Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has praised a humanitarian organization committed to eradicating landmines worldwide for its efforts to turn minefields into agricultural land in Afghanistan.
“Each mine cleared, each square metre rendered free of unexploded ordnance, helps to build a foundation for development and peace,” Mr. Ban told a gathering on Sunday at the annual Roots of Peace Harvest of Hope event in Connecticut, United States.
“We see land brought back to productive use, offering sustenance and livelihoods to people in need; we see children able to play without risking their lives; we see peace processes newly infused with confidence,” Mr. Ban said in a message delivered by his Chief of Staff, Vijay Nambiar.
Mr. Ban welcomed the Roots of Peace organization’s focus on Afghanistan, where its Mines to Vines programme “is playing a crucial role in the country’s reconstruction. Afghanistan needs the international community’s assistance and solidarity, and I am pleased that you are doing your part.”
Exporting some 400 tons of grapes this year from Afghanistan to neighbouring countries, the organization more than doubled the income for the average Afghan farmer by creating alternative agricultural crops to poppies, according to the non-profit Roots for Peace group.
The Mines to Vines programme also raised money to remove landmines so that grapevines or other food crops can be grown in 23 of the country’s 34 provinces.
The event marked the 2009 UN International Year of Reconciliation, by honouring Joseph Verner Reed – a former US Ambassador and senior UN official – and Theodore C. Sorensen – who was special counsel and adviser to President John F. Kennedy – with its Global Citizen Award for their bipartisan work in turning “seeds of terror” into “seeds of hope.”
“Like my predecessors as Secretary-General, I have welcomed Joseph Verner Reed’s advice and support on a wide range of matters, gained through his rich and varied diplomatic career serving both his country and the United Nations,” said Mr. Ban.
“I have also benefited regularly from the wise counsel of the incomparable Ted Sorensen, who is among the organization’s most eloquent advocates – and most ardent defenders,” he added. “You rightly honour these two stalwart friends of the United Nations.”