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Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War: Delivering on the Promises to Victims

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June 26, 2009 - Experts from countries worldwide affected by mines and explosive remnants of war met in Oslo, Norway, from June 23 - 25 to discuss how to improve the quality of life of victims of landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war in there countries.

The meeting was organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and hosted by the Norwegian Red Cross. Participants included professionals involved in providing medical, physical rehabilitation and socio-economic support to weapon victims, representatives of international organizations involved in standard setting in these fields and individual survivors of incidents involving such weapons.

"A decade after the birth of the Mine Ban Convention, it is unacceptable that so many landmine survivors are still far from being able to support their families or to fully contribute to life and development in their communities," said Claude Tardif, Head of the ICRC's Physical Rehabilitation Programmers.

The Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines (Mine Ban Convention) was the first multilateral treaty committing States to assisting the victims of a particular category of weapons. Since its entry into force 10 years ago, the Convention has made impressive achievements in terms of ending the use of anti-personnel mines, destroying stocks and clearing mined areas. Yet, the promises made to the victims and survivors that they would receive adequate care, rehabilitation and socio-economic reintegration are far from being fulfilled. When States Parties meet for the Second Review Conference of the Convention at the end of 2009, strengthening efforts to assist victims will be a key theme on the agenda. Since the Mine Ban Convention was adopted, States have made additional commitments to assisting the victims of cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war in treaties on these weapons adopted in 2003 and 2008.

The meeting in Oslo identified how best to put these commitments into practice. It produced an Appeal to States party to the Mine Ban Convention and practical recommendations for States and relevant organizations aimed at ensuring that the survivors of these weapons, their families and communities see substantial improvements in their lives in the years ahead. The meeting stressed that this work should not discriminate between victims of weapons and other people with injuries or disabilities, and that the rights and needs of all individuals with disabilities must be upheld. Participants agreed that improving the lives of survivors of weapon accidents and others with disabilities will require States to give far greater priority to assistance for victims and disability. States' commitments need to be included in national development plans and will entail providing adequate resources to improve health and social services and to ensure equal access to education and employment.

The Appeal adopted by participants was handed over to a representative of the Norwegian Minister for Foreign Affairs at the close of the conference. Norway will chair the Second Review Conference of the Mine Ban Convention, to be held in Cartagena, Colombia in November 2009.

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Lawrence J. Gist II is a dedicated pro bono attorney and counselor at law, adjunct professor of legal studies at Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles, CA, a member of the board of directors of the Institute of Indigenous Knowledges, and a veteran (more...)
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