Information Gathering - The Basics

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-1406/Naseem-Ur Rehman
A family rests a tent in Al-Mazrak displacement camp in Harad District, Hajja Governorate, Yemen. A small child lies in a hammock beneath the bed. The camp houses some 500 families displaced by ongoing violence in Sa’ada Governorate.


  • Understand the basic strategies of information gathering
  • Understand the difference between fact-finding and criminal investigations and be aware that MRM staff do not gather information for criminal prosecution
  • Understand the use of monitoring tools and information required for MRM
Participants MRM Staff
Session Interactive Presentation
Time required 60 minutes
Venue requirements Main training room
Equipment - Laptop, LCD projector
- Flipchart paper and markers
Resource person(s) 1 person with knowledge of the topic, able to enrich the presentation by providing concrete examples and lessons based on own experience
Training materials PPT presentation on "Information Gathering"
Documents for participants - Handout of PPT presentation (3 slides per page with notes)
- MRM Field Manual Sections F2 "Information gathering" & F4 "Documentation" under Monitoring
- OHCHR Monitoring Manual (2001), chapter VII
Access to materials All training materials are included in Folder Module 8B: Information Gathering

Session Sequence

  1. Opening discussion (15 minutes)

    In order to make the presentation more interesting, you should complement it by sharing concrete examples and lessons based on your own experience to illustrate some of the concepts addressed in the presentation, and also to ask participants for their own experiences.

    It is suggested that you ask one or two people to commence the session by sharing a particular challenge or lesson learnt when gathering information.

    Do not get into lengthy discussions at this point but suggest that more discussion can ensue during the session.

  2. Interactive presentation (45 minutes)

    Now move on to the presentation; using the slides to guide the discussion will ensure all key points are covered. Some suggestions for use of slides:

    Slide 4: Put up the titles "Primary Source" and "Secondary Source" and ask for examples prior to sharing the list. Ask if the media counts as a secondary source - discuss and show (next click) that perhaps in most cases the media would provide an alert rather than be counted as information gathered.

    Slide 5: Use this slide to guide through the type of information that is required.

    Note: some people include "Why" but this is a judgement call - only the perpetrator can say "why" he/she did it. Instead ask for the context in which the incident occurred and describe it - see suggestions on the slide. Include and emphasise "what happens next". Important to emphasise the need for a response if appropriate (more on this later in the training).

    Slide 6: experience would show us that monitors are not always vigilant at explaining to the victims/survivors or sources. It is important that people understand who you are and what you are doing.

    Slide 9: Put up the title "How can we ensure confidentiality?" Ask the question at each of the bullet points and discuss at each stage. See notes on the ppt for more specific suggestions under each line. This slide is very important.

    Slide 10: Emphasise the need for good planning.

    Highlight that not all persons taking information about grave violations against children will be involved in all of the stages. For example: programme staff may provide a report on an incident but may not be involved in full verification or will not be the person raising this with the relevant authorities.

    Slides 11 & 12: This last part of the presentation is very important - see below.

    Attention: Clarify the difference between a child rights monitoring/fact-finding activity and criminal investigations, to ensure there is no confusion in what MRM staff can or cannot do.

MRM staff undertaking monitoring and fact-finding activities regularly:

  • Do not gather information for criminal prosecution - When confronted with it, MRM staff should alert those authorities who can be expected to investigate further and bring the matter to justice. Note that this can only happen with the consent of the victim, caregiver and primarily they should go direct to the authorities themselves.
  • Do not undertake tasks such as medical examinations of victims/survivors, exhumations, removal of physical evidence, since they have neither the expertise nor authority to do so - but can be present while competent authorities perform such tasks.
  • Do not hide their identities or use cover stories - this could put them or other people in danger
  • Do not record witness statement - take testimonies voluntarily through interviews. Informed consent is needed prior to any action aimed at gathering information from victims/survivors and other persons.
  • Do not gather physical evidence (e.g. clothes, personal effects, blood, weapons, bullets, fragments, knives, fingerprints, sketches, photos) or original documents - risk of breaking the chain of custody & interfering with ongoing investigations - take
  • Photos instead or copies of documents where appropriate.
  • Do not have the authority to undertake house searches and inquire about the private life of individuals

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