Communities play a crucial role in the monitoring of grave violations against children. Without their support there would be no access to victims or witnesses – the primary sources of information for the UN-led Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM). Communities and local NGOs face many challenges to contribute their information. They live in constant fear of retaliation. They face personal security risks when traveling through insecure areas. But for those communities that nonetheless choose to report on violations, there is yet another challenge that emerges: demotivation.
In January, Watchlist visited long-standing partners in Eastern DRC and the Thai-Myanmar border. In both countries, partner organizations train volunteer community members to identify and document grave violations against children, which are then fed into the MRM and other relevant avenues. In both contexts, community-based monitors have voiced frustration. They do not always see the direct impact of their individual efforts, usually taken at great personal risk. Moreover, it takes a long time before their country is discussed by the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. In the meantime, violations continue to take place. While lack of motivation is less dramatic a threat than security, it is pervasive in community-based monitoring and reporting activities across different regions, countries and contexts.
Watchlist believes it is crucial that the efforts of community-based volunteers are recognized and valued; without their support, monitoring, reporting and response to violations against children would not be possible. A meaningful civil society participation and inclusion in the MRM is key in this regard, as it allows local NGOs to make the necessary link between communities and the UN not only for the purposes of data collection, but also for a much needed and expected feedback. This is one of the lessons-learned of the MRM in Nepal.
During our January encounters, local partner NGOs identified best practices through which they have been able to give feedback to and motivate communities that contribute to the MRM:
- Providing feedback on high level decision-making : when victims and witnesses give consent for their stories to be documented and shared through the MRM, local partners inform them of the reporting pathway and its implications. As a follow-up to this informed consent, local NGOs aim to provide feedback to communities on reports to the Security Council, resolutions, and, as much as possible, action plans. This ensures continued community support for the MRM. It also provides a good basis for further advocacy at the local level.
- Providing feedback on performance: In Myanmar, a local NGO has standardized monitoring documents which allows for individual performance feedback once a year and the opportunity to give monitors recognition for their documentation work.
- Sharing coping strategies among communities: while advocacy for child protection is conducted in diplomatic circles, communities sometimes develop coping strategies to mitigate the impact of conflict on their children. The success of such strategies depends on the context, but by exchanging information about coping strategies, local NGOs offer communities a variety of options, ideas and suggestions that can effectively protect children.