Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
March 23, 2007

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

Handicap International - France presentation

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The larger impact of a mine accident

A Senegalese lady who lost her jambs in a landmine accident was abandoned by her husband. She could not provide for her eight children as she could not count on the support of her family and did not have an income generating activity.

As a result, she had to send four of her children to an orphanage. The eldest who stayed with her had to drop out from school as she could not pay school fees.

The children who are now in an orphanage and out of school are also victims of that mine. We need to be thinking about mine survivors but also their families and communities - the larger environment.

1. Who are mine victims?

It is widely recognized today that the term "mine victims" include mine/ERW survivors, their families and mine/ERW affected communities. Although our attention should be focused on survivors, there is a need for further attention to indirect victims who also suffer from the consequences of mines.

2. Social and economic inclusion: main references

  • Mine Ban Treaty:
    o Article 6.3: "Each State in a position to do so shall provide assistance for the care and rehabilitation and for the social and economic integration of mine victims?"

  • Nairobi Action Plan:
    o Action 31: Develop capacities to meet the psychological and social support needs of mine victims
    o Action 32: Actively support the socio-economic reintegration of mine victims

  • UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:
    o Article 27 on work and employment
    o Article 28 on adequate standard of living and social protection,
    o Article 30 on participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport

Our main reference is and should always be: victims themselves. We have frequently seen through our field experience that one of victims' top priority is to participate in social life, earn a living and take care of their families. In some cases this is more powerful than mobility per se.

Social participation and economic inclusion are therefore a fundamental and integral part of victim assistance.

3. A comprehensive approach to victim assistance

Social participation and economic inclusion are closely linked to other areas of work. The following schema represents such an approach, and a vision shared by Handicap International:

  • Mine survivors and other persons with disabilities are at the center of this process: to understand the challenge we need to know who and where the victims are, what their requirements and priorities are. We talk about survivors and other persons with disabilities because our work should be inclusive of survivors as much as of persons with disabilities due to other reasons: they have the same rights and similar requirements to those of mine survivors.

  • The next circle represents other victim assistance components: medical care, physical rehabilitation, psychological support, social inclusion and economic inclusion. All these areas are interconnected and equally important.

  • Then we have two other key concepts linked to victim assistance:

    • Accessibility: including non-discrimination, physical accessibility and affordability of services; and
    • Prevention: primary prevention includes mine clearance and mine risk education

  • We then have a larger circle which includes legislation and policy frameworks.

While we work on these various victim assistance components and levels, it's important to keep in mind the following concepts:

  • A rights-based approach, which includes non discrimination and focus on vulnerable groups, empowerment, participation, accountability and express linkage to rights;

  • A tailor-made approach, which responds to the requirements and capacities of each individual;

  • A twin track approach, which ensure victim assistance and disability are included all areas of work, while at the same time supporting specific initiatives if required;

  • A community-based rehabilitation strategy, which means to work at community level with persons with disabilities, governments, NGOs, professionals, and the private sector and aims to ensure persons with disabilities have access to the same opportunities as other;

  • Working through partnerships with local stakeholders as a means for capacity development and sustainability.

4. Why focus on social and economic inclusion?

Social inclusion:

  • To enhance self-esteem and self-fulfillment
  • To prevent and overcome depression and family disintegration
  • To participate in all aspects of community life, diminishing isolation and stigmas

Economic inclusion:

  • To develop or update vocational skills
  • To earn a living and contribute to family support
  • To be recognized as contributing members of the community

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Heard from persons with disabilities in the field?
  • "Since I work, I am called by my name and not by my disability"
  • "Since I work, no decision is taken in the family without consulting me"

This is the kind of change we aim to achieve.

5. The role of international NGOs

From the perspective of Handicap International, the role of international NGOs is not in any case to replace national actors but to work together to develop local capacities and ensure sustainability:

Our role includes:

  1. Capacity development of local stakeholders, so that the gap between State services and requirements at local level can be filled through a community-based approach. Local organizations can implement simple social and economic services that improve life standards for mine victims and other persons with disabilities in the communities where they live.

  2. Creating linkages between organizations of persons with disabilities and mainstream, professional organizations; advocating for other NGOs to be inclusive of persons with disabilities.

  3. Support for the implementation of national strategies and public policies.

6. Social participation

Social work

Social work should be a starting point to facilitate social participation. In places where social work and services are not widely available, projects may include the creation of disability focal points, where:

  • Mine victims can get access to information on disability and human rights;
  • There are spaces available for peer support groups;
  • Mine victims can discuss with locally-trained social workers, who can work with them to develop a personal project, refer them to other services if required, and organize a plan to achieve that personal project.

These centers serve as a first step towards socializing and overcoming psychological trauma.

Another possibility is to create a network of locally-trained social workers, who can identify, reach out and work with persons with disabilities who are otherwise left out of community life. Locally-trained social workers, furthermore, understand the local context and can develop responses adapted to the culture.

Family life

The family is the first social environment for each person. For this reason, it is a crucial factor to ensure social participation.

Family life projects include working at a family's level so that it is ready to receive and include the injured person; and to provide support for her to participate in family life, preventing exclusion. This also includes facilitating a better accessibility of the homes. This may also include peer support groups.

Community activities

Participating in culture, sports and leisure activities is a way of socializing, improving self-esteem, and raising awareness on disability among a community.

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Handicap International has developed sports projects in mine-affected countries such as Mozambique in Senegal: mine victims have become so competitive that some of them have been invited to participate in international competitions around the world.


This includes developing the capacities of associations of mine victims and other persons with disabilities to advocate for the respect of human rights, bringing organizations together to exchange good practices on advocacy, participation in public life and policy making and advocating for inclusion in decision making.

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In Bosnia, Handicap International participates in a regional network of over 250 organizations of persons with disabilities who organize to conduct research on disability, access to services, and to advocate for human rights at a regional level. This program, called SHARE-SEE, has also developed an electronic platform used as a forum for discussion and exchange on disability, at www.share-see.org

7. Economic inclusion

Economic inclusion is a huge challenge as economic opportunities are often limited for most in developing countries, particularly in post-crisis situations.

Main areas of work to achieve the economic inclusion of mine victims:

Skills development

The first step is to discuss with mine victims in order to understand their personal project, past experience, previous training or experience that can built upon? after understanding each person's capacities and requirements it is possible to refer a person to:

  • "Formal" vocational training, in training centers,
  • "Informal" vocation training, if formal training centers do not exist in the person's community or if they are not appropriate for her requirements. Informal vocational training can be achieved, for instance, through apprenticeships at a local level.
  • Training on basic management, business skills and microfinance methodologies may also be necessary and useful particularly for those who aim to start a micro or small enterprise.

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Tailored-made approach to economic inclusion: HI in Angola

In Angola, Handicap International works with local organizations of persons with disabilities, including mine survivors, to facilitate sustainable economic inclusion.

Depending on each person's requirements and the services available at community level, persons with disabilities are referred to formal or informal training. Later, linkages to microcredit are facilitated so that persons with disabilities can start a small business after that training.

Income generating activities, self-employment and linkages to microfinance

Although some have overestimated the power of microfinance, it is true that if it is provided along with other services and a strong follow up it may indeed have a sustainable impact in the lives of persons with disabilities. Furthermore, self-employment is often the main option to earn a living in developing countries.

Supporting people with disabilities to access microfinance includes facilitating linkages to mainstream microfinance providers, training organizations of persons with disabilities on microfinance methodologies and raising awareness among microfinance providers on working with persons with disabilities;

When working on economic inclusion it is fundamental to remember the following key points:

  • Economic inclusion initiatives should be market based to ensure sustainability,

  • Prevent "job typecasting": some projects assume an easy way to achieve economic inclusion is by training mine victims to create handicrafts or initiate other business that are thought "adequate" for people with disabilities. Other than responding the market demand, economic inclusion initiatives should aim to respond to mine victims' expectations. While some may indeed will to be carpenters or tailors, others may aim to be engineers, doctors; lawyers? our goal should also be to ensure they have the same opportunities as others.

Waged employment

Waged employment is also a possibility for mine victims. This can be done through two main pillars:

  • Working with mine victims to ensure they develop the capacities and skills required by the employer,
  • Working with the employer to ensure that the company is accessible, and/or that it develops reasonable accommodations if required.

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In Senegal, Handicap International supports a local enterprise of cashew nuts to employ persons with disabilities. This enterprise has provided reasonable accommodations -for example the installation of ramps for easy physical accessibility to the transformation units.

As a counterpart, Handicap International supports this enterprise in developing and exploring local and international markets. This enterprise is now a provider for various bars and hotels in Senegal and some of its partners have started hiring persons with disabilities as well.

8. Main recommendations for donors

  • Engage in social and economic inclusion programs: they are one of mine victims' top priorities;
  • Work at community level: services and follow up need to be close to those who require them;
  • Think twin track approach: inclusion in mainstream institutions and specific initiatives as required;
  • Stay committed: Changing attitudes and practices takes time!