2018 To Walk the Earth in Safety: A Message From Under Secretary Andrea Thompson
Each day, I witness the vitally important work carried out by the Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement to protect civilians and advance our nation’s interests through Conventional Weapons Destruction (CWD) programs.
In today’s dynamic world, threats to U.S. national security abound. Stockpiles of excess, poorly-secured, or otherwise at-risk conventional weapons remain a serious challenge. Poorly-secured munitions are illicitly diverted to terrorists and other destabilizing actors, threatening the lives of our citizens and those of our allies. Explosive hazards continue to kill and maim people long after conflicts have ended, preventing the safe use of land and suppressing economic opportunities that are crucial to prosperity and political stability. I have witnessed these threats firsthand in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and now most recently in Vietnam, where I met local villagers who survived unexploded ordnance (UXO) accidents and have benefited from survey and clearance activities funded by the United States. CWD programs were also among the early initiatives that helped set the stage for our newly-enhanced relationship with Vietnam, as well as the historic 2016 peace negotiations in Colombia. They are also—and perhaps most saliently—keeping weapons out of the hands of those who would kill American citizens abroad.
This 17th Edition of To Walk the Earth In Safety summarizes the United States’ CWD programs in 2017. CWD assistance provides the United States with a powerful and flexible tool to help partner countries manage their stockpiles of munitions, destroy excess small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) and clear explosive hazards such as landmines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and UXO. Our assistance also helps countries destroy or enhance security of their man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) and their threat to civilian aviation, in addition to other weapons and munitions.
Since 1993, the United States has provided more than $3.2 billion in CWD assistance to over 100 countries. In 2017, we had active CWD programs in 47 countries. These programs are implemented by commercial contractors, non-governmental organizations, and international organizations.
Since late 2015, the United States and our partners in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS have cleared IEDs from critical infrastructure in Iraq and Syria including hospitals, schools, and water pumping stations, facilitating hundreds of millions of dollars in stabilization assistance and humanitarian aid to flow into liberated areas. In this regard, explosive hazard clearance serves as an essential enabler for follow-on stabilization and humanitarian assistance.
U.S. CWD programs are not taking place in a vacuum. They are tied to key U.S. foreign policy priorities and play a direct role in keeping U.S. citizens and those of our allies safe, while also clearing the way for a stable, secure, and prosperous future in countries that are key to long-term U.S. security interests. Thanks to the U.S. Congress’ bipartisan support and support of the American people, we can attest that our goal remains one where all may walk the earth in safety.
Arms Control and International Security Affairs
U.S. Department of State