Speech by UNDP Resident Representative: Toll-free hotline for crime victims

16 Jul 2013

Speech by UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton

I’m very proud to represent the United Nations Development Programme at the opening today of Croatia’s new national call center for victims of crimes.

With the launch of this center, people who have fallen victim to any sort of crime, anywhere in Croatia, will be able to dial a simple toll-free number – 116 006 – and receive instant information and advice from our staff of 27 highly trained volunteers.

The new call center is the fruit of a long-standing partnership between UNDP, the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Court, so let me take this opportunity to thank both institutions for the excellent collaboration that we have enjoyed over the past six years.

Since our joint efforts started in 2007, we have together created offices for Witness Victim Support at county courts in Croatia’s seven main cities. These seven offices provide crime victims with the information and reassurance they need to testify in court with confidence. They have already helped more than 14,000 victims. And after some initial reluctance, the judges who have seen their impact have become enthusiastic proponents.

We are very proud of these results, and the Council of Europe has recognized the Croatian system as a model for the rest of the region.

The success of these efforts has depended on a small number of professional staff and the energy and dedication of a far larger network of young volunteers, many of whom are drawing on this experience as a practical introduction to a career in law or social work. This network now engages 193 volunteers, and you will hear from some of them today.

When we realized that the needs of victims in Croatia were still greater than the existing system could handle, particularly for people living too far away to visit the seven county courts in person, we seized the opportunity to rely on our volunteer network to expand the system of witness-victim support.

We see the partnership that has emerged between the Association for Victim and Witness Support and the Ministry as a model for how NGOs can deliver social services.

Let me say a few words about the new national hotline. First, the number, 116 006, is standardized across the European Union. That doesn’t mean, however, that all EU member states are already using the number. Croatia is still a pioneer here, since it is just the sixth EU member state (after Austria, Denmark, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands) to establish a hotline for crime victims.

Second, thanks to the generosity of Metronet, our telecommunications services provider, the number is available free-of-charge, for both callers and the Ministry of Justice.

Third, information for callers using the hotline will be available in English as well as Croatian, so the service will also be accessible to many of the tourists who visit Croatia each year.

The total cost of the call center was just over $172,000, with UNDP providing $148,000 and our friends in the Netherlands contributing the remaining $24,000. The Ministry of Justice has kindly supplied the premises for the call center on the first floor of this building, and it will take over full funding after two years.

This investment brings UNDP’s overall contribution to victims support in Croatia to around $1.5 million in total over six years.

As this suggests, ensuring that victims receive the respect and care they deserve is a priority for UNDP. We look forward to continuing this work in the future, with a focus on the rights of victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Thank you for your attention, and I look forward to your questions.