My Experience at the ERWTC Jordan
~ Ed Lajoie, CISR staff
There is an experience most travellers are familiar with. It’s a combination of nostalgia and a restless search for meaning, or some sort of lesson that one feels when he or she returns from a trip—a trip that wasn’t just a vacation meant to clear one’s mind, but a real experience that excites it. In my case that experience was a week and a half working at the Explosive Remnants of War Training Course in Amman, Jordan. The ERWTC is a training course aimed at senior-level managers in the field of mine and ERW (explosive remnants of war) action. The course was hosted by the Jordanian National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation (NCDR) and sponsored by the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA).
In all honesty, I could spend the rest of this essay talking about the professionalism of the NCDR and their commitment to providing a world class course. I could mention the highly competent and intelligent instructors who came from all over the world and took time out of their lives to share their knowledge with the participants. I could try to list all the amazing moments that we as a group shared. Unfortunately, properly discussing those things would miss the point. As a newly employed member of the mine-action community, I have to wonder if my work really affects people.
After some time thinking it over, what I came away with was a lesson on communities. There are the communities actually created because of these cruel weapons. There is the community of survivors and civilizations affected by landmine and ERW incidents. And there is the community dedicated to eradicating the effects of landmines and ERW. This last community is often made up of members from the previously mentioned two groups, but it also includes those individuals who, although not personally affected by these weapons, make it their mission to eliminate indiscriminate weapons of war. It is this community that I learned about during my time at the ERWTC.
There were 20 participants at the 2011 ERWTC from diverse backgrounds. Some were new to the field while others had lifetimes of experience. The same was true of the instructors. However, they all shared the same mission and they came together to achieve it. So here is the lesson that I learned: At its most basic level, the problem of landmines and ERW is a local one, but its solution is global. What I mean by that in the context of the ERWTC is that although each participant was there to gain information and expertise in order to help alleviate the suffering in their own communities, they were also acting as a larger group. They shared strategies and best practices and collaborated on projects that were potentially beneficial to all. The feeling during the time was not just one of, “How can I rid Iraq, Azerbaijan or Cambodia of landmines?” but “How can I rid the world of landmines?” Each country was just a step in the process. It was the kind of solidarity expressed at Meetings of the States Parties and other international events concerning landmines and ERW. The meaning I found at the ERWTC was less of an academic lesson and more of an affirmation. To me, the experience was a demonstration of global solidarity and an introduction to a community of people dedicated to saving and changing lives.