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Delivering on the promises to victims of mines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war


Priorities for implementation of victim assistance commitments in the context of the Mine Ban Convention, the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War, recommendations from an expert meeting hosted by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Norwegian Red Cross, Oslo, 23-25 June 2009



Ten years after entry into force of the Mine Ban Convention, the work on victim assistance under the treaty has come a long way. States Parties now have a clearer understanding of what it means to implement their victim assistance obligations, and national objectives and strategies are being developed for this purpose. However, achieving a measurable improvement in the lives of most survivors remains an elusive goal for the majority of affected countries. With victim assistance having been identified as a key theme for the Second Review Conference at the end of 2009, expectations are growing as to what can be achieved in the next five-year period.

The objective of this meeting was to consolidate views on the experience of pursuing victim assistance for 10 years within the Mine Ban Convention, to identify priorities for the next stage of implementation beyond the Second Review Conference, and to inform related victim assistance efforts that are just getting started on cluster munitions and explosive remnants of war. It also addressed on-going efforts in the area of disability, in particular related to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which are likely to supplement and influence efforts to address the needs and rights of weapons victims in the years ahead.

The meeting brought together practitioners, survivors and other experts involved in ensuring the delivery of victim assistance activities in countries affected by these weapons. Individuals responsible for the implementation of victim assistance obligations under the above-mentioned treaties and disability experts also participated as resource persons and observers.

Participants at the meeting produced a set of recommendations for States and supporting organizations on how to improve future implementation of victim assistance obligations under the AP Mine Ban Convention, as well as under the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War. These included proposals for advancing a coherent approach to the implementation of victim assistance among these three instruments, as well as with broader disability-related efforts.

Participants believe that implementation of the recommendations below will lead to a substantial and measurable improvement in the lives of survivors of these weapons, their families and communities in the years ahead. We commend them to States and other relevant actors as a basis for future work in this field.

Theme 1A - Advancing synergies: Victim assistance in different weapons treaties 
There is a significant potential for synergies in the implementation of victim assistance for weapons victims under different international instruments, both at the national and international level.

The objective of promoting synergies is to maximize the impact of victim assistance efforts beyond what can be achieved under each treaty – i.e. ensure that the “outcome is greater than the sum of each part”; those synergies can be obtained through reinforced coordination between relevant actors at all levels, and are to benefit each of the relevant instrume nts.

In all efforts, a key aim of pursuing synergies is to maximize the efforts of those involved in national implementation such as practitioners and survivors, facilitate their work regarding reporting and optimize their engagement in treaty meetings.

In affected countries synergies can be created by reinforced coordination, including in the following fields of activity:

  • implementation processes and structures, such as focal points, coordination mechanisms, national plans and policies;

  • data collection;

  • reporting, monitoring and evaluation of implementation;

  • resource mobilization;

  • capacity building and advocacy for the rights of weapons survivors as well as persons with disabilities

 Donor countries can promote synergies by developing   a comprehensive approach to international cooperation and assistance, which supports and promotes activities that address the needs and rights of all weapon victims and all persons with disabilities.

At the international level reinforced coordination between the respective implementation actors and structures can lead to synergies with benefits including:

  • cross fertilization (tools and resources developed under one treaty can be used and, if necessary, adapted as appropriate by others);

  • harmonized reporting (e.g. dates for reporting, time coverage, content), leading to improved quality and rate of reporting under the different treaties; 

  • maximization of participation in (e.g. sponsorship) and substance and timing of meetings;

  • facilitation of capacity-building and information-sharing among Co-Chairs, Coordinators and other representative of States with victim assistance responsibilities under the different weapons treaties;

  • expansion of the range of countries which can be sensitized and encouraged to take responsibility for victim assistance work as a common goal regardless of the differences in specific treaty obligations;

  • promotion of coherence and the importance of upholding the same standards in future instruments related to weapons. 


Theme 1B - Advancing Synergies: Assistance to survivors within the broader disability framework 
Victim assistance programs should be developed and implemented within the broader context of disability. Laws, policies and programmes, including in the areas of health, employment, education and social services, should address the needs and rights of all persons with injuries or disabilities. Ways in which this can be promoted include:

Victim assistance plans and programmes should be developed and implemented in line with applicable international and national human rights frameworks, in particular the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities reinforces elements and principles of victim assistance under weapons conventions and offers several opportunities for synergies, which should be pursued. In particular:

  • Participation of survivors and practitioners in the various implem entation processes;

  • Establishment or designation of common national implementation structures, institutions or frameworks as applicable, to oversee implementation of obligations under the CRPD and the victim assistance obligations under the weapon treaties, such as national focal points, coordination mechanisms, plans etc.

  • Monitoring of implementation of victim assistance commitments under weapon treaties through reporting and monitoring mechanisms established under the human rights treaties to which States are Parties, in particular the CRPD (including the Committee on Rights of Persons with Disabilities)

  • Use (and adaptation, as appropriate) of tools and resources developed in the context of the different treaties;

  • Appropriate links being made between the CRPD and victim assistance obligations under weapons treaties during formal and informal meetings, such as annual conferences of States Parties and intersessional work.

Communication is essential to building synergies. This includes communication among those working on disability and victim assistance issues within governments (including development agencies), civil society and international organizations. Those responsible for victim assistance under weapon treaties and for CRPD implementation need to develop a common language and culture or, at least, understand the language and culture of the other legal regimes. This could be promoted by the establishment of an informal Steering Committee of people responsible for coordinating the implementation efforts within the different regimes.

The first “World Report on Disability and Rehabilitation”, expected to be published in 2010 by the WHO and the World Bank, will provide a wealth of information and analysis in this field and recommendations for moving forward in an evidence-based framework. All actors should consider using this report’s insights for planning policies and programmes on be half of persons with disabilities, including those who are victims of weapons.

Theme 2A - Victim Assistance: Developing and implementing national plans. 
All affected countries should have in place specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound objectives and action plans to meet the needs and rights of victims and of persons with disabilities.

To be effective, sustainable and to increase national ownership , the objectives and the plan of action to achieve these objectives should:

  • be defined through a broad consultative process, involving all relevant actors, to ensure that all needs and views are taken into account and that the strategy is adapted to the local context. This is a time-consuming process, involving national, regional and local actors but is indispensable to the achievement of effective and sustainable results;

  • be inclusive and non-discriminatory, addressing the needs and rights of all weapons victims, including the families of those injured or killed, and persons with disabilities;

  • take into account and build upon existing national plans in relevant areas, such as health, education, employment, development, poverty reduction and human rights;

  • address the need to develop the capacity of all actors, including national authorities and disabled persons organizations (DPOs), at the decision-making level and at the implementing level;

  • be adequately funded from national and international sources;

  • be disseminated to all relevant actors to ensure implementation;

  • be monitored on an on-going basis and evaluated regularly;

  • be updated as needed.

Theme 2B - Integration of victim assistance into national development frameworks 
Affected countries, donor countries and donor agencies should include victim assistance and disability in development and poverty reduction strategies in order to mobilize the necessary resources, promote sustainability and help ensure that this issue is given adequate priority at the national and local level. The full and effective inclusion of persons with disabilities in society will not only benefit them, but will contribute to more sustainable development for all.

The integration of victim assistance and disability into national development strategies at all relevant levels could be strengthened by:

  • Adopting a twin-track approach—i.e. combining mainstreamed strategies that consider disability as a crosscutting issue in all aspects of programming with specific interventions for victims and persons with disabilities—as a methodology to enhance inclusion, coherence, effectiveness and sustainability.

  • Simultaneously working to empower individuals, raising awareness and providing training for all stakeholders in order to change practices;

  • Supporting people with disabilities to become advocates and leaders for change;

  • Developing common language and concepts by which stakeholders in the areas of victim assistance and disability can engage in development processes;

  • Actively consulting and involving victims, persons with disabilities and their organizations in the planning, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development policies and programmes, including in processes related to Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and the Millennium Development Goals;

  • Recognizing diversity, including that the experiences of persons with disabiliti es are diverse and approaches must be adapted to the context to be effective;

  • Making sure that policies and programmes are gender and age-sensitive and that the particular challenges and risks faced by groups suffering multiple forms of discrimination are considered;

  • Supporting measures that promote economic self-reliance, such as education, employment and accessible infrastructure;

  • Strengthening the knowledge base, as well as access to and effective use of, existing knowledge, to inform policies and programmes;

  • Ensuring that all efforts are guided by the principle of national ownership—national ownership and donor involvement are both prerequisites for successful planning and implementation;

  • Learning from on-going efforts to develop disability-inclusive aid policies and strategies and fostering partnerships in this area. 

Theme 3 - Community-based Strategies in the Area of Victim Assistance and Disability 
Most victims and persons with disabilities live in areas with limited access to public rehabilitation services. Victim assistance can be made more effective and sustainable by mobilizing and engaging capacities and resources available in local communities, including survivors themselves, families, community workers, volunteers, local organizations and authorities. In particular:
  • Assistance for victims could benefit by being pursued within the framework of community-based rehabilitation (CBR). CBR is a strategy within community development for rehabilitation, equalisation of opportunities, poverty reduction and social inclusion of all children and adults with disabilities, which involves persons with disabilities, facilities, communities and relevant services;

  • Strategies should be based on and linked to existing local, regional and global CBR initiatives and networks where they exist, rather than establishing parallel systems and structures; 

  • Community-based rehabilitation can benefit victims and their families in various ways, including by providing a framework for long-term psycho-social support (e.g. peer-counseling), economic inclusion (e.g. through education and skill development) and social participation. It can also provide links with local disability groups or DPOs; 

  • Community-based rehabilitation programs aim at empowering persons with disabilities—including victims of weapons—their families, organizations and communities. Involvement of family in the rehabilitation process is essential. CBR can help provide a status for victims and persons with disabilities and help reduce stigma;

  • To ensure sustainability, CBR requires strong political and financial support from national and local authorities;

  • While CBR can provide added value it must be accompanied by specialized services;

  • To be appropriate and effective, victim assistance and disability strategies, including CBR, must be adapted to the local cultural context.

Theme 4 - Victim Assistance: Identifying the needs 
Knowledge about the current situation is needed to understand the extent of the victim assistance challenge, to develop appropriate and adequate responses and to identify the resources required to implement these. This information is also critical in establishing a baseline for monitoring and evaluating progress made in implementation and the effectiveness of interventions. Victims, persons with disabilities and their organizations should participate in these processes.

To ensure a comprehensive understanding of the si tuation of victims and persons with disabilities, data collection efforts should seek to identify and analyse their needs, priorities and capacities; as well as the availability and quality of relevant services and programmes, strategies, policies and laws. Data on cost-effectiveness is useful to demonstrate impact/effectiveness and increase political support.

The process of collecting, managing and using data   can be strengthened by:

  • Making better use of, sharing and disseminating already existing data;

  • Integrating relevant questions (health condition/impairment, activities/participation and restrictions in environment) on victims and disability into existing data sources, e.g. emergency and hospital records, injury surveillance, country surveys on disability and health, national census;

  • Ensuring that collection of data on victims contribute to existing health information systems or contribute to developing such systems ;

  • Ensuring a common conceptualization of disability for all data collection, such as provided by the ICF (International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health), which captures both health and contextual (personal and environmental) factors;

  • Using existing standard tools that are compatible with the ICF—such as the WHODAS II and the questions for national censuses from the Washington Group on Disability Statistics—or using such tools as a basis. Tools should have been tested for validity and reliability, including cross-cultural applicability;

  • Paying close attention to methodological concerns when designing and using surveys, such as problems of sampling (e.g. incomplete or unrepresentative selection of respondents), bias (e.g. loaded questions or deliberate/unintentional distortion by the respondent) and interpretation (e.g. ensuring that conclusions are grounded in t he data). 

  • Including an ethical component (e.g. where appropriate to respect confidentiality and right to privacy) as part of the methodology and explaining this to the individual;

  • Ensuring that information collected is useful and intended to be used to inform policy and practice, avoid collecting superfluous information and unduly raising expectations among victims and persons with disabilities; 

  • Increasing efforts to collect data on victims and persons with disabilities not normally reached through data collection efforts, for example because they live in remote areas;

  • Sharing and disseminating information among all relevant organizations and actors in an accessible format;

  • Ensuring coordination, cooperation and information-sharing among relevant government agencies, national and international organizations and others actors ;

  • Providing adequate resources for data collection at both national and international levels;

  • Increasing human and technical capacities, including better training of those involved in data collection and analysis. 

Theme 5 - Victim Assistance: Monitoring progress and evaluating impact  
Affected countries should monitor the implementation of their victim assistance objectives and plans on an on-going basis. Based on the results of monitoring, all affected countries should be strongly encouraged to report on their progress in meeting the needs and rights of victims within the framework of the treaties to which they are party. Monitoring and reporting should be an empowering process for affected countries, providing crucial information for improving and adapting future efforts. Donor countries and agencies should, in turn, report on their own activities and strategies to support victim assistance.

Monitoring and reporting can be enhanced by:

  • Establishing a centralized data collection-, reporting- and monitoring body, which includes representatives with relevant responsibilities and expertise from the authorities, from civil society and from other relevant actors;

  • Promoting and improving independent reporting on and monitoring of States'implementation;

  • Including victims and persons with disabilities, including their organizations, in monitoring and reporting efforts; 

  • Establishing baselines, methods for measurement, and clear objectives against which progress will be determined and reported;

  • Allocating sufficient financial, human and technical resources, through national and international mechanisms, to ensure adequate monitoring and reporting systems and procedures;

  • Utilising existing monitoring- and reporting tools, including those developed in the framework of human rights instruments, in particular the CRPD, and other weapons treaties.

National plans, strategies, programmes and services for victims and persons with disabilities should be regularly evaluated and the results used to design, improve and adapt future efforts. Evaluation should be viewed as a learning and reflection process to help assess and strengthen effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability in a participatory manner.

Evaluation can be strengthened by:

  • Establishing clear and measurable objectives, indicators, baselines and targets against which results can be measured;

  • Evaluating against the objectives where no baseline data is available; 

  • Ensuring that the different dimensions of an intervention—e.g. process, outputs and impact—are evaluated;

  • Combining quantitative and qualitative information and research methods to measure the results, impact and value o f activities; 

  • Utilizing relevant existing tools, such as the WHO Quality of Life (WHOQOL) questionnaires.to evaluate impact; 

  • Building capacities and ensuring inclusion of victims and persons with disabilities, including their organizations, in evaluations;

  • Ensuring that the results are used to inform future policies and activities; 

  • Conducting evaluations and interpreting the results with careful consideration of methodological challenges and limitations, such as other factors that may have affected the outcomes and impact, short-term vs. long-term impact, and sample bias.