Is victim assistance as a legal obligation really a priority for States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions? Is it a priority for the affected countries and regions themselves or do they have other priorities? Or are they confronted by the apparent immensity of the task as their efforts should be non–discriminatory….? Is it really a priority for donor states and the European Commission who are willing to support victim assistance? Do donor states report on all activities considered consistent to “assisting the victims”, even if they aren’t captured in any assessment of “mine action” funding?
At the Second Meeting of States Parties in Beirut (Lebanon), 82 states made a general statement; CMC and 13 states, including 8 affected countries, delivered statements on victim assistance. Handicap International calls on all States Parties, whether they are affected or supporting in one way or another, to speak up on victim assistance and to increase their support to address the daily needs of the victims.
Victim assistance efforts should improve the quality of life of victims. Affected states have to come up with measurable and comprehensive progress since the meeting in Beirut. In addition to reporting on the quantity of services, such as prosthetic legs or wheelchairs, that have been made available, states should also report on real changes in quality of life. Let the reporting be short and sharp. Concrete results as well as inevitable gaps and potential solutions have to be shared in order to make real progress happen in the future. Respecting the victims includes also giving them a realistic image of what has been done, what has not and what should be.
It is extremely important that affected states themselves seek for a clear view of what the real needs of the victims are. To conduct a “Ensure victim assistance is tailored to the victim’s needs” needs assessment for planning and programming is a key step for an efficient approach to victim assistance projects. Donor states and non governmental organizations can support the affected communities by investing in needs assessments. A project should be in line with the needs of the victims and take into account their priorities.
A recent study by Handicap International entitled, ‘Victim Assistance in Cambodia. The Human Face of Survivors and their Needs for Assistance’, has shown, through the example of Cambodia, that there is a lack of accurate information on the needs of the victims. It concluded that “the outreach of victim assistance has increased extensively and all respondents had received some sort of support” but “none of them were cohesive or came together to complement all areas of victim assistance.” Within this construction, “social and psychological assistance was evidently missing.” Sometimes services were provided, depending on what could be offered and “not what the victims needed.” The study recommended to “enable quality data collection to be carried out beyond numerical surveys going hand-in-hand with understanding individual needs and conditions” and to “ensure assistance is tailored to the victim’s needs.”
Handicap International also encourages all affected countries to define their needs regarding victim assistance in a clear, concrete and measurable manner through the article 7 report on the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which should be submitted by 30 April.
More donor states could engage in the discussion on victim assistance and express their vision on it in a session fully dedicated to the victims and their needs, although they provide information on funding in the framework of international cooperation and assistance. Continued funding and an increased budget for victim assistance are needed along with more efficiency and better coordination.
Implementing the Convention on Cluster Munitions also means: let the victims themselves speak out on what really matters. Let them raise their voice at the relevant meetings and with a clear mandate. The participation of victims and their organizations should be meaningful. Their voice should be heard at a decision making level from planning to monitoring victim assistance programs. A victim as government focal point can make a difference. The international community and States Parties should invest in the participation of survivors or family members of those killed by cluster munitions in their official delegations in international and regional meetings as well as in inter-ministerial multi-stakeholder coordination mechanisms on victim assistance. Therefore Handicap International calls on delegations of affected countries to include a victim within the official delegation for the next intersessional meetings in Geneva and the Third Meeting of States Parties in Oslo.
During the session on victim assistance at the Second Meeting of States Parties in Beirut Aynalem Zenebe, Ban Advocate, survivor of cluster munitions and representative of cluster munition victims in her town Mekele in Ethiopia, asked on behalf of CMC to prioritize victim assistance. I reiterate her words: “Find out what your country needs and ask for it. If you are from a state able to give funding, put people first” and “include cluster munition victims and all survivors in this work! We know what we need and we have experience to share. Listen and use of our experience; it is our right, your promise, and the only way forward.”
The research 'Victim Assistance in Cambodia. The Human Face of Survivors and their Needs for Assistance' and the HI Update on Cluster Munition Victim Needs and the Convention on Cluster Munitions can be found here.
Is an international organisation specialised in the field of disability. Nongovernmental, non-religious, non-political and non-profit making, it works alongside people with disabilities, whatever the context, offering them assistance and supporting them in their efforts to become self-reliant. Since its creation, the organisation has set up programmes in approximately 60 countries and intervened in many emergency situations. It has eight national associations (Belgium, Canada, France,Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States) which provide human and financial resources, manage projects and raise awareness of Handicap International’s actions and campaigns.
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