On 27 August 1996 the first World Congress against the commercial sexual exploitation of children was held in Stockholm, Sweden. For the first time governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations were brought together to commit to protecting children from commercial sexual exploitation.
At the World Congress, 122 governments unanimously adopted the Stockholm Declaration and Agenda for Action which called for action by all sectors of society, not just governments, in Cooperation and Coordination, Prevention, Protection, Recovery and Reintegration, and Youth Participation. This commitment to build a global partnership against the commercial sexual exploitation of children was further enhanced at two subsequent World Congresses in Japan (2001) and Brazil (2008).
“Don’t just listen, but take action!”
In addition to the representatives of 122 participating governments, together with more than 100 representatives from the United Nations, and hundreds of NGO personnel – a delegation of 47 young people played an active role in the World Congress calling for the views of children and young people to be heard and acted upon.
“For me it is of great importance that the Declaration and Agenda for Action has been adopted unanimously…We have to act now and we have to act forcefully…We owe this to the children who have been abused, tortured and even killed by sex offenders and to children who are at risk of becoming victims.”
(Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, Closing Address to the World Congress in 1996)
In 2012, sixteen years since the first World Congress, significant progress has been made to protect children from sexual exploitation through improved monitoring of governments commitments, legal reform, care and protection services, and research to better understand the sexual exploitation of children. However, much more still needs to be done so that every child can enjoy their fundamental rights and live without fear of sexual exploitation.
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