Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
March 23, 2007

Mine Action Support Group (MASG) Meeting
Geneva, Switzerland
March 23, 2007

Kirsten Young, Landmine Survivors Network

Presentation on Continuing Mine Action after Clearance is Complete: Survivor Assistance, How do we ensure mine survivors and their families are receiving the care and treatment as well as the job skills to re-enter society?

Thank you for the opportunity, and we are delighted that Victim Assistance is a priority for the MASG.

To respond to the question of this thematic discussion: "How do we ensure mine survivors and their families are receiving the care and assistance as well as the job skills to re-enter society", I would like to discuss three issues:

  1. Our perspective as an NGO implementer, specifically an organization by, of and for survivors;
  2. The recent international standard-setting initiative: the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  3. Conclude with some recommendations for donors.

1. Our perspective as an NGO implementer

I thought I would start off by telling you about a very Hollywood movie I recently saw, a movie that seems to be making headlines. But that is not why I want to tell you about it.

In this movie one main character said to another:

"You Americans love to talk about your feelings don't you?"

I thought this was very funny because it reminded me of a conversation I had with Jerry White the co-founder of LSN shortly after the euphoria of the Mine Ban Treaty adoption had died down when we were discussing implementation. Jerry was explaining to me the concept of peer support. For me, someone from a non-US culture this meant precisely what the main character in the movie was referring to "talking about your feelings." I thought this would be more than a challenge to translate into other cultures and contexts as the LSN co-founders envisioned.

Move the clock forward and LSN now operates in most regions of the world, either through field offices or partnerships. 10 years experience shows us that this model changes survivors lives whether they are from Latin America, Middle East, Africa, Asia or Europe.

Those survivors are represented in the photos you see. What these photos show is the reality of regular people doing regular things. And this is precisely what the LSN programme seeks to do: create an environment where regular people who are survivors get to do regular things. Nothing mysterious, just life.

With peer support as the foundation, LSN programme has three components: Health, Economic Opportunity, and Rights Advocacy. We work with individuals, organizations, and governments to meet this objective.

  1. Health component. The objective of this sector is to improve survivors physical and mental health. You will see from the photos that it might mean showing someone how to wrap their stump, or it might something aimed at more systematic change. For example, with the support of the Swiss governments, LSN has facilitated a process of 35 organisations and agencies reaching a Common Approach to P&O service implementation, both for agencies supporting programmes, and programmers. Two documents reflect this Common Approach, which Claude will talk more about. And subject to funding, we will print these in English and translate and print in Spanish, French, Arabic, Bosnian, and Vietnamese this year.

  2. Economic Opportunity. For individuals, we have two basic objectives: to increase employment of unemployed survivors; and to increase the income of under-employed survivors. Strategies to achieve this include: training, EO support groups, micro and small enterprise development, and job development.

The support groups are interesting as they are peer support in a larger setting, rather than traditional one-to-one. They are mechanisms for information sharing, skill-building, collective training, and peer mentoring.

An example is Ethiopia, supported 10 groups, totaling 380 survivors. One example that one group has undertaken is to provide the equivalent of $2.00 to amputee beggars to start super micro businesses (such as selling chewing gum). These support groups are registering as associations, which builds the sort of confidence one can get by being recognized formally by the government.

These groups also do advocacy. One group is currently lobbying to a building code change to improve accessibility.

  1. Rights-Advocacy is the third component, and in sense runs through the other work. In the time I have I would like to speak about the advocacy work we have done of the Disability Rights Convention.

Disability Rights Convention

As was mentioned in the MASG December newsletter, the Convention opens for signature on 30th March. Most of the MASG countries were consistently active and contributing participants to the final text. And as many of you know, the process was unique for the unprecedented participation of civil society, embodied in the principle of "nothing about us without us".

We have come very far in understanding what Victim Assistance means our work. What the Disability Rights Convention does is both complement that and supplement it. It complements by providing a disability framework for survivor assistance. It supplements by creating a rights framework for survivor assistance.

If we take a quick tour of the Convention, there are many elements that will contribute to survivor assistance, for example, peer support, mobility aids/devices, accessibility, work/employment, comprehensive rehabilitation, inclusion of persons with disabilities in decision-making processes. This is all familiar language, but it is importantly ground in a legal framework and accordingly creates legal obligations.

The Convention also outlines implementation measures and mechanisms. It is the first human right convention to have provisions on national level monitoring and implementation. These include coordination, which is essential for there to be a comprehensive approach to disability, a focal point, so that there is always some who is ultimately responsible for the decisions made, and the follow up of those decisions; and an independent national mechanism, such as a human rights commission, as well as civil society participation. In addition, there is the classic international level monitoring by independent experts, which include experts with disabilities.

Conclusion: Recommendations to Donors

I would like to conclude with some suggestions about what you as donors can do to ensure the inclusion of survivors in society:

  1. Promote comprehensive survivor assistance, make sure it is part of larger disability strategies.

  2. Related to this, seek to ensure that if mine action centres work on victim assistance, then that work is properly coordinated with relevant sectoral ministries. Even better, remove the mandate from mine action centres and place the mandate within a ministry that has the competence to deal with disability, such as a ministry of labour and social affairs.

  3. The Disability Rights Convention sets out implementation strategies. One key one is to ensure that development aid is disability inclusive. This means any funding that you are investing in needs to consider the impact of the project or programme on disability.

    So we know what your money should be spent on. The next suggestion relates to how that "what" could be monitored.

  4. Donors are in the position to undertake a budget analysis of recipient countries. Did the recipient country spend the funds on what they should have been spent on?

  5. Call on your governments and the governments you partner with to be part of the signatory countries on March 30th and ratify the Disability Rights Convention. And hopefully this time next year, we will be discussing what steps have been made to ratify or celebrating numerous ratifications.

Thank you.