety and access to arable land. We have also destroyed over 100,000 excess small arms and light weapons and provided improvements at Angola’s national weapons depots. Just last month the Angolan National Police celebrated the opening of a new weapons storage facility funded by the United States. I would say these are well-invested U.S. taxpayer funds!
Despite the remarkable progress demining efforts have made, much work remains. With the newfound focus on conserving and demining the Okavango River Basin, we see a tremendous opportunity to help Angola fully realize the economic potential of its national parks by clearing explosive hazards.
Through this initiative, the Government of Angola has demonstrated its commitment to rid itself of explosive remnants of war. The United States is proud to have such a committed partner to achieve our common goals of stability and security.
The bipartisan support we enjoy is evidenced in the budget appropriated by Congress for our work year after year. We want to use this opportunity to highlight to U.S. taxpayers, that the work done through our implementing partners such as HALO, and MAG, and many others around the world, is saving lives and promoting peace and security around the world, and thus here at home and for all Americans.