Advancing Victim Assistance in Africa

Posted on March 10, 2014

Advancing the implementation of victim assistance obligations in Africa

The ICRC-AU Workshop to Advance the Implementation of Victim Assistance Obligations Arising from Various Weapons Treaties was held at the African Union HQ in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 4 to 6 March.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) together with the African Union Commission (AUC) held the workshop, that brought together African States with significant numbers of victims of weapons-related injuries, to discuss and seek solutions to the challenges in the areas of victim assistance.

The aim of the workshop was to share experiences in implementing victim assistance programs among states with significant numbers of weapons victims, and strengthen states’ activities focusing on fulfilling obligations to assist victims under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (Mine Ban Treaty), the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) and the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War (Protocol V to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons).

The meeting structure was active and forward-looking, allowing for maximum participation by all those _DSC2800attending. After opening statements (including by the ICRC & AU PSD), an introductory session considering the overall context was held on the first morning.  Among the morning’s presenters was the Secretariat of the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities (SADPD) and a survivors’ representative. Presentations on  achievements, challenges and the way forward were also made by the Victim Assistance Co-Coordinator for the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Co-Chair of the Standing Committee on Victim Assistance and Socio-Economic Reintegration, the ICBL-CMC Monitor’s Victim Assistance Co-Coordinator (Download the ICBL presentation) and the ICRC.

Landmine survivor leaders—the ICBL-CMC Victim Assistance Focal Point in Ethiopia and the representative of the delegation of the Saharawi Republic (SADR)—were actively involved in contributing to the workshop. See the report about the participation of these survivor leaders on the CMC website._DSC3208

The rest of the workshop was developed through four sessions, each consisted  of country presentations followed by working group deliberations. In the working groups, participants respond to questions on themes such as: enhancing intra-African cooperation; identifying the needs and challenges for ‘survivor assistance’ and developing appropriate responses; delivering on national strategies and plans so as to ensuring victim assistance is included the wider national goals such as those of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Background to the workshop:
The workshop builds upon an international meeting on victim assistance organized by the ICRC and Norwegian Red Cross in 2009, which brought together experts and practitioners involved in victim assistance activities in countries affected by these weapons, as well as individuals responsible for promoting and supporting the implementation of victim assistance obligations under the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-personnel Mines, the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War and the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

A number of African states are still trying to deal with the aftermath of armed conflict, including meeting the needs of victims with weapons-related injuries, many of whom will require life-long assistance. Affected families and communities may also require support._DSC2784

Over the past 15 years, a series of treaties have been adopted. Adherence to these treaties requires States to meet specific obligations towards the victims of such weapons. In addition, the States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also have responsibilities to place weapons-injury survivors in a broader disability framework.

Member States of the African Union have taken steps to domesticate these treaties. Yet in spite of this, many States Parties to these instruments continue to face challenges in meeting their relevant legal _DSC2779obligations. For example, many States either do not have, or have challenges in developing and implementing a national plan for victim assistance. Some still consider victim assistance as only medical assistance or physical rehabilitation, and do not address needs for social and economic reintegration or psychological support. Many countries do not also have systems in place to either collect data to ensure an understanding of the extent of the challenges faced or to monitor the implementation of victim assistance programs. Appropriate laws and public policies are often either lacking or not adequately implemented. Efforts are also still required to integrate victim assistance into a broader strategy on disability.

See the Concept Note for the workshop on the website of the Peace and Security Department (PSD) of the African Union Commission.

Images courtesy of: © Engida Wassie/ICRC March 2014.

Posted in: VA processes