Zimbabwe and the “victim assistance twenty something” – what and who comes next?

Zimbabwe’s Acting Deputy Director of Disability and Rehabilitation discussing victim assistance at the African Union. Image courtesy of: © Engida Wassie/ICRC, March 2014.

Zimbabwe’s Acting Deputy Director of Disability and Rehabilitation discussing victim assistance at the African Union.
Image courtesy of: © Engida Wassie/ICRC, March 2014.

Loren Persi, Victim Assistance Coordinating Editor, the Monitor

At the intersessional meetings of the Mine Ban Treaty last week there was a new development; one more country, Zimbabwe, recognized its responsibility for significant numbers of landmine survivors and the responsibility to act, as well as the right to seek international cooperation assistance to implement the obligations of Article 6 and fulfil its promise.

Zimbabwe recently outlined the challenges it is facing in providing victim assistance at a meeting organized by the ICRC and the African Union at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa this March. It was reported that victim assistance is not well coordinated. There is a need to establish a committee to integrate the functions of the various bodies with responsibilities for survivors and develop a broad agenda to address victim assistance.

Currently, disability issues are coordinated by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare while emergency assistance is led by the Victim Friendly Unit and other issues of assistance to landmine survivors are centralized through the national mine action centre ZIMAC, established under the Ministry of Defence. Victim assistance is, however, not a core activity of the Ministry of Defence and it is most likely that ZIMAC’s role will be largely about surveying survivors.

Broader challenges identified by Zimbabwe in its presentation to the African Union include a shortage of resources to effectively run rehabilitation programs, and insufficient advocacy on victim assistance. Zimbabwe intends to make a better reckoning of how many persons with disabilities there are and where they live. There are also advanced plans for the country to develop a national disability policy aligned with the national Disabled Persons Act, and to domesticate provisions of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Zimbabwe ratified in September 2013.

The Mine Ban Treaty Implementation Support Unit recognizes 28 States Parties that “have indicated that they have significant numbers – hundreds or thousands – of landmine survivors for which they must provide care.”  To date, this list has not included Zimbabwe. In its landmine clearance deadline extension request of October 2012, Zimbabwe reported responsibility for more than 1,561 people killed and injured by landmines. It has not yet made a definitive assessment and the true numbers might actually be much higher.

At the meeting of the Mine Ban Treaty last week, the delegate from Zimbabwe stated unequivocally:

“Zimbabwe has a significant number of mine victims and is in the process of compiling data on the victims of landmines. The compilation process is running concurrently with resource mobilization both from within and from International organizations for the purpose of assisting the victims of Anti-Personnel mines.”

This raises a few questions. With this clear recognition by Zimbabwe of its own victim assistance responsibilities, and needs, will it be recognized among the group of those States Parties with the greatest responsibilities to survivors? How do Zimbabwe and other states – which have reported significant numbers of survivors – gain such recognition from the international community? Being a member of the victim assistance ‘twentysomething’ group is not just a title, it can mean tangible support, such as specific help from the treaty’s expert implementation support victim assistance specialists.

Other than Zimbabwe, Algeria and Turkey would have to be among the next most likely candidates for joining this group of States Parties recognized as acknowledging significant numbers of landmine survivors. Both Algeria and Turkey have reported hundreds or thousands of survivors in their official landmine clearance deadline extension request submissions (Turkey’s reporting only included casualties that it had recorded since it joined the treaty in 2004).

Both countries have also been Co-Chairs of the Mine Ban Treaty’s Standing Committee on Victim Assistance, and have worked to advance assistance to survivors internationally, as well as sharing good practices from home. While it was Co-Chair, Turkey also gave a tour of its world-class rehabilitation facility in Ankara. During Algeria’s time as Co-Chair, many more Algerian landmine survivors began participating in international meetings. However, neither countries have active coordination or plans for victim assistance.

The Monitor, for its reporting purposes, is already including these three countries among those States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty and Convention on Cluster Munitions with significant numbers of survivors, measuring their progress and analyzing their success and challenges in victim assistance accordingly.

Ultimately, whether or not more states seek, and attain, this particular recognition is only really important as far as it enables each to do more to assist survivors. A new “machinery” for coordinating international victim assistance work is on the horizon, following the June 2014 Maputo Review Conference.

The Third Review Conference is expected to create a new agenda. States are supposed to present the most feasible plans for progress and new developments, while recognizing that there are needs and that they must work on addressing them in a concerted and focused way.

Accepting these responsibilities is a serious expression of political good will and the right intent, a positive step, demonstrating that it is not too late for states to make the connections that will create change within the lifetime of survivors. There is plenty of room for more to be done.




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