Zero tolerance towards sexual abuse and exploitation of children
The mission of UNICEF, the Red Cross, and other organizations is to support the exercising of child rights in various circumstances.
PODGORICA, 10 July 2020 – The mission of UNICEF, the Red Cross, and other organizations is to support the exercising of child rights in various circumstances, as well as to protect them from sexual abuse and exploitation, including in situations where the perpetrators happen to be humanitarian workers. This was the topic of the training delivered by Nela Krnic, UNICEF Montenegro’s Child Protection Officer, a programme implemented in Montenegro, for the employees and volunteers of the Red Cross in Montenegro.
“Respecting the policy of zero tolerance towards the sexual abuse and exploitation of children is the task of all humanitarian workers, regardless of whether they are employed in the United Nations system, or in the governmental or non-governmental sectors. This training aims to contribute to the prevention of violence, as well as to report any suspicion of any abuse, including sexual abuse and exploitation,” Krnic said.
In addition to the competent institutions and judicial authorities in Montenegro, if the suspicion purports to providers employed by UNICEF or institutions/organizations supported by UNICEF, the report can be submitted directly to UNICEF – to Nela Krnic, Child Protection Officer (email@example.com); Jelena Raznatovic, Human Resources Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org); Juan Santander, UNICEF Representative to Montenegro (email@example.com); or UNICEF Headquarters in New York (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Reporting can be done anonymously. UNICEF’s Internal Audit and Investigation Unit shall coordinate their actions with the country office and the competent authorities and decide on how to investigate such cases. During the course of the investigation, all support measures shall be made available to the victims: psychological counselling, medical care, free legal aid, material support, etc.
The coordinator for Red Cross Montenegro, Snezana Radenovic, thinks that all humanitarian workers should undergo this kind of training to familiarize themselves with the available services, that is, to know whom to contact in case of suspicion and how to report potential cases of abuse.
When it comes to the violation of child rights by humanitarian workers, the reaction must be prompt and with clear steps, taking into account the best interests of the child.
Since April 2020, 40 employees and 100 Red Cross volunteers have undergone the mentioned training with the support of UNICEF. Milica Kovacevic, Red Cross Montenegro’s PR, highlighted the multiple benefits of this training for employees, as well as for the children and families to whom they provide help every day. In her opinion, such quality training has helped Red Cross employees and volunteers to further inform humanitarian aid beneficiaries about their rights.
“Humanitarian workers need to promote child rights, so we may be less vigilant about recognizing violations of rights in such cases, simply because we do not expect them. Sometimes it can be one of our colleagues, which can make our reaction even more difficult,” Kovacevic explains.
Given that training on this topic started only recently, there have not been any reports of cases of sexual abuse of beneficiaries by humanitarian workers so far.
“Only through joint efforts, cooperation, and a clear commitment to preventing and reporting such forms of behaviour can we achieve the desired results and provide adequate help to those who need it the most,” Krnic concludes.
A zero-tolerance policy refers to any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially, or politically from the sexual exploitation of another person. Zero tolerance also applies to actual or threatened physical assaults of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions. Source: Unicef.org