13 April 2011

It is widely recognized that few survivors of incidents caused by landmines or explosive remnants of war, including cluster munitions, are fully included in all aspects of society. In most developing countries emerging from, or affected by conflict, the same can be said of the broader population of persons with disabilities in which many survivors can be included. However, over the last decade or two, there has been a global upsurge of awareness around the rights of survivors and other persons with disabilities. As a result of such awareness and activism to promote survivors' and disability rights, there has been progress to address this exclusion through three distinct but closely related international treaties. Together, these three treaties create an important legal framework, or legal toolkit, to defend the rights and promote the inclusion of survivors and other persons with disabilities.

The first of these three treaties was the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT) or the Ottawa Convention, which is formally known as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. Entering into force in 1999, the MBT is the first global disarmament treaty that binds each State Party "in a position to do so" to "provide assistance for the care and rehabilitation, and social and economic reintegration of mine victims…" The language of the treaty itself, in regards to victim assistance, is fairly broad and imprecise. However, through subsequent action plans, States Parties to the MBT have committed to achieve concrete actions to enhance the assistance provided to survivors and to develop the means to monitor progress in implementing these actions.

At the end of 2009, States Parties agreed to the second and most recent of these, the Cartagena Action Plan 2010-2014 (CAP). This Plan sets the stage for implementing victim assistance in line with recent developments in human rights, such as the adoption and implementation of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), which entered into force on 1 August 2010, is also a disarmament treaty banning the use of another class of indiscriminate weapons. It was developed taking into consideration the lessons learned from the MBT and Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities processes and contains stronger provisions on rights-based victim assistance. As stated by the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), "the CCM ensures the full realization of rights of all cluster munition victims by obligating states, in accordance with applicable humanitarian and human rights law, to adequately provide assistance, including medical care, rehabilitation and psychological support, and provide for their economic and social inclusion." Compliance with victim assistance measures included in the CCM is compulsory and States Parties are required to report on their progress in fulfilling victim assistance obligations, unlike the MBT, where reporting on victim assistance obligations is voluntary.

In November 2010, States Parties to the CCM agreed on the Vientiane Action Plan (VAP), which defines roles and responsibilities and sets out concrete and measurable steps, actions and targets to be completed within specific time periods for the implementation of victim assistance obligations of the Convention.

On 3 May 2008, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) entered into force, signaling a global recognition of disability as a human rights issue. The UN Secretary General hailed this day as a "historic moment in our quest for realization of the universal human rights for all persons, creating a fully inclusive society for all." Ratifications of the CRPD are now nearing 100. Countries are beginning to put new laws and policies in place to promote the rights of persons with disabilities and are developing mechanisms to implement the treaty's obligations. While the treaties originate from different contexts, either disarmament or human rights, all three share the goal of promoting the full inclusion of survivors and other persons with disabilities within society.

The principles and components of victim assistance, as outlined in the Action Plans of the MBT and in the CCM, correspond to the human rights of persons with disabilities as enumerated through the CRPD. For example, a State's obligation to provide a landmine or cluster munition survivor with appropriate medical care corresponds to the CRPD's Article 25 which recognizes that persons with disabilities have the right to the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination. For each of these treaties, States Parties and civil society have designed a set of implementation tools; there is a core group of organizations and governmental agencies that are actively promoting them; and international monitoring mechanisms exist to track implementation progress.

The key to making the most of these legal frameworks is the strategic connection between the themes, issues, stakeholders, mechanisms across the three treaties. The document Connecting the Dots - Detailed Guidance aims to enhance victim assistance by illustrating the importance of three themes, accessibility, employment and education for survivors and persons with disabilities within the frameworks of these treaties.All persons with disabilities, among them landmine and cluster munitions survivors, face barriers to inclusion in society. The CRPD focuses on the rights of persons with disabilities. The MBT and CCM include obligations to assist survivors. Though one is a human rights treaty, and the other two disarmament treaties with humanitarian assistance obligations, all three have something to say regarding these barriers to inclusion. Applying the CRPD helps enhance the rights-based components of victim assistance. At the same time, the disarmament treaties and the common understandings that grew around them put an emphasis on the availability and affordability of services for survivors, wherever they live. To make the most of the three treaties it is necessary to take steps both to improve victim assistance and to promote the broader rights of persons with disabilities.

The following pages provide a practical guide to making such connections. We have also used other documents that offer guidance on best practices when implementing these treaties as starting points, such as the CAP, the Recommendations on Implementing the CAP presented by the Co-Chairs of the MBT's Standing Committee on Victim Assistance in 2009, and the VAP. This guide will:

  • Outline the general connections between the three treaties;
  • Explore the connections between the treaties around each of the three thematic areas of accessibility, employment and education which can both enhance the implementation of victim assistance and the fulfillment of the rights of persons with disabilities;
  • Provide examples of gaps in policy and practice experienced in these same three thematic areas;
  • Look at how these treaties and their action plans can be applied at the national level through advocacy, policy and legislation.

Finally, Annex A, parts I and II, takes a deeper look at accessibility and presents a case study from Uganda to provide guidance on how to tackle barriers to implementation, based on the experience in promoting accessibility in their countries gained by landmine and cluster munition survivors. Annex B shows current treaty status of relevant states with survivors.

We hope that this guide will help both non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and governments better understand how they can use these three treaties to make progress in implementing victim assistance.