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2024 USAID Symposium: Enhancing Online Safety for Children and Youth in the Asia Pacific Region

Posted on Mar 12, 2024

Amy Crocker, Head of Child Protection and Technology, explores the role of international organisations in balancing children’s right to protection and privacy online.

At the 2024 Protecting Children and Youth from Digital Harm Symposium organised by USAID, a panel discussion zoomed in on the role of international organisations in safeguarding children and youth in the Asia Pacific region from online threats while respecting their right to privacy. 

Amy Crocker, Head of Child Protection and Technology at ECPAT International, offered valuable insights into this complex issue, emphasising the need for common principles, a rights-based approach, and meaningful child participation. 

“We can’t solve all the issues in all countries with one simple approach. But it helps to have a shared understanding of the threats, risks, and harms that young people and children face so that we can think about a joined-up response.” 

Amy outlined three key principles that ECPAT deems crucial for protecting children in digital environments, starting with evidence-based advocacy. This involves leveraging data, knowledge, and grassroots voices in policy discussions, and engaging with governments and online service providers to bolster advocacy efforts. Advocating for meaningful child participation and amplifying the voices of children and young people emerged as another core principle, along with the importance of convening diverse stakeholders for open dialogue and collaboration. In the Asia Pacific region, characterised by its vast linguistic and cultural diversity, finding common ground is essential. Cross-cutting research initiatives, such as the collaboration between ECPAT, UNICEF, and Interpol in the Disrupting Harm project, help to shed light on both national differences and shared challenges. By recognising the interconnected nature of online threats and risks, stakeholders can work towards holistic solutions that address the multifaceted issues impacting children’s lives both online and offline. 

Encouraging a rights-based approach, Amy cited frameworks rooted in child rights, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and General Comment #25. These frameworks provide essential guidance in navigating the complex landscape of digital environments. Harmonised standards, although challenging to achieve in the Asia Pacific region due to the diversity of laws and cultures, can be approached more effectively through a child-rights perspective. By aligning with the principles outlined in the UNCRC and General Comment 25 on Children’s Rights in relation to the Digital Environment, stakeholders gain valuable guiding frameworks that prioritise the protection of children online, while ensuring all of their rights, including to access information, to have their voice heard, and to privacy. 

When considering the creation and implementation of harmonised standards in the Asia Pacific region, Amy noted that establishing basic principles and a level playing field would help to enhance an overall understanding of the issue and develop more effective solutions. Frameworks like regional plans – noting the Regional Plan of Action for Protection of Children from All Forms of Online Exploitation and Abuse in ASEAN (2021-2025) – and international guidance documents offer crucial guidance, along with voluntary principles and recommendations from the private sector. Ultimately, a rights-based approach and legal obligations are also necessary to ensure the protection of children and young people. While harmonisation remains a challenging goal, focusing on fundamental principles and collaborative efforts can pave the way forward. 

Click here to register and watch the full presentation.