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Victim Assistance

Victim assistance is a core component of mine action and an obligation of States Parties under the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty. Article Six of the Treaty states that "Each State Party in a position to do so shall provide assistance for the care and rehabilitation, and social and economic reintegration, of mine victims and for mine awareness programs." Protocol V on explosive remnants of war contains a similar provision in its Article 8. Victim assistance is a set of concrete actions to meet the immediate and long-term needs of mine/ERW victims, their families, mine-affected communities and persons with disabilities. Victim assistance includes, but is not limited to, information management systems; emergency and continuing medical care; physical rehabilitation; psychosocial support and social inclusion; economic reintegration; and laws and public policies that promote effective treatment, care and protection for all disabled citizens, including landmine victims, with a human rights perspective.

Building on the experience gained in this area since the entry into force of the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty the negotiators of the Convention on Cluster Munitions agreed on a specific article on victim assistance (Article 5), which contains a number of obligations for States Parties with respect to cluster munition victims in areas under its juridiction and control. The Convention on Cluster Munitions also provides the following definition of cluster munition victims: " (...) all persons who have been killed or suffered physical or psychological injury, economic loss, social marginalisation or substantial impairment of the realisation of their rights caused by the use of cluster munitions. They include those persons directly impacted by cluster munitions as well as their affected families and communities."

Hundreds of thousands of mine and explosive remnants of war survivors exist in over 70 countries. According to the 2008 Landmine Monitor Report, there are up to 60,000 survivors in Afghanistan alone and over 45,000 in Cambodia. In 2007, the Landmine Monitor identified nearly 4,000 new injuries around the world by mines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices. While the actual figure is unknown, it may well be far greater, since many victims of mine accidents never reach a health centre and are therefore not registered.

Within the UN system, the United Nation Mine Action Service works closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other UN entities, in particular UNICEF, that also support victim assistance activities. They all work closely with partner organisations outside the United Nations system, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, Survivor Corps, World Rehabilitation Fund (WRF), Handicap International Belgium and Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF).

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Disabilities as a Human Rights Issue

This toolkit (PDF) is designed to support efforts to advocate for the ratification and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its Optional Protocol. It was developed by UNMAS with the assistance of OHCHR, UNHCR, UNICEF and other United Nations Mine Action Team (UNMAT) Members in coordination with Survivor Corps.

It will familiarise field practitioners with the content of the Convention, and guide efforts to encourage ratification and to contribute to implementation and monitoring. In particular the toolkit aims to:

  • Engage national authorities and civil society to promote ratification and implementation of the Convention.
  • Ensure that victim assistance policies or programmes are in conformity with the provisions of the Convention.
  • Ensure that the field office is accessible to persons with disabilities, and seek to make public information distributed by the mine action centre accessible to persons with disabilities.
  • Make casualty data and information about services available to persons with disabilities available to those responsible for the monitoring and reporting on compliance with the provisions of the Convention, including civil society organisations.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities opened for signature on 30 March 2007 and entered into force on 3 May 2008. It is the culmination of five years of negotiations to achieve global recognition of disability as a human rights issue. The Convention is a paradigm-shift in the treatment of persons with disabilities since it moves from a medical or charity perspective to a rights-based approach, ensuring that persons with disabilities have access and can participate in decisions that affect their lives and to seek redress for violations of their rights. As of May 2010, 85 states have ratified the Convention and 52 States have ratified its Optional Protocol. An update on ratification status is available here.

States Parties to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention and Protocol V of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons are obliged to provide assistance to the survivors of landmines and explosive remnants of war. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provides a framework to address the needs of survivors and to ensure the full realization of their human rights and respect for their inherent dignity. The recently adopted Cluster Munitions Treaty also requires future States Parties to provide victim assistance, in accordance with applicable international humanitarian and human rights law and, in this regard, refers specifically to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Download the toolkit (PDF) in English, Arabic, Spanish, and French.

The Victim Assistance Policy

The United Nations has issued an expanded policy on the scope of mine action in victim assistance. This policy, which draws on the expertise of UN agencies and programmes, NGOs, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, managers of mine-action programmes, mine-action experts and donor countries, calls for the involvement of mine action centres and organizations in victim assistance, especially in the areas of data collection, advocacy, planning and coordination, community relations and support to service delivery. Download the policy.