Thursday, July 2, 2015

Banning and Clearing Land Mines: Managing a Humanitarian Crisis

The Second Program in the free public dialogue series presented by the Midcoast Outreach and Peace Center (MOPC) as part of its Humanitarian Crises and Challenges series of programs  

The Midcoast Outreach and Peace Center will present the second program in the Public Dialogue Series on Humanitarian Crises and Challenges entitled “Banning and Clearing Land Mines: Managing a Humanitarian Crisis” Prominent humanitarian worker and land mine specialist Bob Eaton will speak about his work with governments and communities striving to clear mines as a critical part of rebuilding war torn communities. Eaton was a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for its role in creating the International Mine Ban Treaty.

He will be accompanied by Martin Barber, a senior United Nations official with extensive experience in humanitarian affairs and peace operations.  Martin directed the United Nations Mine Action Service and was Chief of Policy Development in the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and worked in Bosnia- Herzegovina Afghanistan.

The program, which is free, will be presented on July 2, 2015 at 6:30 P.M. at the Midcoast Friends Meetinghouse, 77 Belvedere Road in Damariscotta. A light dinner of soup and bread will be offered at 5:45 P.M. before the presentations.
Bob Eaton has more than 25 years of experience planning and managing rehabilitation programs for war-devastated countries. He was the founder and Executive Director of the Survey Action Center (SAC), an international group of leading U.N. and N.G.O. (non-governmental organizations) that are working to eliminate landmines and cluster munitions. He also had a significant role on the development and acceptance of the Landmine Ban Treaty.

During the Vietnam War, Eaton served as master of a sailing cargo ship that took medical aid to civilian war victims in both North and South Vietnam. After the war, Eaton and his wife worked for the Quakers in Laos for three years on post-war rehabilitation for Laos and Vietnam.  During the Cambodian famine, following the overthrow of the Pol Pot regime in Phnom Penh in 1980, Eaton monitored the delivery and distribution of emergency relief supplies. He also led the first lobbying initiative to break the U.S. embargo on trade and investment with Vietnam and Cambodia. In 1995, he established the Humanitarian Department at the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (V.V.A.F.) whose mission included developing post-war rehabilitation programs for war victims in Vietnam, Cambodia, Angola, Kosovo and El Salvador.

Today the United Nations estimates that a record high of 60,000,000 people are displaced amid expanding global conflicts, in many of which landmines have been particularly devastating.  One of the most brutal weapons of war is also one of the simplest: the landmine. Easily set up, difficult and time consuming to detect and disarm, they inflict injuries on civilians and combatants alike. Claiming over 500 victims a week, landmines are weapons of massive devastation.

Future programs will include speakers who have worked to provide humanitarian assistance to individuals and communities who are or have been endangered by ongoing wars and natural catastrophes, often leading to displacement as refugees and migrants.

While Maine may be a long way from many of the world’s most severe crises, the extent of destruction that is produced by natural catastrophes and brutal war is ever-present in our news programs, and often touches our communities.   

As Ebola has ravaged West Africa, politicians in Maine attempted to quarantine a nurse who had served in a contaminated region of Africa. Brutal and ongoing war in Somali, has led to the settlement of more than 6,000 Somalis refugees in communities throughout Maine. And, in recent years, elected officials and communities in other parts of the U.S. have struggled to respond humanely and appropriately to the influx of Central American children that have poured into the Southwestern U.S.

This speaker series is designed to explore how citizens in Maine and elsewhere can contribute to finding solutions to foreign conflicts that relieve and eliminate suffering and help our communities adjust and respond effectively to global emergencies and disasters.