Dong Ha, Quang Tri (8 July 2020) – Project RENEW/Norwegian People’s Aid (RENEW/NPA) on Wednesday hosted a gathering of the entire staff in Quang Tri Province to commemorate the 25th anniversary of normalized relations between the U.S. and Vietnam.
The event was attended by representatives from the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, Quang Tri Province People’s Committee, Department of Foreign Affairs, Provincial Veterans Association, Quang Tri Mine Action Center, and PeaceTrees Vietnam.
The event provided an opportunity for everyone, especially the younger generations of RENEW/NPA staff, to have a better understanding of the U.S. – Vietnam normalization process, which opened the door to U.S. government support to survey and clear Explosive Ordnance (EO) through international NGOs in Quang Tri Province.
Keynote speakers at the event included Mr. Chuck Searcy, American veteran who is President of Veterans For Peace Chapter 160 and International Advisor to Project RENEW; Col. Tran Huu Duc, Deputy Chairman of Quang Tri Veterans Association; Mr. Drew Bazil, Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi; Col. Thomas Stevenson, Defense Attaché at the U.S. Embassy Hanoi; Mr. Jan Erik Støa, NPA Vietnam Country Director; and Mr. Nguyen Duc Quang, Deputy Director of Quang Tri Department of Foreign Affairs.
Speaking at the event, Mr. Chuck Searcy shared with the audience some historic footnotes in the long and difficult 20-year process that finally brought about the normalization of relations between two countries. He recounted memorable stories about subsequent reconciliation efforts during the past 25 years following normalization.
“The past 25 years have proven that the decision of U.S. and Vietnamese policymakers to ‘close the past and open the future’ was the right one,” said Mr. Chuck Searcy. “In nearly every field of endeavor – business, trade, education, social services, clean-up of the continuing legacies of the war including bombs and mines, and Agent Orange – at every level of cooperation, the engagement has been beneficial for both sides.”
Speaking on behalf of the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, Defense Attaché Col. Thomas Stevenson praised the leadership of Quang Tri Province in addressing the war legacies, and he recognized demining staff who have devoted their lives to the critically important, often dangerous work of UXO clearance. Col. Stevenson noted the fact that during the past three years, there has not been a single UXO accident in Quang Tri Province.
“Because these achievements are the fruit of your de-mining work and the tangible benefit of the reconciliation process,” said Col. Stevenson, “Quang Tri will also play a critical role in Vietnam’s progress to an ever more prosperous future.”
NPA Vietnam Country Director Mr. Jan Erik Støa spoke about the successful partnership between NPA and provincial authorities in developing capacity of Project RENEW to sustainably address the problem of UXO toward achieving the goal of making Quảng Tri impact-free from UXO.
The event was concluded with a presentation by Quang Tri DoFA Deputy Director Mr. Nguyen Duc Quang reviewing 25 years of US-funded mine action work in Quang Tri, and provincial strategic objectives to 2025.
Project RENEW was established in 2001 as a joint effort between the government of Quang Tri Province and interested INGOs to “restore the environment and neutralize the effects of the war”.
Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) is one of the leading organizations worldwide in humanitarian disarmament. NPA has worked in Vietnam since 2008 following the signing of an MOU with the government of Quang Tri People’s Committee to support the development of Project RENEW’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) capacity. NPA’s operational footprint now covers all of Quang Tri , Thua Thien Hue, and Quang Binh Provinces.