On 30-31 May 2019, the Executive Director of Victim Support Europe Levent Altan participated in an Expert Workshop on Victims Rights initiated by the Office of the Victims’ Rights Advocate. The event brought together leading experts, victims’ rights lawyers and practitioners to discuss principal elements of a victim-centred approach in reporting violations and investigations, in victims’ assistance and support, in protection for victims and witnesses as well as in communications and follow-up with victims.
The event took place in the context of United Nations efforts to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse.
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.
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 a more victim-specific approach.
VSE’s 30 years of expertise in victim support and its extensive network that includes 54 victim support organisations from 30 countries can be beneficial to the UN’s initiatives.
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!