The VRA’s Activities
Visit to Jordan and Lebanon
From 28 August to 9 September 2018, the Victims’ Rights Advocate visited Jordan and Lebanon to assess implementation of the Secretary-General’s system-wide strategy to prevent and eradicate sexual exploitation and abuse in humanitarian response and peacekeeping contexts. Connors met with a range of stakeholders, including senior UN officials operating in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, members of the inter-agency protection from sexual exploitation and abuse networks operating across the Middle East, national authorities, and civil society organizations. In Jordan, the Victims’ Rights Advocate also visited Palestinian and Syrian refugee camps and met with women and children to hear their stories. Her visits were supported by Office of the UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator in Jordan and UNIFIL in Lebanon.
The visits highlighted the need to focus on those who may not report allegations, which is likely the majority of victims, and may fear retaliation from their abuser, community or even their own family.
“When designing, conceptualizing and implementing programmes for victims that are rights-based and promote victims’ empowerment and inclusion, how do we empower those who wish to remain anonymous and realise their rights?” said Ms. Connors.
UN Chronicle: “Upholding Our Values: Putting Victims at the Centre”
In a recent article for the UN Chronicle Jane Connors writes: “Sexual exploitation and abuse damage the reputation and credibility of the Organization and its personnel, but for victims this abhorrent conduct has life-changing impact. There is much more we can do together to support them. Broadening our focus beyond the perpetrators and their conduct to encompass those who have been hurt, and whose rights must be protected and needs met, is a crucial first step.”
Chatham House Undercurrents Podcast
Jane Connors recently talked to Agnes Frimston and Ben Horton of Chatham House’s Undercurrents Podcast about the Secretary-General’s strategy to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse within the UN system and her role as Victims’ Rights Advocate. She talked about the importance prioritizing the dignity and rights of victims in the UN response: “Often our prevention measures don’t make it clear that this conduct hurts a person, harms a person, strikes at their very dignity.”
Visit to Haiti
From 22 to 26 April 2018, the Victims’ Rights Advocate visited the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) to gain a first-hand understanding of the work being done by MINUJUSTH and the Country Team to implement the Secretary-General’s strategy to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse.
During her visit, the Victims’ Rights Advocate met with key stakeholders, including the senior leadership of MINUJUSTH, members of the inter-agency Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Task Force, national authorities and civil society actors. She also met individually with the victims of sexual exploitation and abuse in order to hear their concerns and aspirations.
“My visit revealed the strength of commitment amongst the mission leadership and the UN family to ending this abhorrent conduct and a desire to be open and transparent about allegations. I was also impressed by the efforts of the Field Victims’ Rights Advocate who has already made a positive impact on the ground — acting as the main contact for all victims and bolstering a victims’-centered approach.”
Visit to South Sudan
From 3 to 8 December 2017, the Victim’s Rights Advocate visited the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) — one of the UN missions that has the highest rate of alleged cases of sexual abuse and exploitation.
Besides her meetings with UN staff members, Ms. Connors engaged with the local communities to discuss the accessibility of complaint mechanisms and how support for victims can be improved. She also met with victims of sexual abuse and exploitation to see how their needs can be best met.
“We cannot lose sight of the victims and the impact that sexual exploitation and abuse has on their lives. I believe we can do more together to support those who have been most affected, to ensure that their views are heard and respected, and to stand alongside them as they rebuild their lives and realize their dreams and aspirations.”
Visit to Central African Republic
From 17 to 24 October 2017, Ms. Jane Connors, Victims’ Rights Advocate (VRA) accompanied the Secretary-General to visit the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) to gain a first-hand understanding of how sexual exploitation and abuse is addressed by UN entities in the Central African Republic, by local actors such as judges police and by civil society.
Ms. Connors met with MINUSCA staff to learn about good practices on the ground and how the UN’s zero tolerance towards sexual abuse and exploitation is put into action. She also met with victims who were subject to sexual abuse and exploitation at the hand of UN personnel.
“In order for victims to become "survivors", we must ensure that they can file a complaint immediately, that the investigation is conducted seriously and that any request for assistance (short or long term) is taken into account in the hope that those responsible be brought to justice.”