Connecting the Dots: The Ottawa Convention and the CCM

by Kenneth Rutherford [ Survivor Corps and Missouri State University ], Nerina Čevra and Tracey Begley [ Survivor Corps ]

States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions1 have refined the victim-assistance concepts found in the Ottawa Convention2 by defining victim assistance and clarifying VA obligations in the CCM. As the authors note, States Parties recognize that change can only be created through the people who implement it.

The Ottawa Conventionin 1997 was the first weapons-control agreement to include provisions for victim assistance. It also proved to be a major advocacy tool to help develop and promote disability rights until the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities3 entered into force in May 2008. The Ottawa Convention set a precedent for disarmament treaties by articulating for the first time an international standard for victim assistance and forever revolutionizing the way weapon prohibitions deal with this issue.

African cluster munitions and landmine survivors from Ethopia, Uganda,  Rwanda and Zambia participated in Survivor Corps’ training on disability rights  at the Livingstone (Zambia) Cluster Munitions Conference.
African cluster-munition and landmine survivors from Ethopia, Uganda, Rwanda and Zambia participated in Survivor Corps’ training on disability rights at the Livingstone (Zambia) Cluster Munitions Conference.
All photos courtesy of Survior Corps

The Ottawa Convention’s influence also extends to the recently drafted Convention on Cluster Munitions which was negotiated by more than 100 governments in Dublin, Ireland, in May 2008. The CCM was open for adoption in Oslo in December 2008. Complemented by the lessons learned from 10 years of implementation of the Ottawa Convention, the CCM establishes a new and higher standard for victim assistance. In fact, it is the most extensive weapons-prohibition treaty that includes legal obligations for ensuring the rights and dignity of the victims. It takes victim assistance into the 21st century by making sure that the victims of cluster munitions are able to reclaim their lives.

Typically victimized and excluded, landmine and cluster-munition survivors remain on the outskirts of the economic and social lives of their communities. In turn, the society misses out on victims’ talents and potential, as well as the opportunity to engage the entire community in the work toward recovery. The victim-assistance provisions in the CCM articulate with greater clarity what states must do to ensure that cluster-munition survivors can enjoy their rights and be productive members of their communities.

Assistance under Ottawa and the CCM

When the Ottawa Convention was written, the issue of victim assistance was a novel concept and lack of understanding surrounding it is evident in the text of the treaty; for example, there is no definition of who exactly constitutes a victim and, as a result, many states have adopted a very narrow definition, excluding certain groups. In contrast, Article 2 of the CCM appropriately acknowledges the effects of cluster munitions. It defines victims as not only those individuals directly injured by the weapon, but also those persons who have suffered physical or psychological injury, economic loss, social marginalization or substantial impairment of the realization of their rights. It also includes not only those persons directly impacted by cluster munitions but also their families and communities. The table below compares the language in the Ottawa Convention with the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Comparison of the Ottawa Convention and the CCM
Comparison of the Ottawa Convention and the CCM

The CCM confirms the notion of victim assistance as a core obligation of the treaty. Importantly, the CCM recognizes victim assistance as a responsibility equal with any and all other treaty obligations. It addresses all areas related to victim assistance and includes a separate article dedicated to this issue. Article 5 of the CCM4 describes the concept of victim assistance and articulates national-level measures for implementation.

The Focus of Responsibility

The Ottawa Convention placed victim assistance strictly within the framework of international cooperation in Article 65 without explaining that each State Party is primarily responsible for providing assistance to the victims under its jurisdiction. Article 5 of the CCM remedies this shortcoming, affirming that it is one of the obligations of each State Party.

In the Ottawa Convention, victim-assistance language is vague and does not specify the meaning behind the terms care, rehabilitation, etc., leaving major gaps in implementation. The CCM builds upon the lessons learned from the Ottawa Convention context; it describes the concept of victim assistance in greater detail. In paragraph 2 of the same article, the CCM also provides guidelines on how to ensure effective implementation of victim assistance.

"Raising the Voices Against Cluster Munitions" Survivor Corps trainers and training participants, who are persons with disabilities, including conflict survivors. Livingstone, Zambia.

The CCM recognizes that victim assistance is not simply a medical or rehabilitation issue—it is a human-rights issue. Ten years of implementing the Ottawa Convention have helped the global community realize the importance of victim assistance, and gain a broader perspective than that outlined in article 6.3 of the Ottawa Convention. At the Ottawa Convention 2004 Nairobi Review Conference,6 States Parties expanded and codified a more comprehensive understanding of victim assistance. Since the Nairobi Conference, States Parties’ governments have continuously affirmed that landmine survivors should be seen as part of a larger group of persons with disabilities. States Parties have endorsed the new Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as an international framework to assist in this regard. The CCM Preamble and Article 5 codify these developments by requiring that victim assistance be implemented in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law.

Reporting Requirement

In another dramatic change from the Ottawa Convention, which does not require reporting on victim assistance,7 the CCM provides for mandatory reporting. Article 78 requires States Parties to report on the status of the implementation of measures under Article 5. This requirement will ensure greater accountability and transparency in the implementation of victim assistance. It also encourages the inclusion and participation of survivors in reporting to ensure information is accurate.

In the Ottawa Convention, Article 6 states that victim assistance should be provided by those “states in a position to do so.”5 This language has been used by States Parties as a justification for failure to implement their obligations to landmine survivors. Article 5 of the CCM, by contrast, creates an unequivocal legal obligation by stating: “Each State Party shall” provide victim assistance (emphasis added).

The significant differences between the Ottawa Convention and Convention on Cluster Munitions are due in large part to the existence of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which represents another dot in the line connecting weapons treaties and human rights.9 It had a profound effect on the understanding of victim assistance because it outlined a rights-based approach to disability, which provides a much more progressive, holistic view than previously existed. The key to creating a permanent change in the way weapons treaties are developed and implemented is to acknowledge that the people are at the core of treaties. The CCM is much closer to recognizing this than the Ottawa Convention, which itself was seen as taking an unprecedented leap in the way victims of weapons were addressed when it was drafted in 1997.


While it is important to recognize the significance of the CCM in taking the concept of victim assistance into the 21st century, it is necessary to keep in mind the missing dots required to address the full spectrum of victims’ rights. One example is in the context of small arms and light weapons, where no provisions on victim assistance have been articulated yet. It is also necessary to give some serious thought to the potential for a general legal framework that addresses the rights of victims of conflict.

The shift in paradigms toward understanding the rights of various victims and groups of victims in addressing issues that affect their lives is, for the first time, clearly present in a legally binding instrument—the CCM. Adopting its view will inform and help shape the responses necessary to ensure that its purpose is furthered—namely, reducing the harm caused by cluster munitions. JMA icon


Rutherford Headshot Kenneth R. Rutherford is Survivor Corps Advocacy Advisor and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Missouri State University. He is the author of Humanitarianism Under Fire: The U.S. and U.N Intervention in Somalia, and co-editor of Reframing the Agenda: The Impact of NGO and Middle Power Cooperation in International Security Policy and Landmines and Human Security: The International Movement to Ban Landmines.

Cevera HeadshotNerina Čevra holds a Juris Doctor and a master’s degree in international affairs from American University. Čevra joined Survivor Corps during her graduate studies and worked on the negotiations for the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, representing her native country, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Most recently, she provided legal support during the negotiations of the victim-assistance article in the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Begley HeadshotTracey Begley joined Survivor Corps as Campaign Officer upon receiving her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Bates College. She was active in discussions on the Convention on Cluster Munitions from the beginning of the process in Oslo in 2007.


  1. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, U.N. General Assembly, New York. 13 December 2006. The Convention was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on 13 December 2006 and opened for signature on 30 March 2007, entering into force with the 20th ratification on 3 May 2008. Accessed 10 September 2008
  2. Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, Oslo, Norway. 18 September 1997. The document was opened for signature in Ottawa, Canada, 3 December 1997, commonly known as the Ottawa Convention. Accessed10 September 2008.
  3. The Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions, also known as the Oslo Process, is a series of conferences whose aim is to enact an international ban on cluster bombs. Accessed 25 February 2009.
  4. Article 5 of the Ottawa Convention requires that signatories: identify all mined or mine-suspected areas; ensure these areas are marked, monitored and protected to protect civilians; and destroy or ensure destruction of all mines in these areas as soon as possible and no later than 10 years after the Convention’s entry into force. The Ottawa Convention is available at Accessed 10 September 2008.
  5. See Article 6 of the Ottawa Convention
  6. The Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World in 2004, was held 29 November - 3 December, is the name given to the First Review Conference of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Antipersonnel Mines and on Their Destruction. The summit, a gathering of various high-ranking political representatives throughout the international community, focused on the examination of the problems caused by anti-personnel mines and the appropriate actions needed to address the landmine situation across the globe. Participants included of five heads of state/government, six vice presidents/deputy heads of government and also 20 ministers. For summit highlights:
    Accessed 30 September 2008.
  7. However, over the course of the last 10 years, the states have committed to reporting on VA and Form J has been developed to ensure this happens, but this reporting is optional. Form J has no meaningful impact on the accountability of the governments.
  8. See Article 7 the Ottawa Convention
  9. CCW Protocol V has the same victim-assistance language as the Ottawa Convention.

Contact Information

Ken Rutherford
Survivor Corps
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science
Missouri State University
Springfield, Missouri 65897 / USA
Tel: +1 417 836 6428
Fax: +1 417 836 6655
Web site:

Nerina Čevra
International Advocacy Associate
Survivor Corps
2100 M Street, NW, Suite 302
Washington, DC 20037 / USA
Tel: +1 202 464 0007
Fax: +1 202 464 0011
Web site:

Tracey Begley
Campaign Officer
Survivor Corps