FEEDBACK – Highlights from the Humanitarian Disarmament Forum 2019

Posted by: on Oct 28, 2019 | No Comments

For the eight year in a row, international campaigners from all over the world and engaged to promote disarmament convened for a two days meeting bound to share experience, lessons learnt and practices but also to join efforts and face together common challenges.

Almost 100 campaigners and 7 global coalitions have convened in NY on October 19-20 to attend what has now become a tradition: the Humanitarian Disarmament Forum (HDF).

Campaigners gathered at the Humanitarian Disarmament Forum 2019.

Campaigners gathered at the Humanitarian Disarmament Forum 2019.

A key challenge for the 2019 forum: involving survivors

Representative of Mwatana, a Yemeni NGO active in making survivors’ voices heard.

Representative of Mwatana, a Yemeni NGO active in making survivors’ voices heard.

Campaigners have widely discussed the involvement of survivors. In fact, psychological impact, administrative obstacles as well as the political ones caused by the public exposure as well as the lack of commitment among States can severely hinder survivors’ participation in the works of the conventions and other key moments of the disarmament agenda.

Campaigners have thus identified some practical solutions to overcome these issues such as putting in place an information sharing mechanism to have a better understanding of administrative procedures; working with organizations like the Mwatana, a Yemeni NGO active in making survivors’ voices heard; jointly working with programs to be sure that people identified are not too fragile to be exposed to international conferences and public events. On the other hand, working with survivors is not a box to thick. It is a matter of guaranteeing participation to all those that have been affected by mines, explosive weapons with wide impact or other kinds of weapons to be sure that they can have a say in decision making processes that ultimately concern them.

Focus on victim assistance at the 2019 forum

On day 2 HI has participated in a panel discussion moderated by Jared Bloch, Communication and Advocacy Manager. The discussion focused on key challenges and opportunities to promote the integrated approach to Victim Assistance (VA) at both national and international level and saw the involvement of Camilo Serna, Deputy Director of Campaña Colombiana Contra Minas and Camilla Roberti, Disarmament and Protection of Civilians Advocacy Officer of HI.

Recognizing that there is an upward trend in the number of casualties due to the use of mines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive and that assistance to victims remains crucial, discussions focused on three challenges and their possible solutions. 

First of all, the funding landscape is witnessing a downward trend of earmarked funding for victim assistance. A downward trend that is apparent at three levels: in the drop in the actual amount of earmarked funding for VA, in the number of donor states supporting victim assistance with dedicated funds, and in a progressive declining number of affected states actually receiving support. In this regard, Camilla Roberti said :

“We should scale up our efforts and call on states to increase government funding and aid for Victim Assistance as pillar of mine action” and added that “we, as civil society, should push for increased funding for all humanitarian mine action pillars without fostering competition among these pillars and, at the same time, bearing in mind that VA efforts may be scary because they it entails a long term engagement, even after clearance”.

A hierarchy among humanitarian mine action pillars cannot be acceptable and people deserve to be put at the center of our reflections and response; even when a tangible output is invisible.  

A second challenge discussed during the discussion is linked to accountability towards victims. The widely utilized Washington Group Short Set of Questions, in spite of being a very valuable tool to identify persons with disability among the broad population, does not provide visibility on explosive ordnance survivors, their families and communities. This tool is, effectively, survivor-blind. Among the possible solutions, the development of a tool informing if mine/ERW victims are being reached when development or humanitarian programs are in place was mentioned.

Last but not least, another challenge mentioned relates to the role of the mine action sector in victim assistance. In fact, mine action centers and authorities are not designed to take the lead role in victim assistance but they can make a significant contribution to supporting relevant government entities. The almost public IMAS on VA identified the role of the sector and the time for operationalization has now come.   

Following the end of the HDF 2019, representative of INGOs gathered to discuss the next steps and agreed that further efforts are needed and will be made to foster the humanitarian disarmament approach.