ECPAT International, alongside the office of the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children (OSRSG VAC), PACT, and global partners, successfully convened a series of panels aligned with the launch of the UN SRSG VAC’s report at the UN General Assembly 2023 to address the pressing issue of child protection in travel and tourism. This crucial event engaged experts and leaders in a collaborative effort to place child protection at the core of sustainable development.
Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, delivered a powerful speech that echoed the urgency and a call for tangible action. Her insights shed light on the pressing need for a comprehensive and cross-sectoral approach to protecting children in an ever-evolving global landscape.
Read the highlights of her speeches below.
As the global count of tourists and travellers rises, new forms of tourism are emerging. From community tourism to voluntourism, these evolving modes of tourism grant offenders easier access and closer contact with children. The dynamics of business travel add another layer, fostering an environment where violence against children may be tolerated, especially in locations near travellers’ lodgings, homestays, workplaces, or transportation hubs.
Dr. M’jid commended the existing groundwork for action, citing international and national legal standards, codes of conduct, and partnerships. Despite this, she noted that change is not happening at the scale or speed that is required.
Highlighting the inadequacy of voluntary action, Dr. M’jid emphasised the need for binding obligations on businesses within the travel and tourism sector, including ICT companies, to integrate child protection measures into their operations and value chains. Improved collaboration among law enforcement agencies is also critical to ensure a better exchange of information.
“We cannot protect all children from all forms of violence if we [do not] have this cross sectoral approach, and if we are not defining who is doing what, and who is accountable [for] what.”
Shaping solutions based on children’s insights and experiences is critical. Following dialogues organised by the Office of the UN SRSG VAC with more than 500 children worldwide, children underscored the importance of being well-informed and empowered to navigate the risks of violence. The children advocated for building and strengthening peer networks, as well as ensuring accountability from States, institutions, and the industry, to implement robust prevention, protection, and referral measures.
“Children are part of the solution, and it’s really [about] making them involved since the beginning. They know very well where the services are failing. They are the experts.”
In conclusion, Dr. M’jid’s closing speech underscored the necessity of a comprehensive, cross-sectoral approach to child protection in travel and tourism. She urged not only for plans of action but tangible, informed, and monitored implementations that involve children in the process.
“As travel and tourism are being rethought while recovering from the pandemic, we need a renewed and relevant agenda for action that promotes sustainability in its broadest sense. Sustainable means being green. Sustainable means being inclusive. Sustainable means respecting local cultures and empowering communities. But it also means being safe for children.”