Mine and Cluster Bomb Survivors Urge Governments to Meet Treaty Obligations
Funding from donor states and from affected states themselves is key to ensuring promises on victim assistance are met. “The question is not only how much money is spent, but how well it is spent. Listening to survivors will help direct money where it is really needed,” said Dejan
My name is Dejan Dikic and I come from Serbia. I am one of many cluster munitions victims throughout the world. Over the last two years I've had the honor and privilege to represent all cluster munitions victims through the Ban Advocates project..
My motivation is to ensure that "victims can live again in dignity". I would like to explain why I think that the NGO's and representatives of victims are necessary for successful implementation of the agreement. With my friends from the Ban Advocates, during more than two years we represented the true face of cluster munitions to the diplomatic community and the world public. The reason for our success are very simple: CM's victims are the only persons in the world
who know the true nature of cluster weapons and the consequences that such weapons produce on people. Military experts and diplomats have largely theoretical knowledge about CM. CM's victims have practical experience with the CM.
In Serbia we say "Whenever you forget where you go, remember why you went there". In other words, don't forget that the victims are at the core of the landmine and cluster munition treaties! The victims do not have time to wait. Some of them were wounded more than 15 years ago. If they do not receive effective assistance now, it will be too late...
To measure the success of the two treaties, i believe that you need to demonstrate that the problem has been resolved for the victims, their families and communities. Each victim of violence, in war or in everyday life, has the same form of suffering - feeling of helplessness, a sense of depending on others and a fear that they will be forgotten. HI last year did a remarkable project called "Voice on the ground". Thousands of victims of wars around the world were given the opportunity to answer honestly to many questions about their present conditions of life and their thinking about the future. The analysis of these responses is actually the only real measure of success of the victim assistance
provisions of the Mine Ban Treaty. Victims' input and answers are essential for future planning of victim assistance under the Convention on CM. I would recommend to anyone who wants to see the success of victim assistance implementation to read the report and responses received from survivors.
I'll take Serbia as an example, because I know the real situation of victims in Serbia. But I understand that in other countries the situation is not better and the problems are the same. First, if we look at the state level, we see that affected states have limited resources to resolve the problems of landmine and cluster munition victims. When you look at the world map of countries that are victims of CM or LM, you see that they are often poorly developed or, in the best case, in the transition period, as is the case with Serbia and other countries of the Western Balkans. Affected countries can generally only cover the most basic needs of victims. Just to enable them to survive. Some states can not even do that.
The second level is a large imbalance of economic potential between disadvantaged regions and developed regions within affected states. If we look at a map of Serbia we see that CM and LM victims were mostly from the least developed, rural regions within Serbia itself. The city where I was born and where I live is called Nis. It is located 250 km south of the capital Belgrade. Per capita Nis is the second city of Serbia. After the war events in the Balkans, from the economically prosperous region of Nis, today Nis is the most underdeveloped region in Serbia. The budget of some
local towns in southern Serbia is 5 times smaller than comparable towns in the north of the country.
The third level is the role of other family members to resolve the most basic questions of survival and living conditions. According to the analysis, the victims depend on their families' help in emotional and financial sense. The monthly income of a family in southern Serbia is still up to 10 times less than the income in the north of Serbia. That's why victim
assistance needs to take place in rural areas also. Do not forget that the situation of victims is often much worse once you leave the capital. This creates a vicious circle of hopelessness: victims - poor families - economically deprived local communities - the country itself devastated by war – a situation that has been even aggravated following the economic crisis.
Another problem with VA is the number of layers between national/international donors on the one hand and victims or their families who support them on the other hand. In other words, cumbersome and inefficient bureaucratic structures of national and local government. When you have a large number of bureaucrats who take their share of the
cake, at the end the victim and her family are only left with crumbs. Considering this, i would like to encourage you to limit layers and to go straight to the vitims whenever possible.
How to solve this problem?
Favor direct contact between national/international donors and victims. Every victim and her family should have direct access to services and should know about her rights. The role of NGOs can be crucial in training the victims and educating them how to approach donors, national or international. In the current era of modern communications
and the Internet it is no longer impossible. In conclusion, I would like to urge you to always include victims in all stages of victim assistance: needs assessment, planning, decision-making, implementation, reporting, as well as monitoring and evaluation. Don't forget that we, the victims of landmines and cluster munitions, are your clients. It is only by working together with us that you shall succeed to implement your victim assistance obligations