NEW YORK, February 1, 2018― In the aftermath of massive human rights violations, the voices of young people carry enormous potential: they can tell the truth about the past while offering new paths forward as their societies pursue peace and justice. However, if institutions want the insights of young people, they must avoid pre-formulated solutions and instead engage with youth on their own terms. A new guide released by ICTJ today aims to provide the tools necessary to do so, offering recommendations about how to responsibly and effectively gather statements from young people.
The guide, titled “Listening to Young Voices: A Guide to Interviewing Children and Young People in Truth Seeking and Documentation Efforts,” provides clear, specific protocols for practitioners to employ across the globe. Authored by Valerie Waters, a psychology specialist who focuses on trauma-sensitive approaches to human rights initiatives, the guide draws on a wealth of research and field experience in offering its recommendations. It is available in four languages: Arabic, English, French, and Spanish.
The guide is designed for use by those working to implement processes that maximize the positive impact of children’s testimonies, while protecting and respecting the young people who provide them. It is intended to serve as a general tool for cultivating a child-centered approach and offers concrete steps for how to successfully and responsibly elicit a statement. This includes instructions for how to secure meaningful consent; sample open-ended questions; guidelines for taking the declaration; and recommendations regarding how to support a young person before, during, and after the statement taking process.
Among the most important recommendations the guide offers is the centrality of a psychosocial worker in the statement-taking process. The guide recommends using both a statement taker, who is responsible for collecting the statement or testimony, and an individual trained in social work or psychology to provide supportive counseling services to children and their families. This psychosocial worker role is intended to have an existing and ongoing relationship with the child who is respected in the community and invested in seeing children through the statement taking process.
“We have to depart from conceiving of statement taking as a discrete moment of collecting the child’s story and instead as a process that takes place over weeks or even months,” Waters explains. “In order for that to happen, there needs to be a stable reference point for the child. Someone who the child has a relationship with or easy access to, who can explain things in a way that the child understands and who can follow up with the child after the statement taking. It is about giving the child as much space as possible to use the statement taking process in the way that is most meaningful to them, and then following the child’s lead in terms of what sort of support they would want.”
Available in four language, the guide is designed to be used in various contexts. While the guide should be adapted to the local context in which it will be used, the adaptations should adhere to the child-centric approach that informs all the recommendations the guide offers. This guide is already being used by civil society organizations working to document violations in Syria, with a focus on attacks on schools. It is also being shared with the recently appointed commissioners of the Colombian truth and reconciliation commission.
“Throughout our work in Canada, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, and Colombia, we have seen a lot interest in involving young people in truth seeking efforts, but a fear about how to do that safely and effectively. We are very excited to be launching this guide based on our country work and complemented by in depth research,” says Virginie Ladisch, head of ICTJ’s Children and Youth Program. “We put a lot of effort into making it accessible and user-friendly. We hope practitioners all over the world will take it, adapt it to their specific work, and use it as a manual to help them genuinely listen to young voices. Their perspectives are crucial to understanding the past and moving us towards a more just and inclusive future.”
To download the full guide, click here. For further guidance on implementing or adapting this protocol, please contact Virginie Ladisch, Head of ICTJ’s Children and Youth Program at email@example.com. Tel: +1 917-637-3879
Sam McCann, Communications Associate E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +1 917-637-3824