By Loren Persi, Victim Assistance Coordinating Editor, the Monitor.
Issues of international cooperation and the allocation of resources for assistance to landmine and cluster munition victims have been at the forefront of discussions in the relevant disarmament treaties so far this year.
There is a sense amongst those following the issues most closely that the mystery needs to be taken out of the issue of reporting funding that it can be comprehendible and is not really a dark bureaucratic hole at all.
An overriding inquiry is about how victim assistance is really being paid for. A long-standing assumption of the mine action community has been that most of the resources that are provided through bilateral development cooperation support to health and social services assist survivors, among others. However because this support is not tracked to the point of service delivery there has not been substantial evidence to back up that theory.
On the other hand, the amount of funding measured specifically as “victim assistance funding”―from the same mine action funding sources as clearance and advocacy― reported to the Monitor by donors, while thought to be much smaller, is tracked annually and can be reasonably compared to reporting on progress in assistance to victims within recipient states.
Furthering this discussion, on 28 May at Mine Ban Treaty intersessional meetings in Geneva the Mine Ban Treaty Implementation Support Unit and the Monitor will co-host a side event on the range of ways and means by which resources to victim assistance are provided and asking: where does the money really come from?
Earlier in May, the Co-Chairs of the Mine Ban Treaty Standing Committee on Resources, Cooperation and Assistance, Ecuador and Thailand, with the assistance of the Implementation Support Unit, briefed participants on the Co-Chairs’ initiatives, including a symposium to be held in Bangkok, Thailand on 23-25 June. One of the key questions at that Symposium will be “What do we know, and what do we not know about victim assistance funding?”
The responses states and civil society make to this question may improve our understanding of how victim assistance funding works. Moreover, it might bring to light more clearly how victim assistance funding actually serves the needs of many people, including survivors, in their communities.
As part of the ongoing debate on international cooperation to assist victims, during the third intersessional meeting of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the possibility was raised of donors moving away from a targeted victim assistance vision towards addressing these responsibilities within the cooperation aspects of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Discussion on this issue from a legal perspective has started already on the Victim Assistance Information Gateway site.
More such debate on the funding of victim assistance can be expected, and will strengthen our understanding of how states and non-governmental actors are contributing to the fulfilment of a range of obligations, commitments and norms that relate to victims of landmines and cluster munitions.