08 April 2010

Vienna Expert Conference on Victim Assistance Opens Today

Press Release -- For Immediate Release

Vienna, 8 April 2010 -- Landmine and cluster munition survivors worldwide still lack access to services that would fulfill their most basic human rights, said the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) in a joint statement. A conference opens today in Vienna to examine how states will fulfill their promises to survivors and their communities.

The event brings together governments, United Nations officials, victim assistance experts, survivors and civil society advocates. "Mine and cluster munition survivors, especially in remote areas, continue to suffer not only from their injuries, but also from extreme poverty," said Firoz Ali Alizada, ICBL Treaty Implementation Officer and a mine survivor himself. "Survivors are eager to contribute to and be a full part of their communities, including participating in economic activities. Long-term support for them should be a priority in development and poverty reduction plans," he said.

The economic inclusion of survivors and other persons with disabilities is a matter of human rights. It requires eliminating discrimination in society at large and particularly in the workplace. It should include physical access and accommodations in the workplace, vocational training, capacity-building, awareness-raising among employers, and grassroots economic empowerment projects that effectively change the day-to-day lives of survivors. Funding from donor states and from affected states themselves is key to ensuring promises on victim assistance are met.

"The question is not only how much money is spent, but how well it is spent. Listening to survivors will help direct money where it is really needed," said Dejan Dikic, cluster munition survivor and a member of Handicap International's Ban Advocates group. States have a set of complementary and similar obligations under the Mine Ban Treaty, Convention on Cluster Munitions, and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Better planning and coordination will allow for more efficiency in meeting these obligations.

The new convention banning cluster munitions, which will enter into force on 1 August 2010, includes groundbreaking provisions on victim assistance. It sets high standards and builds on lessons learned from ten years of Mine Ban Treaty implementation. Both treaties oblige policy makers to pay attention to voices from mine and cluster munition-affected communities. The empowerment, inclusion and meaningful participation of survivors are crucial to keeping states accountable.

The Vienna Expert Conference on Victim Assistance is hosted by the Austrian government, which has demonstrated leadership on the issue for years. "We welcome this initiative from Austria. We hope the Conference will help identify the next practical steps in implementing commitments made by states last November at the Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World," said Judith Majlath, from the CMC and ICBL Austrian Section.

The Cartagena Action Plan, adopted by more than 120 States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty during the Cartagena Summit, provides a roadmap of what is required in the next five years in all areas of mine action. The Conference is also intended as an answer to the report Voices from the Ground - Landmine and Explosive Remnants of War Survivors Speak out on Victim Assistance, issued in September 2009 by Handicap International with support from the ICBL and the Austrian government. The report highlighted that governments around the world are not living up to their promises to treat and reintegrate survivors into society.

More information and interviews: Judith Majlath, CMC & ICBL Austrian Section (In Vienna), Phone: +43 1 535 75 16, Mobile: 0664 73 86 8213 (in Austria only) - Conor Fortune, Cluster Munition Coalition (In London), Mobile: +44 (0)75 1557 5174, Email: conor@stopclustermunitions.org - Amelie Chayer, International Campaign to Ban Landmines (In Paris), Mobile: +33 (0)6 89 55 12 81, Email: media@icbl.org - Cluster Munition Coalition: www.stopclustermunitions.org - International Campaign to Ban Landmines: www.icbl.org - Landmine-Cluster Munition Monitor: www.lm.icbl.org

Interviews opportunities: Firoz Ali Alizada - A landmine survivor since the age of 12, Alizada is now working for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) as Treaty Implementation Officer. He has addressed audiences throughout the world on the rights of people with disabilities, and has in-depth knowledge of the landmine situation in Afghanistan. Languages: English, Dari. Stan Brabant - Brabant serves as Head of the Policy Unit for Handicap International Belgium and has extensive knowledge of the challenges faced by mine survivors worldwide. He sits on the Editorial Board of Landmine Monitor and has been campaigning with the ICBL since 1995. Languages: Dutch, English, French. Dejan Dikic - Dikic, a high school teacher, was injured by a cluster munition during the NATO bombings of Serbia in 1999. He joined Handicap International's Ban Advocates initiative in 2007 and called for a ban on cluster munitions at regional and international diplomatic events. Languages: English, Serbian. Judith Majlath - Through the Austrian Section, Majlath has been campaigning with the ICBL since 1995 and is a co-founder of the Cluster Munition Coalition. She has worked on victim assistance projects in mine- and cluster munition-affected countries. Languages: English, German, Hungarian, Italian. Thomas Nash - Nash is the Coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition, the umbrella group for more than 300 civil society organizations that successfully campaigned to bring about the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Languages: English, French, Spanish.