Jane Connors: "Victims are at the heart of our concerns"
The UN Victims' Rights Advocate (VRA), Jane Connors, is on a working visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of her mandate. Her role is to ensure that the rights and dignity of victims are at the forefront of the United Nations’ efforts to combat sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by United Nations personnel.
The purpose of the week-long visit successively to Kinshasa and Goma in the North-Kivu province from 21 to 29 November 2019, is also to present the new approach adopted by the United Nations for the prevention and fight against sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by United Nations personnel: uniform. civilian, national and international staff, irrespective of their categories. "Unlike the previous approaches, the new one focuses only on the victims - women, men and children who suffer such wrongdoings – and not on the reputation of our complex UN family, nor on the conduct and discipline of our staff," she explained
During her visit to Goma, Jane Connors made a point of visiting three health centers that hosts victims of sexual exploitation and abuse, including Heal Africa Hospital situated in the heart of Goma, which is home to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse, including victims of the UN staff. On the spot, Jane Connors met with the chief doctor as well as the street children.
Jane Connors also visited a popular district in Goma that houses GESOM, a non-profit health and mutual association that aims to provide quality care at affordable costs to vulnerable people. According to the head of GESOM, between January 2016 and October 2019, the medical center treated 13 cases of alleged victims of sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by the United Nations personnel.
Finally, the third visit of the day led the Victims’ Rights Advocate to Kyishero health center, situated in the west of Goma where she interacted with a victim.
Listening to the victims
Ms. Connors highlighted the importance of visiting victims: "At each visit, I have had confidential and individual interviews with victims, mostly women and children. I listen to them and reassure them that the UN is there to help them as they try to rebuild their lives. "
Since 2010, MONUSCO has received 196 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by the United Nations personnel involving 229 victims. "Sexual exploitation and abuse erode the trust of the communities and the people we serve and challenge the integrity of the humanitarian work. As humanitarian actors, it is our duty to hold our colleagues and organizations accountable, "said Mis. Connor in a message to MONUSCO staff.
Appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General on 23 August 2017, Jane Connors is the first personality to serve as United Nations Victims’ Rights Advocate.