Imagine a small metallic object, barely a foot in diameter and few inches below the ground preventing the cultivation of an entire field, robbing a whole village of its livelihood and eroding community morale of the whole region. These objects worldwide have already killed over two million children, injured between four and five million, orphaned more than a million, made twelve million homeless, and left ten million severely traumatized.
This man-made evil is called a landmine. Every week 10 to 30 children are killed or molested by landmines left by actions of war. According to estimates by the UN there are over 100 million landmines scattered in about 60 countries, and a similar number in world military stores waiting to be deployed. The worst affected countries are Afghanistan, Eritrea, Cambodia, Bosnia, Iraq, Angola and Mozambique. Extensive use of landmines in recent conflicts in these and other countries have created a humanitarian catastrophe of global dimensions.
In the last millennium, war was the single largest evil to the common humankind. And to think that the world's best brains have been deployed for such organized manslaughter makes our spines shiver. These days, wars have ceased to be the traditional butchery by swords and axes. Technology, money and resources have been pumped into warfare, which governments most conveniently term as "National Security". In the days of nuclear, biological, chemical and genetic warfare you would never know that your end is near. And that too in an era where around a quarter of the world's population live below a dollar each day.
In the last millennium, there were two major world wars and many other regional wars. The decision-makers and the political machinery were rarely impacted due to the results of the war. The common man either on the front or normal civilians were worst impacted by the perils of war. Acres of fertile land were left barren, forest fires were set ablaze, thousands of dwelling units raised to the ground, infrastructure like roads, bridges and pipelines blown apart, and millions of innocent human beings were rendered homeless left with nothing but a shattered dream in their mind. And with this legacy of the previous century we still dare to dream about the new millennium.
The only ray of sunshine persisting is the United Nations. Peacekeeping has been one of the prime focus areas of the UN. Everyone is aware of the fact that the UN has no army of itself. Each peacekeeping operation is designed to meet the requirements of each new situation; and each time the Security Council calls for the creation of a new operation, its components must be assembled "from scratch". The 15-member Security Council authorizes the deployment of a peacekeeping operation, and determines its mandate. Such decisions require at least nine votes in favor and are subject to a veto by the negative vote of any of the Council's five permanent members (China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, the United States). The Secretary-General makes recommendations on how the operation is to be launched and carried out, and reports on its progress; the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is responsible for day-to-day executive direction, management and logistical support for United Nations peacekeeping operations worldwide. The Secretary-General chooses the Force Commander and asks Member States to contribute troops, civilian police or other personnel. Supplies, equipment, transportation and logistical support must also be secured from Member States or from private contractors. Civilian support staff includes personnel assigned from within the UN system, loaned by Member States and individuals recruited internationally or locally to fill specific jobs.
Photo of UN in Cambodia - Source www.un.org
UN peacekeeping operations have normally fallen into three broad categories:
Military observer missions composed of relatively small numbers of unarmed officers, charged with such tasks as monitoring cease-fires, verifying troop withdrawals, or patrolling borders or demilitarized zones.
Peacekeeping forces composed of national contingents of troops, deployed to carry out tasks similar to those of military observers and, often, to act as a buffer between hostile parties.
Complex operations composed of military, civilian police and other civilian personnel mandated to help create political institutions and broaden their base, working alongside governments, non-governmental organizations and local citizens' groups to provide emergency relief, demobilize former fighters and reintegrate them into society, clear mines, organize and conduct elections and promote sustainable development practices.
Photo of Chris Moon a landmine survivor who took part in 1998 winter Olympics.
Source : www.Amputee-Online.com
With the advent of the new millennium, both the war makers and the peacekeepers should open up their eyes and think of taking up a broader responsibility of the common man on the face of this earth. Settling scores with wars is passé. We should look to empower the common man with his own destiny so than he can also celebrate the Millennium with us.