HI UPDATE ON VICTIM ASSISTANCE UNDER THE MINE BAN TREATY AND THE CONVENTION ON CLUSTER MUNITIONS

Intersessional Standing Committee meetings on the Mine Ban Treaty, June 2011

On June 23 2011, Margaret Arach Orech, Ambassador to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Member of Uganda's National Council for Disability, Director of the Uganda Landmine Survivor's Association, and a landmine survivor stated on behalf of ICBL that only a handful of countries have begun, or completed, victim surveys or assessments of survivors’ needs in recent years. “Of those assessments carried out under the CAP, only those by Algeria, Angola, Jordan, and Peru have been national, while others have covered more limited geographic areas. Some of these have shared collected data with all relevant stakeholders; others have yet to do so. We call on those countries who have not yet undertaken needs assessments to act, and for those which have done so to disseminate and use the information in program planning.”
She mentioned that “currently, 18 States Parties have coordinating mechanisms for victim assistance” and “some are more active than others.” A lack of accessibility, both physical and social, is one of the greatest challenges for survivors, she stated. The importance of improving accessibility is underscored by actions 31 and 32 of the Cartagena Action Plan. “And yet, too many of my fellow survivors are still unable to access appropriate, high quality services where and when they need them. In some cases, due to security issues or the closure of international programs, the problem has even worsened. We also recognize that there are a few strong programs to decentralize services, train professionals, and improve physical accessibility in some countries.”

Intersessional Standing Committee meetings on the Convention on Cluster Munitions, June 28 2011

The session on victim assistance started with Ban Advocates Thoummy Silamphan and Raed Mokaled calling on states to make real changes in the lives of cluster munitions victims through the implementation of the Vientiane Action Plan.
Thoummy Silamphan from Lao PDR said, “Today we expect to hear from states about coordination efforts for victim assistance, and especially how they ensure that their victim assistance coordination focal point has the authority, expertise, and adequate resources to carry out its task (…) We are also eager to hear states report on Action #20 of the Action Plan, which calls on states to increase capacities to assist cluster munitions victims in 2011 (…) Just as importantly, we need to hear about the steps taken to mobilize those national and international resources, as called for by the Convention.
States have committed to take immediate action to increase availability and accessibility of services under Action #25. This includes immediate action to increase access to services in remote and rural areas and to remove barriers.”
His colleague from Ban Advocate from Lebanon, Raed Mokaled, continued, “In so many affected countries, emergency medical care, physical rehabilitation services, and economic inclusion programs remain out of reach for many survivors, their families, and members of affected communities. In particular, peer support, an effective type of psychosocial support, is rare to non-existent (…).”
Austria, as a friend of the President on Victim Assistance, concluded the session with a brainstorming session on holistic and integrative victim assistance, and made a strong call for victim assistance to make a real difference in affected communities.
Psychological and Psychosocial support for victims of mines and cluster munitions

Reporting on psychological and psychosocial support

In the article 7 report on the MBT submitted in June 2011, Albania reported that “Psychosocial sessions with children at the Community Friendly space and regular recreation/cultural activities were organized on regular basis”.

In the article 7 report on the MBT, reporting on 2010, Bosnia and Herzegovina, mention as part of the NGO activities “continuous use of work methodology and support to “peer to peer” aiming to recover and reintegrate mine survivors. It also implemented a pilot project of collective “peer to peer” support for 150 amputees, of which 30% were women. Group meetings have dealt with various themes of recovery, like trauma, with specific focus on the proper care and rehabilitation after amputation and psychological empowerment of survivors.” The article 7 report on the CCM doesn’t mention any details on psychosocial projects.

In the article 7 report on the MBT, reporting on 2010, Canada stated under section 2 “Rehabilitation” that it “may also include psychological interventions attached to the medical system”. Under section 3, Social Reintegration, it mentions that it “includes psychological support to landmine survivors and/or their families, support to associations of people with disabilities, peer ground, peer counseling, (…) and the training of relevant personnel such as social workers, therapists, and peer counselors to provide these services.”

Croatia, in the article 7 report on the MBT submitted on April 10 2011, reported that the Mine Aid Association conducted a project called “Psychological support and strengthening of civil victims of war – mine victims,” which included 32 direct beneficiaries and 63 family members. The project included four training sessions for users and a seminar on “Promoting the rights of victims of mines and coordination of social services and activities.” There was also a workshop on (…) “Expanding the network of psychosocial and economic support”. In the article 7 report on the CCM, submitted on January 24 2011, Croatia doesn’t mention any activities regarded as psychological or psychosocial support.

According to the article 7 Report on the CCM by Lebanon, the national plan includes a psychological aspect, defined as “Empowering landmine survivors & building their capabilities to reintegrate them into the society”.

Psychological and psychosocial support in statements during the sessions on Victim Assistance at the Intersessional Standing Committee meetings on the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, June 2011, Geneva

Burundi stated, during the session on Victim Assistance under the MBT, that there are just a few stakeholders in terms of psychosocial support in Burundi and that there is only one psychiatric center in Bujumbura and it has limited capacity.

During the victim assistance session on the CCM on June 28, Croatia admitted, “Problems (…) arise in programs of psychological and social rehabilitation of the victims and their employment” and said for instance that “Centers for Psychosocial Assistance in 20 counties are often understaffed and under-financed or without enforceable programs for adequate/timely service to (potential) beneficiaries (they should be more proactive in their work because often the victim/survivor is the one who comes first to them asking for help).”

Colombia stated at the victim assistance session under the MBT that the new “Victims and Land Restitution Law 1448” proposes “a significant step forward in terms of psychosocial support”: “The international community and Colombia have defined it as one of the most principal challenges in the field of integral victim assistance to effectively guarantee psychosocial support in a transversal way in all stages of rehabilitation and socioeconomic reintegration. Therefore the Law includes the creation of a “Program of Psychosocial Support and Integral Health of Victims”.”

During the Victim Assistance session on the MBT, Tajikistan mentioned cooperation with Afghanistan on psychosocial support. Tajikistan stated that “six experts from Tajikistan attended the first inter-country conference on psychosocial rehabilitation in Kabul, Afghanistan on December 14-15 last year.” The Tajik Mine Action Center planned “to continue Tajik-Afghan cooperation in the area of psychosocial support.” Tajikistan will organize the second inter-country psychosocial conference in October 2011 in Tajikistan, covering both “psychosocial rehabilitation and peer support.”

Afghanistan stated during the experimental session on Victim Assistance on June 22 that the Afghan National Mental Health Strategy of 2010-2013 “is aimed at strengthening psychological and psychiatric supports for persons with mental health issues at the clinical and community levels. The strategy recognizes that not all mental health issues need clinical interventions but that community-based mental health as well as peer supports and psychosocial interventions need to be built.”

During this session, Uganda reported on the development of a comprehensive plan for victim assistance 2010-2014, which aims at achieving “60% access to appropriate psychological support services” to identified survivors and other persons with disabilities.
Side event on “Psychosocial support: experiences drawn from working with the Ban Advocates”, June 28 2011, Geneva

On June 28, Handicap International (HI) organized a side event on “Psychosocial support: experiences drawn from working with the Ban Advocates” during the Intersessional Standing Committee meetings in Geneva. The side event was attended by around 50 participants from governments and civil society. The event was based on the experience of Handicap International in providing the Ban Advocates, survivors from cluster munitions, with psychological support over the years, including a workshop in Vientiane, Laos, in November. The aim of the event was to share lessons learned to develop psychological and psychosocial support projects with cluster munitions victims and to raise awareness on the crucial need to respect the Victim Assistance provisions, especially on psychological and psychosocial support.
Norbert Häberlin, psychosocial worker, who provided several training sessions to the Ban Advocates on psycho-traumatology and counseling individually, gave an overview of psychological stress factors experienced by cluster munitions victims. Firoz Alizada, ICBL Campaign Manager as well as the Ban Advocates Sladjan and Dusica Vuckovic from Serbia, Thoummy Silamphan from Lao PDR and Lynn Bradach from the United States shared their experiences on the need for psychological and/or peer support and the impact of psychological support. Their presentations were followed by an exchange of comments.

Some lessons learned and recommendations presented during this side event for developing further psychosocial projects were

1. Create a platform for discussion amongst victims to share their common feelings and experiences after the accident, as well as their communities’ perception towards them; 2. These sessions should be ideally lead by a professional trained in psycho-traumatology, in order to find ways to improve the daily lives of victims; 3. These sessions should result in an increase in both consciousness and self-esteem of the victims, in turn bringing positive impacts to their behavior and perception of themselves and their future; and 4. Following the sessions on psycho-traumatology, the victims could explore ways of creating further structures for long term support tailored to their needs: peer to peer and peer group support (the supporter should be selected and trained by a professional); individual counseling sessions or couple or family counseling sessions.

For statements made during the Intersessional Standing Committee meetings on the Mine Ban Treaty
For statements made during the Intersessional Standing Committee meetings on the Convention on Cluster Munitions
For more information on ICBL and Victim Assistance
For more information on CMC and Victim Assistance
For more information on the Ban Advocates