Trump Administration proposes 10% reduction in Mine Action supportPosted: April 4, 2017
Today is the International Day for Mine Action and Awareness. From Great Britain, we are looking forward to new commitments to the the goal of a landmine-free world by 2025, but in the United States, the proposed budget from the Trump Administration threatens that goal.
The Trump Administration’s FY18 budget includes a nearly US $3 billion cut in State Department funding (Politico). That includes a 10% reduction in the line for Nonproliferation, Anti-terrorism and Demining Programs, from $505 million in FY17 to $451 million in FY18:
According to the Administration, this reduction will have “minimal impact” upon programming. Well, what would “minimal impact” look like? Let me paint one scenario.
According to the State Department’s 2016 report on mine action, “To Walk the Earth in Safety,” the State Department invested $154.6 million in landmine clearance and risk education activities across dozens of countries. However, $63.2 million went to just five countries (Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Laos and Syria). If we assume that the commitments for these five countries will remain unchanged (because the Obama Administration made landmine clearance a priority for Colombia and Laos; and the Trump Administration’s rhetoric suggests that Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria will remain priority areas as part of the fight against Islamic State), the 10% cut, or $15.5 million, will be made across the rest of the portfolio. Support for African countries (Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Mozambique, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, Zimbabwe) totaled only $13.5 million and any reduction there, especially with emerging needs for mine action support in Mali and Nigeria, could hamper clearance efforts.
Rex Tillerson, the current Secretary of State, spoke of the importance of landmine clearance in Iraq as a means of helping people return to their homes after the ouster of the Islamic State from Mosul (State Department). Mine action has been used as a soft power tool; peacebuilding efforts in Burma, Colombia and Senegal have benefited from US commitments to mine action. The US support for landmine and UXO clearance in Southeast Asia has helped heal some of the wounds from the US involvement in the wars of Vietnam and Cambodia. But the current Administration values “hard power” in the form of the military over soft power efforts like mine action, despite Tillerson’s remarks.
Cutting mine action funding would be short-sighted and leave many thousands of people exposed to the threat of landmines and other explosive remnants of war. At a time when other countries and actors are re-affirming the pledge to a mine-free world by 2025, the US should improve upon its past investments, not reduce them.
Michael P. Moore
April 4, 2017
moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org