What do we do to assist victims of armed violence?

Overview

Overview

In Burundi, AOAV partners with the National Ex-Combatant and Victim’s Network (CEDAC) and the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery (CISR) to provide psychosocial support and counseling to victims and survivors of armed violence.

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Mine victim centre in Western Sahara, supported by AOAV

By developing training manuals and training CEDAC’s volunteer network in rights-based advocacy and peer outreach work, we empower ex-combatants, refugees and internally-displaced persons (IDPs). They can then go on to lead their own campaigns to raise awareness of rights, advocate for the ratification of international treaties, and promote active participation in decision-making.

In Western Sahara, AOAV seeks to provide support for victims and survivors in our partnership with the Saharawi Association for the Victims of Mines (ASAVIM). One of the key activities in Western Sahara during 2012 was a survey conducted in partnership with ASAVIM, consulting over 900 victims and family members about their needs to provide information about, and referrals to, available services. In the future, AOAV hopes to work in partnership with survivors and local organisations to support projects that aim to respond to these needs.

In Liberia, AOAV established this innovative vocational training and rehabilitation programme model for these groups of ex-combatants and war affected youth who pose a potential threat to national and regional security.

Psychosocial

Psychosocial

Psychosocial Assistance

AOAV seeks to provide support for the populations affected by the country’s violent history. The effects of armed violence in Burundi are exacerbated by the lack of medical care and psychological support available. Those who served as combatants or were associated with armed groups during the conflict, particularly women and girls, tend to be marginalised and even rejected by communities, adding extra challenges to adapting to post-conflict life.

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Janviere, who has been receiving peer support after an accident in a fire, with an AOAV staff member in Burundi

In Burundi, although the majority of ex-combatants were men, women and girls associated with armed groups with largely excluded from official disarmament processes and therefore receive little support. For example, women in support roles for armed groups, such as cooks, did not qualify for re-integration programmes.

In contrast, many men who bore arms during the conflict surrendered their arms and received support. Women and girl survivors faced increased stigma and marginalisation, are at an increased risk of sexual and gender based violence, contracting HIV, and they have had limited access to education and livelihoods opportunities. Traumatic events experienced by women survivors have lasting effects on self-esteem, decision-making capabilities, limiting a survivor’s ability to interact socially and her socio-economic independence.

In cooperation with the National Ex-Combatant and Victim’s Network (CEDAC) and the Center for Interntional Stabilization and Recovery (CISR) AOAV is working with women and men survivors (including ex-combatants, adults associated with armed groups, returnees and IDPs) providing psycho-social support to address the trauma related to past involvement in armed violence, losing a family member through armed violence, domestic violence, rape and sexual violence, living with disabilities and socio-economic marginalization.

Women and men were involved in developing the programme, conducting needs assessments and have been trained as supervisors and peer support outreach workers to deliver community based counseling support for survivors (the majority of which are women). Involving women and men who with similar experiences of armed violence in psycho-social support allows them more effectively  engage with and identify other survivors and people at risk.

AOAV’s work in Burundi aims to promote the rights, and improve the safety and security of women survivors of armed violence, by developing capacities of outreach workers to provide community-based psychosocial support and counselling, as well as awareness-raising campaigns to promote women’s active participation in decision-making and access to education.

Similarly to its victim assistance work in Liberia and Western Sahara, AOAV’s victim assistance programme in Burundi focuses on the victims and survivors’ needs and aspirations, with a particular emphasis on engaging them in every stage of the programming process from design to monitoring and evaluation. By developing training manuals and training CEDAC’s volunteer network in rights-based advocacy and peer outreach work, AOAV empowers ex-combatants, refugees, Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and survivors of sexual violence, with a particular focus on women and girls.

“I abandoned my studies because my parents were no longer able to pay for my tuition. That’s when I joined the rebellion. I was recruited to treat the sick and the wounded. I was raped and I had two children,” tells survivor Elisabeth Nibigira. “Since the trainings, I have learned many things, such as to help others who are facing trauma. The trainings changed my life and I will help others to change their lives.”

Building the skills of CEDAC members in rights-based advocacy also supports enhanced awareness and promotion of the rights of the victims on both national and international levels. Promoting human rights, rights of people with disabilities, gender equality and empowerment is essential to sustainable development and preventing conflict. The rights-based approach empowers people with disabilities and combats the notion that people with disabilities are objects of charity.

“When I came back from the bush, after 10 years being in the war, I could not face the challenges of life by myself. My total dependence to other people was result of the fact that the community have been doing everything for me and pitying me,” tells another survivor. “Now I understand that I must be responsible for my life and for my children, and the trainings have given me the skills, knowledge and courage to stand up and engage in socio-economic activities.”

Key components of AOAV’s integrated victim assistance programme include:

1. Socio-economic reintegration
2. Psycho-social support
3. Community inclusion
4. Policy and Advocacy

Drawing from its Agricultural Training Programme in Liberia, the second phase of AOAV’s victim assistance programme in Burundi will be to expand the psychosocial support work and integrate sustainable livelihood activities.

Livelihood assistance

Livelihood assistance

Livelihood Assistance

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A survivor in Western Sahara

AOAV seeks to provide support for the population affected by the contamination of cluster munitions, landmines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW), to facilitate implementation of Article 5 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) relating to victim assistance. This includes individuals and the families of those who have been physically injured, as well as the Saharawi population residing in refugee camps, which are a legacy of armed violence and continued political impasse.

One of the key activities for the Western Sahara programme during 2012 has been to facilitate collection of data on victims and affected populations. Data collection and needs assessments are key implementation measures under the CCM and Mine Ban Treaty. Following-up the needs assessment with concrete actions ensures long term engagement and tangible improvements in the lives and livelihoods of victims and survivors of Western Sahara.

In partnership with the Saharawi Association for the Victims of Mines (ASAVIM), AOAV conducted a survey to assess the needs and aspirations of victims and the services to affected populations. Survivors were a driving force in shaping the process: they were members of the survey team and involved in outreach, building communities’ confidence in the survey. Working in partnership with survivors and local organisations, AOAV will support projects that respond to the following strategic priorities identified in the survey:

1. Improving access to livelihoods opportunities;
2. Improving access to quality healthcare and services;
3. Enhancing capacities and skills and improving access to training and education;
4. Promoting survivors’ rights and rights of people with disabilities;
5. Strengthening legal protection and frameworks for survivors and people with disabilities; and
6. Deepening and expanding survey process and enhancing data sharing.

 

Livelihoods Projects

Unemployment is a harsh reality for the vast majority of the people living in refugee camps. Survivors and people with disabilities are amongst the worst affected by the lack of livelihood opportunities.

AOAV’s victim assistance project will include micro-grants and capacity-building in order to assist victims and survivors to achieve economic independence, enhance social and economic inclusion, and improve their quality of life.

Micro-grant

In response to the assessment findings, AOAV is implementing a pilot micro-project grant programme to build capacity of local organisations and to assist organisations to work effectively to support survivors in the future.

Grants will be provided to start up income generating projects as well as non-income generating activities – such as funding to assist survivors to take advantage of training opportunities, to improve health and wellbeing, or to assist survivors’ groups to develop and implement advocacy initiatives.

Through the micro-project component, small-scale activities can be supported immediately, whilst larger scale projects are being developed as part of a longer-term victim assistance programme.

Capacity-building

A complementary initiative will be capacity-building support, to ensure that ASAVIM itself has the capacity:

– To respond effectively to the needs of survivors; and
– To create a network of organisations and structures committed to ensuring that survivors are represented in decision-making and are in a position to influence the type and way services and opportunities are available in the future.

 

To read more about AOAV’s livelihoods projects in Western Sahara, please download: Understanding and Addressing Needs of Victims and Survivors of ERW in Western Sahara, September 2012

 

Liberia: Agricultural and Vocational Training Programmes

Following 14 years of civil war which ended in 2003, and slow economic post-conflict recovery, a generation of war affected youth across Liberia has missed education, socialisation and training opportunities.This situation, combined with a post-conflict unemployment rate estimated to be 85%, means that disaffected youth are resorting to illegal resource extraction, theft and robbery to gain livelihoods and are socially estranged from local communities.

Furthermore, Liberia suffers residual levels of on-going criminal violence, interpersonal and sexual violence, and sporadic incidents of rioting; unemployed youth are vulnerable to recruitment into these violent activities.  Indeed, empirical evidence from AOAV, Small Arms Survey and the Liberian Armed Violence Observatory demonstrates that young males are the primary instigators of crime and violence in their communities. These violent incidents are dominated by opportunistic crime such as armed household robberies, tending to be driven by subsistence-related needs.

Liberia is a fertile nation, but the country’s agricultural potential has been highly neglected; existing agricultural training facilities have been destroyed during the war years and concessions suffer from a shortage of local skilled labourers. Consequently, much of the produce sold in Liberia is imported from other nations and sold at inflated prices. During a visit to a training centre in March 2008, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf stressed the importance and capacity of AOAV’s training centres in providing both sustainable livelihoods to participants and in assisting Liberia to obtain its agricultural objectives.

The Programme

AOAV established this innovative vocational training and rehabilitation programme model for these groups of ex-combatants and war affected youth who pose a potential threat to national and regional security.

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A trainee at AOAV’s Agricultural Training Facility in Bong County, Liberia

Following intensive research into the circumstances of these vulnerable youth, and considering Liberia’s strong market demand for locally-produced agriculture, AOAV established a model for residential agricultural training centres that offers youth legal vocational opportunities and life skills training to reintegrate economically and socially with their communities. An agriculture-focused training programme was selected in order to help meet the national livelihood and food security objectives of the Government of Liberia while also providing trainees with profitable and legal livelihood skills.  While the programme initially focused on supporting reintegration of disaffected ex-combatants, it has increasingly refocused to support youth who are vulnerable to engaging in violence.

The first of AOAV’s training sites, Tumutu, in Bong County, opened in 2007.  Tumutu was a functioning Ministry of Agriculture training centre which became disused and overgrown during the civil war.  AOAV refurbished existing buildings and constructed new facilities to create a professional, residential agricultural training centre capable of housing 400 students and over 40 training staff.  The second site is in remote Sinoe County in the southeast of Liberia, and has the capacity to house and train up to 225 participants.  More recently, AOAV took over management of further sites: Bensonville in Montserrado County Klay in Bomi County, and Ganta in Nimba County where it has implemented courses with up to 175 trainees per site.

Activities

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AOAV works with ex-combatants and war affected youth in Liberia by offering intensive vocational training and psychosocial counselling.

Trainees are identified and registered from areas of extreme vulnerability and are relocated to the residential training site for the duration of the course. Specialised psycho-social counseling, life skills training, small business management techniques, and vocational agricultural skills training are provided during the course.

Daily and weekly routines are backed by a strict attendance policy. Students must pass written and practical examinations to a training certificate issued jointly by AOAV and the Government of Liberia upon graduation. Following the training phase, graduates are reintegrated into the community of their choice with the assistance of AOAV field teams, who conduct a pre-settlement sensitisation visit to receiving communities.

Trainees are then assigned job placements with local concessions or given reintegration packs to establish their own agricultural enterprises, with follow-up support from AOAV to monitor graduates’ progress and ensure successful reintegration.

Results

To date, over 2,000 trainees have successfully graduated from the programme.  The agricultural training programmes underwent a rigorous two-year external evaluation, conducted by Yale University through Innovations for Poverty Action, in 2011.  The evaluation followed participants of both the Tumutu Agricultural Training Programme (TATP) and the Sinoe Agricultural Training Programme (SATP) over a two year period from registration, through training, and beyond reintegration, as well as a control group of peer individuals who did not undergo training.  The findings of this evaluation demonstrate the positive and sustainable impact of the programme on beneficiaries:

– Graduates have significantly higher interest in and positive attitudes toward farming, and are more likely to be engaged in agricultural activities
– Graduates spend a reduced number of hours on illegal livelihood activities
– Graduates experience a sizeable increase in average wealth, especially among durable household assets
– Graduates demonstrate improvements in social engagement
– Graduates demonstrate qualities of citizenship and stability
– Graduates had less interest in, and recruitment links to, Côte d’Ivoire violence in 2011

A full copy of the evaluation report can by found on the IPA website.

Advocacy

Advocacy

AOAV has developed a three-pronged approach to advancing the policy agenda of the rights of victims of armed violence:

Extending rights-based victim assistance

In our efforts to get the rights of victims and survivors of armed violence more recognised worldwide, AOAV advocates to ensure that victims’ rights are included in the wording of international weapons treaties, especially the Mine Ban Treaty, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the Arms Trade Treaty, and in casualty recording.

9552248031_43048b6ec4_zCasualty recording is an essential aspect to ensuring the rights of victims of armed violence. AOAV works with partners and calls on states and other actors to recognise all casualties of armed violence by ensuring that casualties are promptly recorded, correctly identified, and publicly acknowledged.

AOAV believes that accurate recording, identification and acknowledgement of casualties are crucial for understanding the needs of victims and their surviving families and communities.

Pushing the agenda

As we push the agenda forward, AOAV calls on states, NGOs and international organisations working with victims and survivors of armed violence, to ensure they approach their efforts in a rights-based way and are working with the ultimate goal of ensuring equality of opportunity in society. They should make available information on how they target persons with disabilities, women, children, and other vulnerable groups in their work, and how they ensure that the measures they take are inclusive and rights-based.

AOAV calls for the coordination of work between international treaties to ensure that the work for victims and survivors of landmines, explosive remnants of war, cluster munitions, and armed violence is not duplicated and efforts are most efficient and effective in advancing the rights of all victims of armed violence.

To this end, AOAV is working to engage relevant organisations, academics, practitioners and champion governments in a working group to advance the rights of victims of armed violence as an international policy agenda. In November 2013, AOAV is organising a symposium in collaboration with Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Clinic, which will be used as a way to bring all relevant actors together and discuss the potential for joint advocacy work on this issue.

Survivor participation

As part of our work, AOAV helps to get survivors of armed violence to be part of the conversation when international treaties are developed, as well as responding to their needs when it comes to the planning of armed violence programme.

As recognised in international treaties, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Convention on Cluster Munitions, that involvement of those who have lived through armed violence is essential to understand successfully the needs and to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities, physical or mental, caused by such violence.

 

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Conflict resolution

Conflict resolution

Monrovia Conflict Transformation Teams and Youth Drop-In Centres

The West Point area of Monrovia has a troubled reputation in the view of many Liberians. Though it is associated with high levels of crime and violence, there is still a need for empirical data to present an accurate portrayal. AOAV has found a strong community that is struggling with extreme poverty, overcrowding, and lack of economic opportunity. Crimes are often economically motivated thefts due to the lack of income opportunities presented.

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Monrovia, Liberia

A 2012 AOAV baseline survey on the Impact of Armed Violence in West Point, Monrovia, found that youth were likely to be the perpetrators as well as the victims of armed violence. As a response, the Armed Violence Reduction Programme in West Point has been designed to engage youth in the community.

The programme is using existing community institutions and resources for managing conflict and providing capacity to utilise these community strengths. Through working with youth and allowing them to learn to prevent, reduce, and intervene in conflict, the programme will transform youth from instigators of violence into peacebuilders within their community.

The Conflict Transformation Teams (CTTs) are one arm of the Armed Violence Reduction Programme in West Point. The members of the CTTs have been brought in from the community based on their existing strengths, such as capacity to listen, mediate, and provide advice. AOAV has facilitated further strength-based training to build on their existing capacities and to provide support.

Working closely with local partners, such as the Liberian National Police, the CTTs act to prevent and intervene in conflicts that arise in the community. They fill a void between policing and vigilante groups, with their role encompassing the de-escalation of tensions between parties and addressing issues building on existing community strengths and capacity. Currently, the CTT project is establishing itself in West Point, building connections with street leaders and designing outreach programmes.

Working closely with the CTTs, the second arm of the project in West Point is the establishment of multiple drop-in centres for youth. There is a lack of youth-oriented space in West Point to cater for the large number of young people in the community; the drop-in centres will re-appropriate and transform existing spaces and turn them into productive, empowering, and positive areas for youth to attend. AOAV is partnering with entertainment centres to host drop-in centres and working with the community youth in identifying where to establish these centres.

The drop-in centres will provide a range of resources, including workshops and classes, tailored to meet the needs of the youth community. Attendees will be encouraged to suggest themes, help design and help run workshops themselves. These will be conducted by specially trained youth workers and will span many thematic issues such as arts and culture, non-violent communication, conflict de-escalation, reproductive health, harm reduction, substance abuse, and literacy.

The drop-in centres will also serve to inform about the CTTs as an option to respond to and de-escalate conflict, as well as encourage victims of armed violence to report their experience to the authorities. This will ensure that data is provided to the LAVO project and will help to establish a representative picture of armed violence incidents in the West Point area, and will help to positively address problem areas.

Reports

Reports

Western Sahara

Understanding and Addressing Needs of Victims and Survivors of ERW in Western Sahara – September 2012

covers understanding-and-a copyThis report is a survey conducted by AOAV, inpartnership with the Saharawi Association for the Victims of Mines (ASAVIM), to assess the needs and aspirations of victims and the services to affected populations.

During this five-month process, from February to June 2012, AOAV consulted over 900 victims and their families in the refugee camps and the Polisario-controlled zones East of the berm.

 

Making life safer for the people of Western Sahara – August 2011

Cover Making_life_safer_for_the_people_of_western_sahara-1This publication reports on AOAV’s work to clear land of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) East of the berm. To date, AOAV has cleared over 16 million square meters of land, 2,000 unexploded bombs and 10,000 cluster munitions. The team is also ready to respond to any emergencies, such as landmine accident of the sighting of a dangerous item, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This report also presents some the people working with AOAV in Western Sahara, including a team leader, a landmine survivor and President of Western Sahara Mine Victim Association and a female clearcance operator, and looks at the future potential of the new cleared lands, such as crops and schools.

Policy Position

Policy Position

Supporting Victims: Policy positions

AOAV has developed a three-pronged approach to advancing the policy agenda of the rights of victims of armed violence:

Extending rights-based victim assistance

In our efforts to get the rights of victims and survivors of armed violence more recognised worldwide, AOAV advocates to ensure that victims’ rights are included in the wording of international weapons treaties, especially the Mine Ban Treaty, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the Arms Trade Treaty, and in casualty recording.

9552248031_43048b6ec4_zCasualty recording is an essential aspect to ensuring the rights of victims of armed violence. AOAV works with partners and calls on states and other actors to recognise all casualties of armed violence by ensuring that casualties are promptly recorded, correctly identified, and publicly acknowledged.

AOAV believes that accurate recording, identification and acknowledgement of casualties are crucial for understanding the needs of victims and their surviving families and communities.

Pushing the agenda

As we push the agenda forward, AOAV calls on states, NGOs and international organisations working with victims and survivors of armed violence, to ensure they approach their efforts in a rights-based way and are working with the ultimate goal of ensuring equality of opportunity in society. They should make available information on how they target persons with disabilities, women, children, and other vulnerable groups in their work, and how they ensure that the measures they take are inclusive and rights-based.

AOAV calls for the coordination of work between international treaties to ensure that the work for victims and survivors of landmines, explosive remnants of war, cluster munitions, and armed violence is not duplicated and efforts are most efficient and effective in advancing the rights of all victims of armed violence.

To this end, AOAV is working to engage relevant organisations, academics, practitioners and champion governments in a working group to advance the rights of victims of armed violence as an international policy agenda. In November 2013, AOAV is organising a symposium in collaboration with Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Clinic, which will be used as a way to bring all relevant actors together and discuss the potential for joint advocacy work on this issue.

Survivor participation

As part of our work, AOAV helps to get survivors of armed violence to be part of the conversation when international treaties are developed, as well as responding to their needs when it comes to the planning of armed violence programme.

As recognised in international treaties, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Convention on Cluster Munitions, that involvement of those who have lived through armed violence is essential to understand successfully the needs and to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities, physical or mental, caused by such violence.