The Human Rights of Landmine Survivors
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to congratulate you on your election as a Chair of this important Ad Hoc Committee.
The United Nations Mine Action Service is located within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and is the focal point in the UN system for all mine-related issues. UNMAS has been charged by the General Assembly to ensure effective policy development and coordinate mine action activities carried out by 13 UN agencies, programmes and departments, most notably UNICEF, the United Nations Development Programme, and the World Health Organization. UNMAS also establishes mine action programmes as part of peacekeeping operations or in humanitarian emergencies.
Mine action encompasses five complementary core components: mine-risk education; minefield clearance, including surveys, mapping, and marking; destruction of stockpiled mines; advocacy; and victim assistance.
Victim assistance refers to the actions taken on behalf of those we refer to as landmine survivors or landmine victims, the former being persons who have survived a landmine explosion, while the latter includes a variety of persons who are indirectly affected by the presence of landmines or the injury or death that landmines cause.
Landmines are primarily designed to cause severe injuries to their victims and are certainly a major cause of disability. Some 15,000 to 20,000 persons are killed or injured by landmines annually. Approximately seven of every 10 victims are civilians and half of these are children.
Ironically, though it appears that in concrete terms more young men suffer landmine injuries than women or girls do, female survivors tend to receive proportionately less assistance in the aftermath of their injury. It appears that in many countries, fewer women receive mobility aid, such as artificial limbs. Fewer women receive emergency services. And in some places, fatality rates are higher for females.
The discrimination, social stigma and economic injury caused by landmines know no gender bounds. Survivors often face discrimination even within their own communities; the stigma of their injury can force individuals to leave their families, and can even up-root entire families and send them in search of means of survival without the support of any social networks. Lack of physical assistance, accessible workplaces or vocational training, and discrimination can result in exclusion from both formal and informal labour markets.
From Afghanistan to Yemen, most landmine survivors lack access to adequate medical care, rehabilitation services, trauma care and employment opportunities.
Even when physical rehabilitation needs are "fairly well covered", as is the case, for example, in Cambodia -- one of the most highly landmine-contaminated countries in the world and one with a very long mine action history - discrimination or other limitations can utterly impede the social and economic reintegration of survivors. In Cambodia, only 20 per cent of persons with disabilities enjoy a satisfactory economic situation. What they need most are jobs.
The 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and Their Destruction (the "Anti-personnel Mine Ban Treaty") obliges "Each State Party in a position to do [so] ... provide assistance for the care and rehabilitation, and social and economic reintegration, of mine victims..." States Parties have acknowledged this provision to be weak, and in May 2003, at a meeting of the treaty's Standing Committee on Victim Assistance and Socio-Economic Reintegration, states parties highlighted the need for a legal instrument that would address the concerns of landmine survivors within a broader context of disability and human rights.
UNMAS and our UN system partners advocate continuously for the universal implementation of the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Treaty and we support the desire of states parties to strengthen the normative framework relevant to landmine victims.
Moreover, the UN system has recently adopted the UN policy on Victim Assistance (Mine Action and effective coordination: the United Nations Policy, Sectoral policy: The scope of action of mine action centres and organizations in victim assistance)* which aims to ensure that mine action centres administered or supported by the UN act positively to advance the rights of victims and survivors and to take their needs into account in the planning and budgeting of mine action.
In short, UNMAS is committed to advancing the protection and rights of persons directly affected by landmines. We urge you to pay explicit attention to the plight of this group of disabled persons as you proceed with your deliberations, and we offer you our full support in your important endeavour.
19 June 2003
* Copies are available at UNMAS.