The worst earth-shattering bombs most students have to worry about are the occasional pop quiz. For ordinary people in one third of the world's countries, however, land mines are an every-day threat.
In support of the Mine Action Ambassador Program, which operates out of the Canadian Red Cross Society in Alberta, Special Ambassador Daniel Livermore spoke on campus last Friday.
Invited by the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, Ambassador Livermore informed and updated students about the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction. He spent most of his time answering questions from the audience.
"A treaty is a piece of paper reflecting political will," he said. "It needs implementation. That is where we are at. It doesn't attract media attention."
Also known as the Ottawa Convention, the treaty was heralded as a Canadian initiative and circumvented the long and complex procedures of other weapons conventions. The convention depends largely on non-governmental organizations such as Oxfam and the Red Cross, for its success.
The program is designed to educate university and high school students about land mines and gain support for the convention. According to current Youth Mine Action Ambassador Nancy Ingram, programs are designed for student participation.
"These [students] are the future of the country, voters and taxpayers," she said.
In addition to the ambassador program, several other research programs are open to university students in engineering and social sciences.
"There is a real lack of technology and techniques that are effective and cost appropriate for the handling of land mines," Ingram said. "The project is for that group of potential engineers. We want to tap into that bank of people and new ideas.
"For the research program, [the] people already educated about the issue and foreign policy, besides professionals, are students," Ingram added. "It's also an opportunity for future employment in Foreign Affairs, and to present ideas that no one has thought of before."
This is the second year the appropriate technology contest has run, and the first year for the research program.
"We always need new technology and ideas... as long as people are willing to participate, the more likely it is that the program will run," Ingram said. "Technology is constantly outdated, and new ideas come forward all the time."
The university focus of the mine action information program is multifold.
Two competitive research programs are open to senior undergrads, graduate and law students to investigate designated land mine themes. Participants write a 20-30 page research paper, and upon completion, applicants receive $500, an invitation to participate in a mine action colloquium in May 2000 in Ottawa, and opportunity for publication.
The appropriate technology program is open to engineering students to investigate safe alternatives to mine locating and destruction techniques. Information for both programs are available through the Mine Action website at: <<www.minesactioncanada.com>> and the appropriate faculties.