Statement at the Global Demining Initiative for Colombia

New York, 18 September 2016

Foreign Minister Børge Brende's statement at the Global Demining Initiative for Colombia - an initiative to put humanitarian mine action in Colombia on the international agenda.

President Santos, Mr Secretary /(John Kerry), Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen

I am pleased to welcome you to the Global Demining Initiative for Colombia.

The timing for this initiative could not have been better.

First of all, let me congratulate president Santos with the historic peace agreement that will be formally signed in Cartagena next Sunday.

This is truly a remarkable accomplishment.

It marks the end of the last armed conflict in the Americas.

It is a triumph for the people of Colombia.

The prospect of peace - after more than 50 years of armed conflict - opens up a world of opportunities for development, growth and prosperity for the Colombian people.

But in order to enjoy the full potential of peace, Colombia urgently needs to rid itself of landmines and other explosive remnants of the conflict.

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For this reason, Norway and the United States have joined forces to put humanitarian mine action in Colombia on the international agenda.

Our aim is for Colombia to be free of landmines and explosive ordnance by 2021.

This is an ambitious but necessary goal.

I urge you all to join us to make it happen.

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Colombia is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.

The victims are children on their way to school.

Farmers working in the fields.

Displaced persons returning home.

Unless action is taken, this legacy of the armed conflict will continue to kill and injure innocent people for decades to come.

Mine action in Colombia is an urgent humanitarian priority.

And it is essential for ensuring lasting peace and development.

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As a result of the peace agreement, it is for the first time possible to reach some of the most contaminated areas of the country.

Now, we need to assess the full extent of contamination in all parts of the country

We must involve former combatants who know where mines were placed.

And we must analyse and address the concerns of local communities.

It will be a challenging task.

But when governments, the private sector and NGOs work together, we have the necessary experience, methodology and technology.

And most importantly: Colombia is demonstrating the political will and determination to make demining a national priority.

I am strongly encouraged by the high level of commitment shown by President Santos and his government.

The Colombian armed forces have long experience with demining.

And international NGOs can contribute with experience and confidence building measures.

The Colombian Government and the FARC have already implemented two pilot projects, which were coordinated by Norwegian People's Aid.

These projects demonstrated that former enemies can work together towards a common goal.

And they have shown that demining is an opportunity to bring real peace dividends to the people who need it most.

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Norway is currently funding humanitarian mine action in 20 countries.

With this initiative, Colombia will become the country where we are investing the largest sums over the next three years.

We are pledging 22 million US Dollars for this very important demining initiative.

I hope many of you will seize this opportunity.

Let us work with Colombia to clear the country of landmines and literally prepare the ground for peace and development.

Thank you.