On Wednesday 3rd October 2018, the President of Victim Support Europe João Lázaro and the Victims’ Rights Advocate for the United Nations Jane Connors met in New York to discuss the potential areas of cooperation, as the interest of VSE’s work is increasingly expanding beyond EU’s borders.
Ms. Connors, who was appointed by the Secretary General in August 2017, gave a background to her position as the first United Nations Victims’ Rights Advocate (VRA). Her mandate is to ensure that the rights and dignity of victims are at the forefront of United Nations’ fight against against sexual exploitation and abuse.
The VRA works to support integrated and strategic policy and programmatic responses to victims. However, Ms. Connors reflected that more needs to be done to clarify the role of the VRA and how a victim-centred approach should be reflected in a practical way in policy and practice. To that end, a future Consultation of Regional and National Experts on Victims’ Rights will be held.
Ms. Connors explained how the consultation aims to discuss and identify the core elements of a victim-centred and rights-based approach in the UN’s response to sexual exploitation and abuse and make recommendations to support further implementation of that approach.
The consultation will bring together national and regional-level victims’ rights experts to share information on best practices or lessons-learned, including on:
- ways to ensure that reliable gender or child-sensitive pathways exist for victims or witnesses to file complaints,
- that victims receive personal care, follow-up attention and information on their case,
- that assistance to victims is rapidly and sensitively delivered,
- and that accountability mechanisms are accessible and available for victims.
The VSE model of being there for all victims of crime, but also being specialised in certain specific categories of victims and crimes was emphasised and highly appreciated. This offers many opportunities for cooperation between NGOs and international organisations to achieve see a more victim-specific approach.
One of the priorities of the future consultation is the mapping of victims’ rights approaches and services. It was agreed that VSE’s 30 years of expertise in victim support and its extensive network that includes 56 victim support organisations from 29 countries can be beneficial to the UN’s initiative.
There are already projects Victim Support Europe is carrying on at an international scale, aiming to promote victims’ rights in Europe and globally. For instance, VSE has founded an international expert group on victims of terrorism which includes actors such as the FBI, the Canadian police, the former Commissioner for victims in South Australia and the range of terrorism support organisation. In addition, VSE is working with the European Commission looking into the application of victims’ right to compensation across the EU. Moreover, VSE is currently supporting the foundation of Victim Support Asia, which brings together support organisation from around the continent.
The meeting was a great occasion to explore how VSE can support the Victims’ Rights Advocate agenda and to exchange ideas that will hopefully turn into real projects in the near future!