The Future of Survivor Assistance, Again.

In just under five weeks governments, civil society and landmine survivors will gather in Maputo, Mozambique for the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty.  During the Conference, the attendees will review progress in landmine action since the last review conference in 2009 in Cartagena, Colombia and lay out the plan for the next five years.  In the third of four weekly posts, I discuss some of the issues I would like to see addressed in Maputo and beyond.


The survivor assistance obligation is one of the revolutionary elements of the Mine Ban Treaty and has set a global standard for inclusion of survivor assistance provisions in all succeeding disarmament treaties (the Cluster Munitions Convention, the Arms Trade Treaty and Protocol V to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons).  It is also the most complicated facet of mine action and the one that will endure long after the last mine is cleared from the ground.

In conversations with US government officials, I have heard what amounts to a “rising tide lifts all ships” argument about how development assistance focused on poverty alleviation and health sector reform addresses the needs of landmine survivors.  That is simply wrong.  Mozambique has had years of impressive GDP growth and made astonishing reductions in mortality and morbidity due to preventable causes, but landmine survivors will say that they have not benefited from those national-level improvements.  Measuring progress by GDP growth and mortality and morbidity rates misses out on the needs of the individuals and specific groups (I think it is important to note that many marginalized groups have been excluded from economic and health gains, witness China where hundreds of millions of people have been lifted into a “middle class” but millions remain desperately poor).  To address the needs of landmine survivors, especially in countries where landmine clearance is complete or nearly complete, programs need to target survivors and be outcome-driven.  Unfortunately, these facts have been known and recognized for many years. At the First Review Conference, 2004’s Nairobi Summit for a Mine-Free World, the States Parties recognized that:

[Survivor assistance] does require that a certain priority be accorded to health and rehabilitation systems in areas where landmine victims are prevalent…

Assistance to landmine victims should be viewed as a part of a country’s overall public health and social services systems and human rights frameworks. However, within those general systems, deliberate care must be taken to ensure that landmine victims and other persons with disability receive the same opportunities in life — for health care, social services, a life-sustaining income, education and participation in the community — as every other sector of a society. Health and social services must be open to all sectors of society, including landmine victims and other persons with disabilities. (AP Mine Ban Convention).

And to ensure that survivors receive the assistance they need, “The States Parties have come to recognize the value and necessity of accurate and up-to-date date on the number of new landmine casualties, the total number of survivors and their specific needs, and the extent / lack of and quality of services that exist to address their needs in order to use limited resources most effectively.”

At the Second Review Conference to the Mine Ban Treaty, the 2009 Cartagena Summit for a Mine-Free World, the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty agreed that,

Victim assistance should be integrated into broader national policies, plans and legal frameworks related to disability, health, education, employment, development and poverty reduction, while placing particular emphasis on ensuring that mine victims have access to specialised services when needed and can access on an equal basis services available to the wider population.

And pledged to:

Collect all necessary data, disaggregated by sex and age, in order to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate adequate national policies, plans and legal frameworks including by assessing the needs and priorities of mine victims and the availability and quality of relevant services, make such data available to all relevant stakeholders and ensure that such efforts contribute to national injury surveillance and other relevant data collection systems for use in programme planning (AP Mine Ban Convention).

In preparation for the Third Review Conference, Colombia’s Vice President hosted the “Bridges Between Worlds” conference in April 2014 to highlight the linkages between disability-inclusive development and survivor assistance.  In the Summary report from that conference (AP Mine Ban Convention), the Chairperson called for:

All humanitarian and development efforts, and assistance for these efforts, should be inclusive of, and accessible to, persons with disabilities, including mine and other explosive remnants of war survivors. This means a twin-track approach of integrating disability into development programmes, supporting disability-specific programmes to address targeted needs, and promoting and enabling the active participation and contributions by persons with disabilities in these efforts.

And in my report on victim assistance in Mozambique published last year, I wrote specifically about the data problems that face landmine survivor assistance programming and called on the participants of the Third Review Conference to leverage the “data revolution” proposed by the Post-2015 development agenda:

The delegates to the Review Conference can take the opportunity to describe how survivor assistance specifically and mine action more broadly will support [the Post-2015 development] framework and craft the Maputo Action Plan to align with the framework. An aligned action plan would focus on the outcomes of survivor assistance, namely the escape from poverty and inclusion in society, and the mine action community can assume a monitoring and advising role on the inputs necessary to achieve those outcomes. The sea-change will be the shift from focusing solely on those inputs however, and tracking the outcomes. The mine action community can, through existing and emerging monitoring systems, also track outcomes for survivors and persons with disabilities. In order to track those outcomes however, a comprehensive baseline is needed: who are the survivors and persons with disabilities and what is their current economic position? The mine action community has recognized the need for a comprehensive baseline and the data revolution proposed under the Post-2015 framework creates the opportunity to push states to develop that baseline.

So really when we talk about the future of victim assistance at the Third Review Conference, what we are doing is fulfilling the promise made a decade ago in Nairobi and re-affirmed five years ago in Cartagena: that survivor assistance is part of a broader development program with targeted interventions for landmine survivors and other persons with disability and that these interventions will be tracked with accurate data and monitoring systems. If in 2019 we are still talking about the twin-track interventions and the importance of data, we will have missed an important opportunity to fulfill the pledge made to survivors in 1997.  Again.  The States Parties in Maputo must act on survivor assistance and not merely re-hash past pledges which have already been re-hashed.

Michael P. Moore

May 20, 2014

One Comment on “The Future of Survivor Assistance, Again.”

  1. Amelie Chayer says:

    Absolutely! And in addition to tracking “targeted interventions” with accurate data and monitoring systems, states should also track how landmine survivors and other persons with disabilities benefit from broader interventions such as poverty-reduction schemes and improvements to the health sector. Thanks Michael!

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