“The fact that the first conference of Victim Support Asia takes place in Seoul this week is a true testament to the commitment and determination of Mr. Yongwoo Lee and Mr. Hak Seok Kim who have been the driving force behind its creation. It has long been their vision to bring together organisations and institutions working for victims in Asia and around the world”, says João Lázaro.
“I, and Victim Support Europe, have been proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with them in this endeavour. I have no doubt that VSA’s current and future members and partners will together forge a new approach for victims of crime in Asia helping shape the way that rights and services for all victims of crime develop across the continent”.
Almost 30 years ago, 15 organisations began Victim Support Europe’s long journey by coming together in conferences, talking about victims’ issues and eventually formally establishing Victim Support Europe.
The aims, as with this conference, were straightforward. To learn from each other; to hear about the difficulties faced, to hear of solutions and new practices. To come together as a group and explore what could be improved – how Europe could work better for its victims.
For the organisations and the individuals, the challenges were daunting. It must have seemed a faraway dream to imagine countries with victim support organisations across every State.
To imagine that rights for victims would be established in law. Laws which would mean victims could access a range of services, that they could effectively report a crime and be properly treated by the police, the prosecution and within the trial.
We sadly don’t yet live in a perfect Europe where this fully exists in any country. Yet, through the continual efforts of organisations and individuals in Europe and around the world – we have reached a point where victims are increasingly recognised, where they do now have a wide range of rights, and where victims have more access to services than ever before.
After 30 long years, we have reached a tipping point in the European Union, where victims are increasingly taken into account by governments, government agencies and by international actors.
There is still much to be done to change mind-sets, to change wrong public perceptions and beliefs, to change the culture of organisations and practitioners. There is much to be done to convince others to change and to agree on how to change.
But there is today a willingness and an interest to improve the way we work for and with victims.
Much of this is thanks to co-operation at the local, national and international level.
The international partnerships that we have forged by coming together in conferences, and through the Victim Support Europe network have been critical to achieving improvements.
Through those partnerships, VSE has continually improved its own practices. We have joined and amplified our voices. Evidence from around the world has strengthened our arguments. Progress in one country has encouraged progress in all.
In an increasingly interconnected world where people live, work, and holiday in different countries, where businesses operate across borders, and where criminals act across those same borders, we must work together.
Co-operation between states, between NGOs and between civil society and the state within and across borders is essential to meeting the needs of victims and combating crime.
Across Asia, each country has its own situation. Its own form of government, its own legal system, its own reactions to victims and of course its own level of wealth. The way victims are treated in those countries will inevitably need to fit within a country’s legal and cultural framework.
Yet victims overarching needs are largely universal. They should be recognised and treated with respect and dignity. They should be protected from revictimisation and secondary victimisation. They need support, access to justice and compensation or restoration.
The conference attendees have the opportunity to discuss these and many others issues over the next days. To hear about innovative practices, different approaches and common challenges.
The individuals and organisations who formed Victim Support Europe 30 years ago were pioneers of their time. Their vision and commitment has helped bring about great improvements for victims across Europe.
“I hope that those of you here today, envisage a similar future in your countries. I am sure that working together with and as Victim Support Asia, you will help form the foundation for a brighter future for victims across Asia and beyond”, concluded Mr. Lázaro.