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Working Group On Victim Assistance, Landmine Monitor Report 2004

Working Group On Victim Assistance

Founded in May 1999 and co-chaired by Landmine Survivors Network (since 1998) and Ugandan landmine survivor Margaret Orech Arach (since 2003), the ICBL Working Group on Victim Assistance (WGVA) counts approximately 98 organizations in its membership.[4] The WGVA has four inter-related objectives: 1) to advocate for, monitor, and provide guidance to the international community as to where, what, and how victim assistance is needed; 2) to promote increased coverage, funding, and sustainability of victim assistance programs; 3) to promote improvements in the quality of programs for landmine victims and other persons with disability; and 4) to facilitate inclusion of landmine victims in the substantive work of the Standing Committees, annual meetings of States Parties, as well as country campaigns and the ICBL.

The WGVA works to ensure implementation of Article 6.3 of the Mine Ban Treaty which calls on States Parties to “provide assistance for the care and rehabilitation and social and economic reintegration of mine victims...”

Intersessional Standing Committee

In 2003/2004, the WGVA continued to advocate for increased and improved assistance for landmine victims/survivors during its participation in the Standing Committee on Victim Assistance, meetings of States Parties, and other meetings, as well as through the Raising the Voices program. It continued to work with the co-chairs of the Standing Committee on Victim Assistance, Australia and Croatia, as well as co-rapporteurs, Nicaragua and Norway. WGVA members reviewed and contributed to official victim assistance documents drafted by the Standing Committee and for preparatyion of the Nairobi Review Conference.

The WGVA continued to promote focused work within the Standing Committee, reminding the Committee of the priorities which emerged from a UNMAS-supported consultative process,[5] and more recently by encouraging greater interest in a short list of countries whose VA needs are the most profound.[6] The WGVA notes that States Parties interventions during the Standing Committee have become much more targeted, nuanced, and sophisticated than before. Various WGVA members organized panels, workshops, studies, and interventions from the floor to apprise the Standing Committee of trends and issues that are important to the field of landmine victim assistance.

Raising the Voices

More than 60 mine survivors have participated in the Raising the Voices program, established in 2000, implemented by LSN for the WGVA and supported by the governments of Canada and Norway. Raising the Voices is a leadership and advocacy training program for mine survivors, which will be ending in its present form after 2004.

In 2004, twenty-two survivors from 13 countries or regions in Europe and the Middle East (Abkhazia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chechnya, Croatia, Georgia, Jordan, Lebanon, Russia, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen) participated in the program, while, in 2003, sixteen landmine survivors from seven countries in Asia (Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand) participated. In addition to telling their personal stories, landmine survivors are now consulted for substantive input into the work of the ICBL and the SC-VA. The WGVA has advocated with States Parties for the “institutionalization” of participation of landmine survivors in the intersessional meetings and annual MSPs of the Mine Ban Treaty in the post-Nairobi period.

In each meeting of the Standing Committee on Victim Assistance, Raising the Voices group has made interventions on a range of topics:

Latin America (2001)[7] Rehabilitation is a precondition to every other step required for a disabled person to become fully integrated into society. Access to rehabilitation services is inadequate or unavailable in our region. In addition, access to public places is fundamentally necessary and directly connected to our rights to earn a living to get education to get health care and to participate in society. To ensure equal participation in society we need a means of achieving economic empowerment. We need laws and policies that can provide a framework for our participation and allow us to progress in our societies.

Africa (2002)[8] Our goal is not to solve all the problems faced by persons with disabilities, but rather to empower them to improve the quality of their own lives. One way to improve landmine survivors’ lives is to ensure their access to basic education as this is very limited for most survivors, especially women. Basic education and literacy should be considered a form of victim assistance. Empowerment is the power to choose one’s path in life whether it be the path of a tailor or the path of a lawyer and basic literacy training opens doors to any of these paths. In the Mine Ban Treaty, care, rehabilitation, social integration, and economic integration are all mentioned, as they should be, but we recommend an emphasis on the fact that care, rehabilitation, and social integration should lead to economic integration. It is really true that people prefer not to beg – they would rather work.

Asia (2003)[9] We encourage governments to promote persons with disabilities participation in the workforce through support including vocational training, quota schemes, technical or financial assistance to companies employing persons with disabilities, and grants or interest-free loans to help start projects or small businesses. To ensure success, persons with disabilities should receive technical assistance, and where possible financial assistance, at all stages from development to training to implementation and ongoing evaluation. We encourage governments to promote and assist persons with disabilities to establish and strengthen self-help groups so they can play a role in developing law and policy on disability issues. Governments should adopt a consistent approach to disability and ensure that landmine survivors benefit from the relevant programs.

East Europe (2004)[10] In order to live as equal and independent citizens, we require access. Rule Five of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities lists five specific areas of society for which accessibility is key: infrastructures, transportation, buildings, communication systems, and assistive devices. On economic reintegration, we recommend that 1) laws not discriminate against landmine survivors, 2) employers of landmine survivors receive tax reduction, 3) the promotion of professional, including re-qualification, training, 4) self-employment, especially small businesses and home based businesses, 5) favorable loan conditions for self-employment of mine survivors, 6) prioritization in tendering and contracting to companies that employ mine survivors, 7) flexible hours for mine survivors, 8) equal and adequate pay for mine survivors, 9) employment of mine survivors in the public sector, 10) establishment of a fund for pilot programs that is financed by the taxation of luxury goods.

The Middle East (2004)[11] In the daily life of persons with disabilities access is important whether in collecting water, going to school, trying to get to work, applying for a job, or participating in international events such as the Nairobi Summit. Ensuring access requires that effective measures be undertaken immediately including the legal and policy change. We would like to emphasize four of the many components of social and economic reintegration: the right to work, policy-making and planning, formation of associations for landmine survivors, and technical and economic cooperation.

Advocacy & Research

The WGVA continued to promote improvements in program quality, coverage, funding and sustainability of victim assistance programs and to apprise the SC-VA of trends and issues that are important to the field of landmine victim assistance.

In May 2004, WGVA member Handicap International organized a workshop in Paris on lessons learned in victim assistance, attended by field NGOs from around the world. Workshop participants recommended that donors concentrate their funding on: economic integration activities, expanding access to and building sustainability for physical rehabilitation, long-term training for technical experts (in medical care and amputation surgery) and in management skills, and building the capacity of local counterparts in national planning.

In June 2004, representatives from over 25 organizations involved in the implementation of prosthetics and orthotics participated in a workshop convened by LSN in Geneva to discuss elements for a common approach in implementing prosthetics and orthotics in low-income countries. It is hoped that this document will become the foundation for a set of clear, concise guidelines for this sub-sector of rehabilitation, which is of key importance to landmine survivors.

In 2004, LSN initiated a study into national legal frameworks relating to people with disabilities in mine-affected States Parties. In a presentation provided to the June 04 Standing Committee, LSN identified three ways in which disability rights are is addressed within national constitutions.[12]

Between 2000 and 2002, Handicap International (HI) published three world reports on mine victim assistance and in 2001 it organized a Southeast Asia regional process on victim assistance drawn from national workshops held in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. HI also published a document on the issue of reparation for landmine victims called, “Towards the Rights of Landmine Victims.”

In 2003, the Landmine Monitor Victim Assistance Research Coordinator published a study analyzing victim assistance funding and another detailing victim assistance in South East Europe.

On behalf of the WGVA, LSN conducted a review for the Standing Committee to monitor progress in victim assistance since the establishment of the Mine Ban Treaty using a set of six indicators[13] originally developed for a Canadian government study in 1999/2000. The study was presented at the Fifth Meeting of States Parties.

In 2003, the World Rehabilitation Fund developed a set of guidelines for the socio-economic reintegration of mine survivors to be used as a checklist, against which policy and program developments can be compared.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

LSN presented an update on the new convention process at the UNMAS/UNMAC Directors’ meeting in March 2004 and LSN and UNMAS co-sponsored a briefing on the right to rehabilitation in the proposed Disability Rights Convention during the Third Ad Hoc Meeting at the UN in New York in June 2004. In May 2003, LSN organized a panel of experts to speak about victim assistance and the proposed convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.

[4] Among the most active are: Austria, Australia, Cambodia, Colombia, Nepal, and Thailand, and organizations such as the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, Handicap International, LSN, and POWER.
[5] Priorities for victim assistance according to the consultative process: emergency and medical care, rehabilitation, prosthetics and assistive devices, employment and economic reintegration, legislation and national planning.
[6] States Parties which have hundreds or thousands of landmine survivors: Albania, Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burundi, Cambodia, Chad, Colombia, Croatia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, Eritrea, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Sudan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Uganda and Yemen.
[7] Participants from Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.
[8] Participants from Angola, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, and Uganda.
[9] Participants from Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
[10] Participants from Abkhazia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chechnya, Croatia, Georgia, Russia, and Ukraine.
[11] Participants from Jordan, Lebanon, Russia, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen.
[12] These being a) in anti-discrimination provisions, either pertaining specifically to disability, or general provisions on non-discrimination, b) in provisions that reference and incorporate international or regional human rights law into national law, and c) in provisions focused on protection and assistance, for example, financial assistance, assistance in the provision of rehabilitation services, or special care.
[13] The six indicators are: the extent to which...1) information on mine victims demographics and needs is available, 2) a national disability coordination mechanism exists and recognizes mine victims, 3) medical care and rehabilitation services exist, 4) social and economic reintegration services exist, 5) laws and policies exist that protect and ensure the rights of landmine survivors and other people with disabilities, 6) organizations of people with disabilities (community advocacy network) exist.