Director's Letter

 

Dear Readers,

Ken RutherfordVictim assistance has been discussed in The Journal since its very first issue more than 14 years ago. We return to it now, and for good reason–many mine-action and explosive-remnants-of-war programs are at a critical juncture as evidenced by the recent victim-assistance symposium held in Tirana, Albania, that discussed cooperation and assistance as it relates to VA. We know that the economic downturn has been inordinately painful for donors, nongovernmental organizations, international agencies and businesses; yet, the downturn has been met with incredible innovation.

As I witnessed in Albania at the Kukes Regional Hospital, VA is a sustainable, exportable capacity that can reach beyond landmine victims to include victims of all types of trauma. NGOs—especially local organizations—have recently used their well-stocked toolbox of responses to widen their support to post-conflict communities. I’m proud to share the heroic stories of four advocates in this issue’s Focus section (see page 13) since their efforts are indicative of creative solutions that not only reach more victims, but also meet their needs more holistically. The Center for International Stabilization and Recovery’s Post-Conflict Recovery Week, built around April 4, the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, brought presenters from around the world to James Madison University and reminded me of the wide extent of the support network. Our featured speaker, Jordanian landmine survivor and NGO founder Kamel Sa’adi, underscored this sentiment when he said, “Landmines are a crisis—but there are other kinds of tragedy.”

I am encouraged by VA programs such as CISR’s Pathways to Resilience (P2R) training workshop conducted with the Lebanon Mine Action Center. As this issue goes to press, a team of CISR staff and JMU faculty recently returned from Lebanon where they joined Sa’adi, Adnan Al Aboudi (landmine survivor and P2R trainer profiled in my article on page 13) and partners to work with 29 participants from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen. P2R, funded by the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA), will have a cascading effect as participants take active roles in working with other survivors and victims when they return home. Through innovative programs like P2R, and championed by survivor heroes like the ones discussed in my article, VA is changing perspectives and encouraging sustainable development in postconflict communities. I am convinced that this is our best course toward real growth and recovery.

During our Post-Conflict Recovery Week, global advocates challenged a new generation of leaders from JMU to seize greater opportunities to change our world. The Journal returns to cover victim assistance as P2R and other creative programs take off. Through these efforts, we can see how survivors and innovative thinkers are answering the biggest question of our time: What’s next? J

Sincerely,

Ken Rutherford
Center for International Stabilization and Recovery
James Madison University
rutherkr(at)jmu.edu

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