Published on Tuesday, December 26, 2000 by Agence France Presse
Activists Urge Americans To 'Adopt-a-Minefield'
WASHINGTON - It is a tried and true fundraising method that for decades has helped communities across the United States maintain thousands of kilometers of highways.

Roads are being offered to companies, organizations and wealthy individuals for "adoption."

Now, two leading US disarmament groups are trying the same approach on the international stage by urging US groups and individuals to "adopt" minefields in countries like Afghanistan or Cambodia to held raise the money for clearing them.

"The idea behind Adopt-A-Minefield is both powerful and simple," explained the United Nations Association of the United States, one of the campaign organizers.

"Designed to move the political and policy debates typically associated with banning the use of landmines, the Campaign provides a practical solution to the tens of millions of mines that contaminate the world," the group said in a statement.

The Better World Fund, created two years ago by activist entrepreneur Ted Turner, the founder of CNN television, promised to make sure that every dollar raised through "adoptions" of minefields was "forwarded to the United Nations for mine clearance operations."

An estimated 100 million landmines have been planted around the world during various recent conflicts, according to the United Nations. They kill or maim more than 20,000 people a year, most often in Cambodia, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Afghanistan.

But identifying minefields is only part of the problem, according to disarmament activists.

They say that while a modern landmine costs as little as three dollars to produce, removing it could cost up to 1,000 dollars, which often makes the whole undertaking too expensive for rural communities.

That's where the Adopt-A-Minefield campaign is expected to lend a hand.

William Luers, chairman of the UN Association of the United States, says the ideas appears to have captured people's imagination.

"It's something you can pay for that gets done and helps save lives -- direct," he told The New York Times.

So far, the groups have managed to arrange for the "adoption" of 53 minefields in Bosnia, Croatia, Afghanistan, Cambodia and Mozambique.

The sponsors include disarmament and religious groups, companies as well as several individuals.

Amy Newmark of Greenwich, Connecticut, has "adopted" a section of a minefield in Matutuine, in southern Mozambique, while Josh and Judy Weston from Montclair, New Jersey, are taking care of a minefield in Reaksmei Suengha, in Battambang province, in Cambodia.

"Their donation will be used to clear land that will enable the villagers of Reaksmei Suengha to safely use their school, pagoda, and surrounding agricultural land," campaign organizers said in a statement.

The two groups, whose "adoption" initiative enjoys the backing of the Clinton administration, expect to raise more than 2.5 million dollars by the end of the year.

Meanwhile the US government plans to spend 100 million dollars to support demining efforts around the world in 2001, according to the State Department.

Copyright © 2000 AFP