22 February 2007

On 12 February, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines participated in a symposium organized by the Austrian government in Vienna entitled, “Assisting Landmine Survivors: A Decade of Efforts.” The meeting was the first in a series of events to mark the 10th anniversary of the year in which the Mine Ban Treaty was negotiated and signed.

Austria hosted the first preparatory meeting to discuss elements of a ban treaty in February 1997, at which 111 states attended. Other events to mark milestones along the way to the Mine Ban Treaty’s creation are planned for Belgium, Norway, and Canada.

The ICBL and its members were well represented at the Vienna meeting and made interventions throughout the day. ICBL Ambassador and landmine survivor from Uganda Margaret Arach Orech gave an opening address along with Austrian State Secretary for Foreign AffairsDr. Hans Winkler,General Raimund Schittenhelm, Commander of the AustrianDefenseAcademy, and Caroline Millar, Australian Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament.

Margaret Arach Orech also made a presentation on advances in legislation and policies on disabled persons in Uganda. Katleen Maes, Victim Assistance Thematic Coordinator for the Landmine Monitor spoke on what data is available on victims and how this knowledge has changed over the past 10 years. Ken Rutherford and Kirsten Young, both from ICBL member organization Landmine Survivors Network, spoke on psychosocial support for survivors and the impact of laws and policies on improving their lives.

ICBL Treaty Implementation Director Tamar Gabelnick was also in attendance. The symposium was an excellent opportunity for those working on the landmine issue to hear in depth from practitioners, researchers and advocates about their work in advancing the rights and supporting the needs of landmine victims. Participants noted the benefits to victims stemming from the last-minute inclusion of Victim Assistance in the Mine Ban Treaty, but also the challenges still remaining, especially in providing psycho-social support, ensuring economic reintegration, learning about and reaching out to all survivors, and protecting victims' rights.

Recurrent messages throughout the day were the need for empowerment and inclusion of landmine victims in policies and programs being developed for them, as well as the need to prevent discrimination against victims and all persons with disabilities. The discussions held in the context of the seminar will be continued not only in mine-affected states, but in international meetings such as the intersessional Standing Committee meeting on Victim Assistance, scheduled for 24 and 27 April 2007.

Related Documents: - Opening remarks by Margaret Arach Orech - Speech by State Secretary Dr. Hans Winkler - Press Release issued by the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Schedule and other information