Astana, Kazakhstan, 7-9 December 2022 - United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) continues supporting Central Asian Member States in the rehabilitation and reintegration of children who have been returned from Syria and Iraq; thanks to the newly formed partnership between the European Union and UN agencies under the Global Framework on United Nations (UN) Support on Syria / Iraq Third Country National (TCN) Returnees.
Since 2018, UNODC has been supporting Central Asian Member States in this area of work. As a result of consultations, assessments and training workshops targeting national stakeholders, UNODC identified “communication with children” and “child sensitive interviewing techniques” as important topics to be included in the curriculum and trainings for academies of law enforcement authorities, prosecutors and lawyers in order to increase the protection of these children.
When children have lived in areas of conflict, their lives change. They experience violence and trauma; and their bonds with society are affected. These children required that any professional or practitioners in contact with are trained on child sensitive communication and trauma-informed approaches, to prevent secondary victimization and re-victimization.
With this in mind, UNODC organized and carried out a Regional Training of Trainers on child sensitive communication and trauma-informed approaches to child interviewing that brought together 28 trainers from the Kazakh and Uzbek law enforcement academies from 7-9 December 2022.
The three-day event was an opportunity for participants to (a) learn about approaches and practical guidance to support government efforts to better treat children who have been returned from conflict areas, in line with international law; (b) gain knowledge on child sensitive interviews and techniques that are applicable in a broader context, not only for children who have been victims of terrorism but also to any child victim, witness of crime and violence as well as children in conflict with the law; (c) integrate the different aspects of emotional intelligence for interviewers and the psychological barriers of communication into interviewing techniques; (d) development of soft skills to become an effective interviewer of children, which includes collecting evidence in line with the best interest of the child and also mitigation of risks of re-traumatisation and secondary victimisation before, during and after the interview process.
Participants welcomed the opportunity for extensive and in-depth exchanges. The Regional Training of Trainers will have a multiplying effect at national level when the attending trainers of law enforcement academies in turn deliver training for the staff and personnel of the law enforcement and criminal justice institutions in their home countries. UNODC will continue engagement to support Member States in adopting these courses as part of the curriculum of law enforcement academies.
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The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) held a series of online training events for more than 300 Kazakh professionals working to support the rehabilitation and reintegration of children that have been returned from conflict zones in Syria and Iraq. These training events build on the extensive work that UNODC, through its Global Programme to End Violence against Children, has undertaken in support of Member States to ensure that children affected by terrorism are treated primarily as victims, and that the rehabilitation and reintegration of children is the primary aim of all interventions. To promote this goal, the Global Programme to End Violence against Children has provided technical assistance to over 35 countries in 6 different regions, and has developed a range of resources and tools on prevention and response to the recruitment and exploitation of children by terrorist and violent extremist groups.
Building on the strong partnership between UNODC and the Government of Kazakhstan, and with financial support from the Government of Germany, this workshop series offered tailored training sessions for ministerial officials and the broad range of professionals engaged in the rehabilitation and reintegration of Kazakhstani children returned from conflict zones.
Recognizing the role that complex trauma plays in the lives of children returned from conflict zones, the workshops highlighted the importance of a coordinated and multi-sectoral approach to ensure the provision of specialised trauma-informed care, tailored to the unique circumstances of each child. In her opening remarks, Ms. Ashita Mittal, noted:
“Children experience violence and neglect differently, and may face different and heightened consequences of hardship and trauma. They also have specific developmental, behavioural and social needs. Their situation deserves our attention and by recognizing their specificity we are safeguarding international law, which affords them special rights and protection.”
The training series comprised three workshops, held over three consecutive weeks in October. The first workshop provided ministerial representatives with the opportunity to focus on practical strategies to strengthen multi-sectoral coordination to ensure a comprehensive and sustainable approach to children who have returned from conflict zones. This workshop focused largely on cross-sectoral partnerships and considered the best means of ensuring that the legislation and policy developed at the national level is operationalised at the local level in support of each child. Participants also had the opportunity to focus on the importance of the development and implementation of a protocol for the collection, retention and sharing of data in a manner that also respects children’s privacy.
The second and third workshops were designed for the broad range of professionals that work on a daily basis to support children returned from conflict zones. These workshops focused on the importance of understanding a child’s context and strengthening the protective factors within a child’s environment in support of rehabilitation and reintegration. These online workshops also provided participants with practical strategies about child-, gender- and victim-sensitive communication, and the importance of creating meaningful opportunities for children’s voices to be heard. Over 300 professionals, including educators, social workers, psychologists, officers from local authorities, and representatives of community-based organizations attended the webinars.
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A National Roundtable with 21 representatives from the Government of Kazakhstan was held to validate findings and recommendations of the UNODC Technical Assistance Needs Assessment Report on Prevention and Responses to Violence against Children by Terrorist and Violent Extremist Groups, including children affected by the Foreign Terrorist Fighter (FTF) Phenomenon. The meeting was an important step towards strengthening collaboration between UNODC and the Government of Kazakhstan for promoting the rehabilitation and reintegration of child returnees from conflict zones.