- The Standing Committee on Victim Assistance, Socio-Economic Reintegration and Mine Awareness, established by States Parties to the Ottawa Convention at their Second Meeting, met at the headquarters of the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva May 7-8, 2001. The meeting was co-chaired by Japan and Nicaragua, with Canada and Honduras serving as co-rapporteurs.
- In keeping with the intersessional program’s spirit of practical cooperation, inclusivity and collegiality, the meeting was open to all interested states and relevant organizations. A total of 70 states, including several states not parties to the Convention, were registered as participants in the meeting, along with numerous international and non-governmental organizations, including the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).
- The meeting received administrative and organizational support from the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD). The co-chairs expressed their appreciation to the GICHD for this valuable support.
The meeting program was organized to advance the program initiated by the Standing Committee at its December 2000 meeting. In this context, the meeting was organized to seek means to make progress with respect to the following six thematic areas: (a) raising the voices of landmine survivors; (b) linking resources with needs; (c) implementing lessons learned related to the coordination of victim assistance; (d) guidelines, information dissemination and information management; (e) social and economic reintegration; and, (f) mine awareness.
II. RAISING THE VOICES OF LANDMINE SURVIVORS
- In December, the need to work towards a greater involvement of landmine survivors in matters that affect them was identified, including the need to deepen involvement in the development and implementation of mine-action programs, the Standing Committee received a presentation on a training program designed to develop a core group of "survivor advocates" to participate actively in Standing Committee meetings as well as provide leadership in their communities.
Landmine Survivors Network, the coordinator of this "raising the voices initiative," introduced eight survivors from the Americas (i.e., from Colombia, El Salvador, Chile, Ecuador and Nicaragua) who are participants in the first phase of the program. The "survivor advocates" participated actively in the discussions of the Committee. One survivor emphasized the issue of inclusion in decision-making so as to underscore the useful role that disabled people can play. They began training to enhance their capacity to represent, organize and advocate on behalf of landmine survivors and other disabled persons in their home countries and within the framework of the meetings and processes related to the Ottawa Convention. These program participants will share their experiences at the Third Meeting of States Parties to the Convention and continue to train other victims with disabilities.
III. LINKING RESOURCES WITH NEEDS
- In follow up to the identification in December of the need to further develop and use various indicators in order to obtain a more comprehensive view of the level of need as it pertains to victim assistance, the Standing Committee discussed how measuring victim assistance can be undertaken from different perspectives and methodologies. Given that further work is required to better understand the level of need that exists and how the mine action community is responding to this need, the Co-Chairs encouraged the ICBL Working Group and other relevant actors to continue its work to develop and share information on the global level of the problem. In addition, it was suggested that States may wish to explore ways to enhance national data collection as it pertains to victim assistance.
- The challenges faced by mine-affected countries in meeting needs for victim assistance were also discussed. Some indicators of the ability to meet needs that were discussed included: budget allocations for education and health; the literacy level; debt servicing levels; the human development index; the state of relevant national legislation; and, and whether the state in question is involved in armed conflicts.
- The ICBL Working Group reported on its intention to produce an updated version of the Portfolio of Victim Assistance Programs. The ICBL Working Group, with the support of the co-chairs, encouraged states and other relevant organizations to provide victim assistance programs for inclusion in the updated Portfolio of Victim Assistance Programmes, which will be distributed at the Third Meeting of the States Parties.
It was reported that at least eight States Parties* have submitted the Article 7 reporting format’s "Form J". The Co-Chairs congratulated those States Parties and encouraged others to use the "Form J" format and take the guidance provided by the ICBL Working Group on Victim Assistance into consideration. The Co-Chairs also encouraged the Working Group to continue its work to enhance this important guidance, taking into account issues raised during the Standing Committee meeting.
IV. IMPLEMENTING LESSONS LEARNED RELATING TO COORDINATION OF VICTIM ASSISTANCE
- The Standing Committee was given an update on the WHO/Swiss Government Strategic Framework for Victim Assistance, which considers support for landmine victims as an integral part of assistance to all victims of violence and trauma and to all disabled persons.
- Handicap International informed the Standing Committee about the Regional Workshop on Victim Assistance in South East Asia, which will take place in Thailand on 6-8 November 2001. The workshop’s main objectives are to provide those active in the region with the opportunity to study and discuss the local situation and victim assistance issues and to exchange views on the methods used to meet the challenges defined in country action plans.
- The Standing Committee received reports on other studies, including a report from the GICHD and the United Nations Mine Action Service, which is proceeding with a study on the relationship between mine action programs and victim assistance.
The Standing Committee encouraged those involved in these initiatives to translate the anticipated results into concrete and realistic actions and to discuss their experiences at the next Standing Committee meeting.
V. GUIDELINES, INFORMATION, DISSEMINATION AND INFORMATION MANAGEMENT
- The Co-chairs reported on actions taken with respect to identification of focal points for victim assistance. The Standing Committee encouraged states to identify focal points before the Third Meeting of States Parties so that a complete list could be circulated at that time.
- In follow up to a commitment made in December, the Co-Chairs distributed an English-language version of a compilation of guidelines, best practices and methodologies for victim assistance and agreed to produce versions in Spanish and French in time for the Third Meeting of the States Parties.
The Standing Committee discussed the difficulty of implementing the United Nations Standards Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities in mine-affected countries, especially in those hampered by a lack of technical and financial resources and a shortage of equipment. The Standing Committee recognized that successful and effective implementation of the UN Standard Rules implied a coordinated partnership involving governments, communities, organizations and NGOs. In the context of discussion on the UN Standard Rules, the need was expressed for greater involvement of persons with disabilities in the development and implementation of government policy and planning.
VI. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC RE-INTEGRATION
- The Standing Committee invited experts working on social and economic reintegration and the particular area of vocational rehabilitation to present ideas. In this context, states and relevant organizations were encouraged to work towards reducing vulnerability and promoting self-reliance. In terms of the design and implementation of initiatives, several principles and problems to avoid were presented which should be taken into consideration, including: adequate access to social protection and social security mechanisms including occupational retraining, and the creation of opportunities for social dialogue and equal access to employment.
- The Standing Committee followed upon the matter of psycho-social rehabilitation, and in particular the importance of survivor-to-survivor counselling, which was discussed at the December meeting. The Standing Committee received a presentation on an ICBL Victim Assistance Working Group effort to gather information about relevant activities, issues and concerns in the area. It was reported that the Landmine Survivors Network hosted a half-day meeting of interested parties in Washington, DC, on March 29, 2001.
- States Parties and relevant organizations were asked to share information and experiences and have an open and continuous dialogue on existing peer-support initiatives, program successes and shortcomings, and relevant program documentation. In this context, States Parties and relevant organizations were invited to provide information to the ICBL Victim Assistance Working Group.
Special mention was made at the meeting of the need to place a focus on access-related issues. To this end, all states were urged to consider how barriers to access for persons with disabilities could be addressed.
VII. MINE AWARENESS
- The Standing Committee received an update from international organizations concerning the development of preventive education efforts in mine-affected countries. The Standing Committee received updates on the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining’s study on mine awareness media and messages, a mine awareness seminar organized in Aden by Radda Barnen, and UNICEF and OAS mine awareness activities. States Parties and relevant organizations were encouraged to take into account, inter alia, community participation, effective coordination and the need for sufficient operational support. The importance of the media in Mine Awareness efforts was also emphasized.
- It was suggested that the information contained in the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) data base should take into account the location and characteristics of communities which are at risk and analyse that information in the light of those communities’ environmental, cultural and socio-economic situation.
It was noted that consideration should be given to dedicating more time during Standing Committee meetings to discuss mine awareness. In addition, the point was reiterated that the topic of mine awareness would be more appropriately placed within the Standing Committee on Mine Clearance and Related Technologies.
- With a view to reinforcing the point that the Standing Committees are all about identifying practical means to assist in implementing the Convention, with respect to victim assistance the Co-Chairs encouraged all participants to give consideration to converting the wealth of information, advice and suggestions provided to the Standing Committee into concrete actions.