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George Soros on Landmines 1Aug 1997

THE EARTH TIMES/LANDMINES

AUGUST 1 -15, 1997

GEORGE SOROS

A MAN AND HIS BILLIONS

BY ASHALI VARMA

New York–As one of the leading philanthropists in the world, Gorge Soros has done more to promote free press, democracy and human rights in former Communist republics in Europe than just about anybody else.  His foundation, the Open Society Institute, makes grants that promote the development of open societies around the world.

An informal network of more than 24 autonomous non-profit foundations and organizations, all created and funded by Soros, operates in Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union,  Mongolia, Haiti and South Africa, and in the United States  as well. Soros has donated in the last decade.

In early 1997, the Open Society Institute launched the Landmines Project to support efforts toward a comprehensive worldwide ban on landmines.  Soros’s strong commitment to this cause is reflected in the fact that his investment company sold its 6 percent share in Alliant Techsystems Inc. because Alliant makes components for landmines.

In a statement about the Landmines Project Soros said, “Its mission is to fund, on a matching basis with other donors, activities to achieve a ban on landmines.  It works closely with the international campaign to ban landmines, and aims especially at carrying the ban campaign to parts of the world where it has not so far been an issue—the non-Western world.”

He has dedicated a minimum of $1.33 million a year for the next three years for the project, renewal on an “evergreen” basis after that. Ann Peters, Director of the Landmines Project, told The Earth Times that among the Landmines Project’s initial grants, funds were provided to support the participation of nongovernmental organizations in the Fourth International NGO Conference on Landmines, held in Maputo, Mozamibique, and in regional seminars involving governments and nongovernmental organizations in Asia, Europe and Africa.

Soros emphasized that “the costs of civilian mine clearance, running easily into billions of dollars worldwide, cannot be undertaken by the limited resources of the nongovernmental community. Ultimately it must be the responsibility of governments and international organizations, because no one else can mobilize the necessary resources.”

Soros said that NGOs have an important role to play in advocacy of this vital issue with their governments. “Nongovernmental organizations,” he said, “even if they lack the capital to clear mines with their own resources, must remain a vital voice for pressuring governments to

provide funds for clearance.”

“Let me emphasize,” he said, “that the campaign to ban mines and the campaign to clear them are part of a single activity, to seek to deal with the full costs of mines, beginning to end. The rate with which new mines continue to be laid makes it only too obvious that clearance alone can never address the problem; a ban on new mines, even if effective tomorrow, could not overcome the dismal infestation of vast parts of the developing world. These are two parts of the same enterprise.”

The mines that are not cleared, he said, “will be cleared, alas, limb by human limb. It is not an acceptable outcome.”