[Dateline: 1 October 2009, New York | Author: Department of Peacekeeping Operations ]
The United Nations Mine Action Service is the United Nations focal point for mine action. It is, however, involved in more than just clearing anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war. Assisting victims is a core component of mine action and an obligation of States Parties under the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention, Protocol V to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons on Explosive Remnants of War and also under the new Convention on Cluster Munitions. The new Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provides an appropriate framework for designing and implementing victim assistance projects.
Victim assistance is a set of concrete actions to meet the immediate and long-term needs of mine victims, their families, mine-affected communities and other persons with disabilities. Victim assistance programmes implemented by the United Nations Mine Action Service seek to strengthen and expand existing national capacities to ensure physical, psycho-social and economic rehabilitation and reintegration.
Maxwell Kerley, the Director of the United Nations Mine Action Service, notes “it is my fervent hope that a world with zero new victims of landmines will become a reality in my lifetime, but until that happens we will continue to work with agility and determination to advance our vision of a world where individuals and communities live in a safe environment conducive to development, where the needs of victims are met and where survivors are fully integrated into their societies.” Mr. Kerley recently returned from a mission to the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Centre in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where he learned first hand about new victim assistance initiatives.
Hundreds of thousands of mine and explosive remnants of war survivors exist in over 70 countries. According to the 2008 Landmine Monitor Report, there are up to 60,000 survivors in Afghanistan alone and over 45,000 in Cambodia. In 2007, the Landmine Monitor identified nearly 4,000 new injuries around the world by mines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices. While the actual figure is unknown, it may well be far greater, since many victims of mine accidents never reach a health centre and are therefore not registered.
“Mine action is a catalyst for the larger public health sector’s work in the area of victim assistance,” explains Justin Brady, the chief of the United Nations Mine Action Service Programme Management Section. “We work with WHO and other UN entities, in particular UNICEF and OHCHR that support victim assistance activities. We also work closely with the ICRC and other partner organizations outside the United Nations system, such as Survivor Corps, World Rehabilitation Fund and Handicap International.”
The United Nations Mine Action Service manages mine action programmes in countries or territories with peacekeeping operations or humanitarian crises including: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nepal, Sudan and Western Sahara. In addition, it manages the Mine Action Coordination Center of Afghanistan. The United Nations Mine Action Service is located in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions.
For more information on these and other activities of the United Nations Mine Action Service please see the 2008 Annual Report now available at www.mineaction.org.