The Role of Mine Action in Victim Assistance
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Of the five pillars
of mine action, victim assistance seems to receive the least
attention. At the request of the United Nations Mine Action Service
(UNMAS), the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) has recently completed a research project with a
view to offering guidance on the future role of mine action in mine
and UXO victim assistance.
Will mine action be able to support all the needs
of the victims? c/o AP
response to the global landmine and UXO problem,
generally termed mine action, is defined as including five core
components: mine clearance, mine awareness and risk reduction
education, victim assistance, advocacy in support of a total ban on
anti-personnel landmines, and stockpile destruction. Yet, of the five
components, the mine action community has not paid the same level of
attention to victim assistance as it has to the others. Though victim
assistance is clearly
part of the existing definition of mine action, few mine action
organisations have much involvement in victim assistance issues and
that is equally true of the coordinating entities, such as the
national or UN mine action centres. At the same time, practitioners of
mine clearance, survey and awareness have often been unclear as to
victim assistance’s operational role within mine action.
victim assistance has sometimes sat uneasily within the framework of
operational mine action. Mine action centres and mine action
programmes have often been unclear as to what their operational role
should be in this field and in many cases—Kosovo and northern Iraq
being notable exceptions—mine action has played little operational
role in direct service provision. Although a number of humanitarian
organisations involved in providing assistance to those injured by
landmines and UXO also carry out humanitarian demining and mine
awareness, the skills and knowledge required are typically very
Study on The
Role of Mine Action in Victim Assistance
request of UNMAS, the GICHD
has recently completed a research project with a view to offering
guidance on the future role of mine action in mine and UXO victim
assistance. The Study has found that generally, operational mine
action1 has had a limited role in direct-service delivery, but
nonetheless, it still makes a significant contribution to the
rehabilitation and social reintegration of mine and UXO victims.
at field level within mine action centres and programmes to implement
victim assistance programmes has been relatively limited. The gap
between policy and operations is what the study has aimed to examine.
Specifically, it has tried to:
and analyse ways in which mine action agencies/programmes have
approached victim assistance.
lessons learned that will lead to the clarification of the respective
roles and responsibilities of agencies involved in mine action, in
relation to victim assistance.
good practice in the field of victim assistance for mine action
agencies and programmes.
is comprised of five country case studies—Cambodia, Eritrea/Ethiopia,
Kosovo and Nicaragua, which were selected for the distinct mine action
scenarios and developmental settings they reflect.
Findings, Analysis and Recommendations
There is a
widespread lack of clarity about the operational role of mine action
in providing assistance to victims of landmines and UXO. One of the
sources of this is a lack of clarity is the use of certain terminology
and conceptual frameworks.
It is important
to remember that the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, which is
generally considered to be a hybrid arms control and humanitarian law
treaty, does not provide a definition of operational mine action.
Similarly, international law provides no real definition. To a large
extent, this allows the mine action community great freedom to define
Operational assistance to mine and UXO victims clearly falls within
the current definition of mine action, but in most cases, mine action
professionals take a much narrower definition of their mandate. This
has left us in somewhat of a quandary when it comes time to define our
profession with any accuracy.
Definition of “Mine Victim” and “Victim Assistance”
There is also no
consensus as to the scope of the term “mine victim.” Similarly, there
is no universally accepted definition to the term “victim
Without going into the various nuances and definitions, it is
noteworthy to mention that through the course of the Study we were
repeatedly urged not to resurrect a debate that the victim assistance
community itself has been unable to resolve. This level of uncertainty
in fundamental definitions can only lead to greater confusion when it
comes time to implement.
There is still a
need to clarify, and if possible, standardise the various definitions
attached to the following terminology:
particular, a definition of operational mine action should be
elaborated, with due attention paid to the central importance of
information management, and the need to integrate mine victim
assistance within the wider war-wounded and disability contexts and
mine clearance within wider relief and development initiatives. This
definition should be distinct from the all-encompassing political
not mean that only one definition may be applied to each term, but
that the range of definitions commonly used, and, equally importantly,
the corresponding implications for programmatic interventions, be
clarified and explained in layman’s terms.
regard, a definition of operational mine action might be
conceptualised as shown in the following diagram:
number of new mine victims is decreasing. Although this may be
attributed in part to the availability of better data, it is also an
indication of the success of mine action programmes around the world.
In the past, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the
International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) have claimed figures as high as
24,000 and 26,000 annual deaths and injuries respectively, though
these are probably now overestimates. Though there is still some
debate and mine casualty rates do continue to fluctuate, it does
appear that globally mine casualty rates are reducing.
example, casualty rates actually increased in 1999 in a number of
countries and areas of conflict; however, in some other mine-affected
countries (e.g. Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia,
Croatia, Mozambique, Senegal, and Uganda), the casualty rate has been
declining substantially. Most recently, the Landmine Monitor has estimated “that there were some 15,000 to 20,000 new casualties from landmines
and UXO in 2000, an encouraging decrease from the long-standing and
commonly cited figure of 26,000 new victims per year.”
It is important
to remember that the process is actually working and to further reduce
the number of landmine and UXO victims, there is a need, especially in
emergency situations, to reinforce preventive efforts such as
effective mine awareness education and mine marking.
As mentioned, in
most cases, field-based mine action programmes have done relatively
little to promote the rehabilitation and reintegration of mine and UXO
victims. Indirectly, all mine action actors can have a positive or
negative impact on the survival, rehabilitation and reintegration of
mine and UXO victims.
The most acute
needs of landmine survivors are not medical services, but assistance
in helping the survivors become productive community members again.
Socio-economic reintegration has not generally enjoyed the attention
of national governmental initiatives or by international relief
where mine clearance teams have been operating, they have often
provided “casualty evacuation,” and in some cases, their medical teams
have treated patients for other ailments. Yet, once the patient has
been brought to an appropriate medical facility, this normally marks
the end of the role for the mine action professional.
situations—typically emergency—where the United Nations has a
predominant role and the national Ministry of Health is not
functioning for whatever reason, mine action may have a role to play
in ensuring coordination and funding for victim assistance: such has
occurred to differing extents in Kosovo and Northern Iraq, for
instance. Mine action fills a gap that might otherwise not be filled.
But there is a risk that this will reinforce an ongoing tendency to
treat mine victims and exclude amputees from other causes. And a mine
action centre will likely lack the skills and experience necessary,
and will hire appropriate expertise from the medical or disability
There is a need
to provide detailed guidance to mine action professionals in general (and the mine action centre in
particular) on the following issues:
encouragement of mine action programmes to set positive examples (for
instance by hiring amputees within their workforce, and including
positive rather than negative images of persons with disability in
- The need
to share mine victim data as widely as possible with relevant actors.
- The role
of victim data in prioritising mine marking, mine clearance and mine
importance of co-ordination with relevant actors in the health and
disability sectors, including the need for referrals.
general, mine action centres and mine action professionals should not
be required to be directly involved in the implementation of
assistance to mine and UXO victims, but should be aware of their place
within the wider development framework.
importance of follow-up activities was emphasised by the United
Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the National Demining Institute
alike in their work in Mozambique. Though made specifically for
Mozambique, the following recommendations have far-reaching
implications for mine action in general:
action should participate in the systematic collection of mine
incidents involving deminers and civilians alike.
action should regularly participate in advisory, advocacy and service
committees providing support to the disabled community.
action should actively assist in the development of survivor and
victim assistance policies by becoming knowledgeable of the existing
laws and statutes pertaining to the disabled.
action should act as a clearinghouse and distribute sanctioned
directories and other survivor and victim information materials as
action should openly and regularly share data acquired on survivor and
victims with all ministries and civil society organisations.
action should provide continuing education for its staff to stay
abreast of new programs and developments concerning the disabled by
attending seminars and workshops, and inviting the community serving
the disabled to mine action-sponsored meetings, working groups, etc.
action should examine its existing policy and practices on hiring
people with disabilities and recommend changes as necessary.
action should review its mine risk education materials to ensure its
contents include all relevant information needed by survivors and
action should strengthen its linkages, communication and
participation with civil society organisations concerning mine risk
education and Sensibility training being conducted throughout their
country of operations
action should contribute to the creation and participation of
mechanisms for the coordination and communication between the public,
the private sector and the donor community for the disabled.
- The Study has
used the phrase “operational mine action” to represent the three core
mine-related activities: mine risk education, mine survey and mine
clearance. As these three activities reflect the background, training
and skills of mine action professionals, the phrase is intended to
distinguish these “operational” disciplines from the other components
of the mine action definition.
research was funded by kind contributions from the UK Department for
International Development (DFID) and the Italian Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and managed by Eric M. Filippino, Head of the GICHD
the study, The Role of Mine Action in Victim Assistance, are available
upon request from the GICHD.
Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining
7bis Avenue de la Paix
P.O. Box 1300
CH-1211 Geneva 1