France organizes international conference at UNESCO for aid to victims

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©UNESCO/Christelle ALIX
09 January 2017

On 9 January 2017, at UNESCO Headquarters, the Director-General, Irina Bokova, opened the first International Conference for Aid to Victims, attended by 9 ministers and representatives from 26 countries. Organized at the initiative of the Secretary of State to the Prime Minister of the French Republic in charge of Assistance to Victims, Juliette Méadel, this high-level meeting was held under the auspices of UNESCO in an international context marked by the need to better take into account support to victims of violent extremism, terrorism and fanaticism.
 
"The action carried out by the Secretariat of State is inseparable from that carried out at UNESCO for the prevention of violent extremism, for a culture of peace, for the education of young people in the values ​​of tolerance and human rights and history, as well as mutual understanding," declared Director-General Irina Bokova.

"Supporting victims means making their voices heard, and UNESCO can help make their voices heard, in society, in the media, through education, to share the voices of those victims with a story to tell, their dignity to defend, to shed light on something that can make whole society stronger and more compassionate," said the Director-General. Irina Bokova underscored the need to continue working for the comprehensive protection of fundamental rights and recalled the relevance of the Organization's mandate in this regard.
 
"Providing men and women with skills to be resilient is precisely what guides UNESCO's action, to advance new forms of education for global citizenship, to promote a culture of respect, to shape innovative tools for Intercultural dialogue, and to defend cultural diversity and freedom of expression as a force to be shared by all," she continued.

"United in the face of terrorism and barbarism, we must also be united in helping victims, all victims," ​​stated the Secretary of State for Victim Assistance, Juliette Méadel, in her opening speech. "Building an ambitious and inclusive international policy on aid to victims requires that we know each other better in order to draw a genuine new political convergence with long-term impact," she said.

Juliette Méadel called for the implementation of what the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas called "global domestic policy". "This is the only way possible," added the Secretary of State, "because the scourge of terrorism affects all countries".

Introducing the conference, Robert Badinter, former Minister of Justice and former President of the Constitutional Council of the French Republic, gave a brief history of the evolutions of terrorism. "Contemporary terrorism has profoundly and lastingly changed the situation, precisely because of its truly international character and the change of its inspiration and its motives," he said, recalling also that holding this Conference within the walls of UNESCO, an Organization dedicated to building peace on a planetary scale, carried additional meaning.

"We are now confronted with mass terrorism, which puts us in a situation that is, in the literal sense, extraordinary," added Mr Badinter. "Extraordinary, in the sense that terrorism, in its contemporary face, pretends to draw on religious grounds". "Not only is this a misguided use of religion, but, moreover, the vast majority of victims of terrorism are Muslim," said Robert Badinter.

"In the face of a true ideological war, it is more important than ever for us to defend and guarantee the right to respect for the individual, his life and his fundamental rights", added Robert Badinter, specifying the imperative to have "a State system for compensation due to victims of terrorism".

Two years after the "Grande Marche Républicaine" held in Paris on 11 January 2015, following the attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo on 7 January of the same year, which represented an attack on freedom of information and right to criticism, and the anti-Semitic attacks of 9 January, the International Conference on Victim Assistance aims to promote the exchange of good national practices and experiences by bringing together experts and government representatives from a range of countries.
 
A number of round tables came to nourish the debates around several key themes: including the place of victims within society: evolution, recognition and commemorations; The role of media and justice: access to information for the general public and access to information for victims; Training and coordination of first responders, conditions for an effective response during the emergency phase; Care, compensation and long-term support: converge national systems for better protection of victims; Resilience and reconstruction: how to return to a normal life after a traumatic event.

At the end of the day, a ministerial session to "share views" was organized in the presence of representatives of several countries, including Belgium, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Spain, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Mali, Norway, United Kingdom, Romania. The objective of the ministerial panel is to reflect on an international policy to assist victims and how to better coordinate action between States in this field.