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"Scruffy chaps with earrings, wearing boots with their suits" are not often taken seriously, least of all by government officials. But this one -- 1997's Nobel Peace Prize co-laureate Rae McGrath -- was largely instrumental for pressuring governments to stop using landmines.
McGrath describes himself as an ordinary person effecting significant change. But, he noted in a lecture in Goldwin Smith Hall March 12, it is now cluster bombs, not landmines, that are killing civilians indiscriminately.
Speaking about civil society's role in prohibiting indiscriminate weapons, McGrath said that cluster ordnance can be dropped from planes or delivered by artillery shells or missiles and that they often fail to explode upon impact, posing the same threat to civilians as landmines. In fact, landmines have been used less and less since the Mines Advisory Group and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which McGrath founded, successfully pressured many governments to ban them. But cluster munitions can be worse, McGrath said, because they are usually fired with little precision, spreading ordnance over a wide area.
McGrath said that it is the duty of "civil society" to force governments to end the use of cluster munitions as well. The term, he said, refers to all of the citizens of a democracy, politically engaged or not, who bear the privilege and responsibility of influencing their government's policy.