On April 28, the UCI Center for Unconventional Security Affairs sponsored a Human Security Summit at the Beckman Center inviting Heather Mills McCartney, anti-landmine activist and wife of former Beatles legend Paul McCartney to speak.
The summit also served to formally commemorate the creation of the Heather Mills McCartney fellowship in Human Security. The fellowship was founded to reward dedicated graduate students of social ecology with financial recourses to promote high quality research and provide opportunities for students to participate in fieldwork.
Richard A. Matthew, associate professor of international and environmental politics at UCI and director for the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs opened the event by addressing an audience comprised of policymakers, activists and scholars about the social problems prevalent in the world today and how landmines continue to take a toll on civilians.
An assistant professor of political science at Southeast Missouri State University and co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, Kenneth R. Rutherford, who had lost his limbs due to an accident during his humanitarian work in Somalia, introduced McCartney calling her his personal inspiration as well as a visionary for humanity.
Throughout her life, McCartney has had many experiences, from being on her own at age 13, working at a carnival, marrying Paul McCartney to becoming a model and losing her left leg in a motorcycle accident. McCartney recounted her life with such a humorous flavor that many of the audience members had difficulty suppressing their laughter. McCartney referred to her life experiences as the ‘University of Life’ that taught her the ways of the world. She first became aware of the cruelty of war when she lived in Yugoslavia, and returned to the United Kingdom as an activist.
In the summer of 1993, a police motorcycle hit McCartney, tearing off her left leg, crushing her pelvic bone, puncturing her lung and cracking her skull. After miraculously surviving the accident, McCartney decided that she would become an advocate for the victims of landmine explosions. McCartney then began collecting prosthetic limbs that were recycled and given to those whose limbs were amputated because of landmines.
Over the course of 11 years McCartney built a foundation to rid countries of landmines and provide victims with prosthetic limbs.
After her speech, a video was shown that depicted the horrors of landmines and the enormous humanitarian work that anti-landmine organizations have accomplished in war-torn countries like Croatia, Cambodia and Afghanistan. Chilling statistics, such as that one out of 10 Cambodians suffers from an amputation and that landmines kill approximately 26,000 people per year, paint a grim reality of the consequences of war and weapons.
McCartney stressed that charity is not just providing for people but teaching them to be self-sufficient in order to truly help them. She emphasized that everybody can make a difference in the world, saying that even a ‘homeless one-legged blonde bimbo’ like herself is able to make an impact.
After her presentation, the audience was allowed to participate in a Q-and-A session with McCartney. One audience member asked whether landmines were still used today in which McCartney responded ‘yes’ since the United States has yet to sign the anti-landmine treaty.
Another audience member expressed concern for the welfare of the dogs that were used to sniff for plastic bombs. She answered that even though she was an animal-rights activist herself, after researching the matter she found out that landmines kill 47,000 animals, and that only four detection dogs have been killed in the process of sniffing out potential hazards. After weighing the numbers, she concluded that it was a necessary sacrifice in order to save the lives of many others.
Chancellor Cicerone and Matthew presented McCartney with a framed certificate establishing her Fellowship.
Cicerone found McCartney ‘amazing on several levels. That one person has been able to do so much,’ adding that any recipient of the fellowship would have to be ‘really motivated and really committed.’
UCI students attended the event like first-year criminology graduate student Michelle Walter thought McCartney was both amazing and motivating. ‘I realized you can do a lot of things, if you really want to, try to,’ Walter said.