The power of resilience, innovation and hope
“I get up in the morning and I step right into Sudan or Georgia or Central African Republic. It’s magical to be able to start your work each day in a different country”. Up until a year ago, it would have been possible to see Violeta, leading the ICC Outreach Unit, one day in the office in The Hague, and the next one in Khartoum, Sudan, talking to journalists covering ongoing proceedings. Violeta’s work still starts each day in a different country, albeit virtually. Caroline, working as an Outreach officer, echoes this experience.
As the COVID-19 pandemic took everyone by surprise, the ways the world communicates had to change. The ICC needed to find new platforms to reach the communities affected by crimes and new ways to share knowledge about the Court and its work.
Resilience. Innovation. Hope. The ideas behind these three simple words helped reshape the work of Outreach in 2020 and 2021.
The world is my office
From her living room in a town not far from The Hague, Violeta is still daily in touch with colleagues in the field, but also affected communities, civil society, lawyers, bar associations or university students living thousands of kilometres away. “Our job is to give a view into the proceedings to the ones who cannot come to the Court, either by bringing them to the Courtroom, or bringing the Courtroom to them”, says Violeta.
On a typical workday, sitting behind the computer screen in her home, Caroline would also hop from one situation to another, organizing lectures, online trainings and information sessions for media, or lawyers, for example.
“My job is to make sure that people in these countries feel closer to the Court, that they feel heard and that their concerns are taken into account”. Caroline adds that some might not be fully satisfied with the outcome of a judicial process, but they are still grateful that their voices are heard and that they were shown empathy and support.
“We used to travel on missions to share knowledge about the Court with the media, NGOs, and the legal community”, recalls Caroline. Face-to-face interactions create trust, instil confidence, build relationships and shape the understanding of the work of the Court. “Interacting directly with people in countries where the Court is investigating is very rewarding, a reminder of the importance of the work of the ICC”, said Caroline.
With the ongoing pandemic, this interaction became virtual, making it harder to reach people in countries where technology is not advanced. “We had to be creative and change the type of activities we are organising”, said Caroline.
Overcoming ongoing challenges
Since face-to-face meetings became hard to organise and it was close to impossible to physically reach affected communities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a vision of a new Outreach has emerged. From an extension of “the public gallery of the courtroom” – as it was known previously – Outreach became an extension of “the virtual public gallery” with greater capacity, more content and a much larger global audience. Outreach turned to video platforms to organise trainings and webinars, used messaging services to share information materials with partners, created audio-visual aids explaining the Court’s mandate through animations and video graphics and participated in radio programmes to reach the widest audience.
Resilience, innovation, hope
Outreach will continue to explore new ways of conducting activities, designing new information tools and opening new communication channels, all this with curiosity and open minds.
2020 and 2021 might have been paved with obstacles but – to quote Violeta – “finding ways to reach the people was tough, and we’ve made it with resilience and a lot of support from colleagues and partners on the ground”.