It is rare to be both heartbroken and inspired in the space of just a few short hours.
But in a village in southern Lebanon, in a part of that country which had been torn by unforgiving war for many years, I felt these emotions in equal measure.
I felt despair that the world is still using indiscriminate weapons such as landmines and cluster bombs. And I was inspired with hope when I met people who had the courage, the skill and the fortitude to rid their communities of this toxic and lethal legacy.
That visit to Lebanon was in 2017. I felt privileged to meet the brave deminers of MAG, many of them women, and to talk to the ordinary people whose lives had been devastated by landmines. The effect of this experience was profound and the issue of landmines is one which has occupied me ever since.
How can it be right that children are dying as a result of conflicts which ended decades ago? How can it be right that children continue to be killed by weapons which are subject to a global ban? How can it be right that mothers and fathers are consumed with anxiety every time their child steps outside the safety of their home?
It isn’t right. And it’s obvious that it isn’t right.
But landmines still affect some 60 million people across the world. About 15 people are killed or injured every day by landmines. Landmines prevent people farming. Landmines prevent children from accessing education. Landmines hamper efforts at sustainable development and they hamper the kind of economic growth which is essential to improve quality of life, health and wellbeing for some of the world’s poorest.
And the world simply isn’t doing enough about the landmine problem.
I have joined MAG as an ambassador because I have seen the difference MAG makes to the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the world. MAG’s skilled and courageous staff are drawn from affected communities which means their own lives have frequently been affected by landmines. For MAG’s staff, clearing landmines is more than a job: it’s a duty and a responsibility to their own communities and to their own families.
The MAG family, right across the world, is my inspiration. These are ordinary people doing an extraordinary job and achieving extraordinary things. So I am privileged to say that I am a MAG Ambassador and that I am adding my small voice to the chorus for change.
Change means more funding from the world’s governments to fund organisations such as MAG. Change means countries abiding my international treaties which forbid the use of landmines. And change means harnessing the political will to make the world landmine free – once and for all and forever.
I am humbled to support MAG’s extraordinary deminers – whether they’re in Angola or Laos or Lebanon – in whatever way I can. Their courage and skill are unmatchable, in my opinion.
So please join me in supporting these deminers and supporting those whose lives are blighted by landmines. Together, we can play our small part in changing the world. Together, we can play our small part in saving lives and building new futures.