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Now three years old, the Working Group on Victim Assistance (WGVA) has 98 members on the books, representing approximately 40 organizations and country campaigns. Landmine Survivors Network continues to facilitate the group. This past year, during the process of elaborating the ICBL 2004 Action Plan, the Working Group on Victim Assistance refined its goals to the following four points:

  • To advocate for, monitor, and provide guidance to the international community as to where, what, and how Victim Assistance is needed;
  • To promote increased coverage, funding, and sustainability of victim assistance programs;
  • To promote improvements in the quality of programs for landmine victims/survivors and other persons with disability; and
  • To facilitate inclusion of landmine victims in the substance work of the Standing Committees, Meetings of States Parties, national and international landmine campaigns.

Activities of the working group include the following:

Participation in Intersessional Work: The WGVA continues to play an important role in working with the Standing Committee on Victim Assistance Co-Chairs and Rapporteurs to develop the agendas and speakers lists for meetings of the intersessional process as well as for the annual Meeting of States Parties. Accomplishments from these events include the following:

“Form J” was accepted as a voluntary amendment so that Victim Assistance (and other activities) may now be reported on within the Treaty reporting format. Some 18 landmine survivors from 13 countries participated in a very moving opening ceremony of the Second Meeting of States Parties alongside Paul McCartney and model activist Heather Mills.

The WGVA developed an inventory of the tools to better track Victim Assistance needs and resources. States parties continue to ask the WGVA for analyses of these tools and the resulting data in order to be able to direct donor agencies and governments toward victim assistance needs and measure progress toward meeting the victim assistance provision of the Mine Ban Treaty.

The third version of the Portfolio of Victim Assistance Programs was distributed in hard copy and made available on-line at www.landminevap.org. It is a compilation of 91 one-page program descriptions from 47 organizations in 34 countries. The goals of the Portfolio are: to demonstrate the broad range of activities that constitute Victim Assistance in order to dispel the idea that medical and prosthetics programs alone are sufficient; to promote transparency among all actors in Victim Assistance; to present a snapshot of the current state of Victim Assistance to help guide the allocation of additional resources; and to provide a tool to facilitate contact and information sharing among actors in Victim Assistance.

The WGVA developed, printed, and distributed a position paper called Victim Assistance: Contexts. Principles, and Issues for the Second Meeting of States Parties. The paper is available at http://www.icbl.org/wg/va/position.html or http://www.landminesurvivors.org/services/vacpi.html

A new sub-group of the WGVA, also open to the general public, was developed to provide a forum for discussions on psychological interventions, including peer support, for landmine survivors. The group produced a draft paper that is available on the WGVA section of the ICBL website and discussions on these topics continue. To join the group, write to becky@landminesurvivors.org

To increase the depth of the participation of landmine survivors in processes related to the Mine Ban Treaty and in landmine related advocacy efforts in their home countries, the WGVA initiated a project called “Raising the Voices” with direct input from the Co-chairs and Rapporteurs of the Standing Committee on Victim Assistance and funding from Canada’s DFAIT.

Raising the Voices: Survivors Advocates Leadership Training: Eight landmine survivors from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Colombia, Ecuador, and Chile attended a Raising the Voices survivor advocate training in Geneva from May 5-1 2. The training focused on the Human Rights framework, the UN Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, the Mine Ban Treaty, and on what interventions they would make during the meetings from the podium and from the floor. The survivors, chosen from Central and South America to reflect the focus on the region for the Third Meeting of States Parties, were very well received. They participated as more than tellers of their own stories, and were actively engaged in the proceedings and ready with contributions of their own.

Conferences: In addition to intersessional meetings and the meeting of States Parties, the WGVA participated directly in these conferences and workshops: Measured Steps: Implementing the Ottawa Convention, Meech Lake, Canada, May 2000; World Vision Landmine Seminar in Melbourne, Australia, November 2000; Mines Action Canada Capacity Building Workshop, Ottawa, Canada, February 2001; GICHD/UNMAS annual meeting for Mine Action Center Directors in Geneva, February 2001; and Ban Landmines Week, Washington DC, March 2001.

Studies: The WGVA participated in the steering group that developed terms of reference for “A Study of Socio-Economic Approaches to Mine Action,”conducted by the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD). Given the ambitious scope of the study with regard to mine clearance and related actions, the WGVA contribution was to advise the group not to include victim assistance as a major part of the study.

“An Operational Review of the Role of Mine Action in Assistance to Mine and UXO Victims” is a second study being conducted by the GICHD, which will focus on “all actors involved, or wishing to become involved, in providing assistance to mine and UXO survivors...” Due to the Victim Assistance focus of this study, the WGVA will also participate in this steering group, even though it has already submitted a one-page suggestion to UNMAS and the GICHD clarifying its perspective on the roles of Mine Action Centers and Victim Assistance implementers.

In “Mine Action Centers and Victim Assistance: Clarification of Roles,” the WGVA noted that significant aspects of Mine Clearance and Victim Assistance overlap, such as information exchange, referrals to services, and emergency and pre-hospital care. The WGVA made the following recommendations: that the existing areas of overlap between Mine Clearance and Victim Assistance be maintained, specifically, that MACs and Victim Assistance actors share information on landmine victims with each other; that mine clearance personnel be trained to handle first aid, emergency medical care and evacuation procedures; and that mine action centers be equipped to make informal referrals of landmine survivors to existing services. It further recommended that the implementation of Victim Assistance services and programs remain the purview of health, education, labor, and social welfare authorities; and that mine action centers institute policies to proactively recruit and hire landmine survivors for employment in mine related activities.