The first Conference of State Parties of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) was held on 29 October at the Foreign Ministry of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in The Hague. The meeting, was chaired by a representative of the United Kingdom.
The CSP brings together countries that have signed the Agreement on the Status and Functions of ICMP: the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and Luxembourg signed the agreement in December 2014 and other countries, including El Salvador, are expected to sign in the near future. Representatives of El Salvador, Germany, the US, Interpol and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) attended the inaugural Conference as observers.
The CSP discussed ICMP’s plan of work through 2018. Among key activities for the period, ICMP will host the first meeting in November of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee on Missing Persons, whose initial focus will be on the issue of missing migrants and refugees. In 2016 ICMP will convene the first meeting of the Global Forum, which will bring together policymakers, legal experts, academics, civil society activists and others to advance an international discourse on missing persons. During the coming three-year period, ICMP will harness new scientific methods to enhance its standing capacity in DNA-based human identification and it will establish a Center of Excellence for Training in The Hague. In addition, ICMP will expand access to its Integrated Data Management System (iDMS) so that it can be utilized online from anywhere in the world. And it will operate programs in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Following the CSP, at a briefing at the Foreign Ministry attended by representatives of 30 countries, ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger explained that through signing the ICMP status agreement, countries are able to contribute to the organization’s development and strategy, as well as further advance the process of addressing the global problem of missing persons. Countries do not assume any funding or other financial obligations by signing the treaty.
“Tens of thousands of families around the world are struggling today with the misery of not knowing the fate of a loved one – but there are strategies that can facilitate the effort to account for the missing, which can also contribute to future prevention,” Ms Bomberger said.
ICMP was created at the initiative of US President Bill Clinton in 1996 at the G-7 Summit in Lyon, France. It is the only international organization exclusively dedicated to helping governments and others account for those who go missing as a result of conflict, crime, migration, human rights violations and natural disasters.