Like all great tales it starts with “Along time ago, in a land far far away”.
In fact the long time ago was 1997 and the land far far away was Mozambique. The world had descended on Maputo to begin rounds of treaty talks that would ultimately develop into the Landmine Ban Treaty. At this stage of the process it seemed a successful treaty and ban on landmines was along way away and the chance of success was very fragile. There was much work to do and pressure and engagement had to occur with governments on many levels. There had to be strong political lobbying and good strong grass roots movements. The clock was ticking and in under one year we would succeed with a ban or fall to abject failure.
Two of the NGO participants at the Mozambique meeting were Mette Eliseussen from Norway and John Rodsted from Australia. Both had many years of field experience behind them, Mette as a Program Manager for Save the Children working in Afghanistan and John as a photojournalist who had worked the worlds trouble spots for many years. One of Mette’s projects with war traumatised children involved drawing postcards to express their experiences in war. She had over 20,000 cards and she wanted to deliver these to the United States government to push them towards signing the treaty. These were the words and messages from people affected by war who had no voice of their own in the international arena.
Many plans were hatched between Mette and John as to how best to impact on the US government till finally they hit upon the idea of doing an advocacy bus trip across America talking to any people or communities who would listen. This was the birth of The Ban Bus.
Repeated efforts to plan and fund this trip collapsed till two months prior to the treaty signing. A handful of NGO’s gave a few funds to get this bus on the road and in a matter of days Mette and John were in San Francisco joined by Michael Hands and Mary Wareham.
Ahead was the whole of America. The great civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson set us on our way in front of a crowd of thousands of students from the steps of the University of Berkley. The journey had begun.