A victim/survivor-centered approach must be central to all work on preventing and responding to sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. This was the key message of the UN Victims’ Rights Advocate Jane Connors who visited WHO’s new PSEAH team at our Geneva Headquarters.
Ms Connors held a meeting with the WHO’s Chef de Cabinet, Dr Catharina Boehme and Director of PRSEAH, Dr Gaya Gamhewage and team members on 23rd August, 2021. Later in the day she was joined virtually by Senior Victims’ Rights Advocates from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Haiti amongst other members of her team to discuss support to and collaboration with WHO for PSEAH work.
The Office of the Victims’ Rights Advocate (OVRA) seeks to put the rights and dignity of victims of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN staff and related personnel at the forefront of the UN’s prevention and response efforts. They work together with all entities of the UN system so that victims get the assistance and support they need. They also work in collaboration with Government institutions, civil society, and including national and legal and human rights organizations to build networks of support and help ensure that the full effect of local laws, including remedies for victims, are brought to bear.
Ms Connors emphasized that having a dedicated person on the ground tasked to see that victims’ rights are prioritized, someone victims trust, and to whom they can turn to seek assistance and advocate on their behalf makes a real difference. Her office provides a variety of services to victims of SEA, regardless of the status of investigations into complaints and allegations. Field Victims’ Rights Advocates receive safely complaints and refer safely victims to the services they need and support the development of livelihood projects funded by the Trust Fund in Support of Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. The support offered to victims or survivors includes medical assistance, psychosocial support, livelihood support, and school fees, school support packages as well as legal aid for paternity and child support for children born out of SEA.
Several ideas for collaboration between OVRA and WHO’s PRSEAH team were identified: better collaboration between focal points from the two entities in high-risk countries; collaboration on joint training including psycho-social first-aid, and leveraging WHO technical experts to support victims and survivors of SEA.