Here are a few of our proudest achievements that took place over the last year — between July 2019 and June 2020.
The Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography* has existed as a legal instrument for states to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation. However, there has been a growing concern that the protocol needs to be adapted to include online exploitation. In response, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child released a set of guidelines to give States advice on how to effectively protect children from sexual exploitation. The guidelines, and a supplementary report providing more detailed information and examples on how to implement the guidelines, were developed by an expert working group led by ECPAT.
*ECPAT avoids terms that might harm or trivialise the sexual abuse of children. However, we are using phrases such as ‘child pornography’ in this specific case because it is the title of the Optional Protocol referred to.
My heartfelt thanks to all ECPAT workers and supporters who read this message. I wish you well as you work together to protect children – they are the future, carrying our hopes and dreams for a kind and caring world.
– Alison O’Grady, wife of ECPAT founder Ron O’Grady
ECPAT International was invited by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) to review its guiding document for travel and tourism business and destinations to work for more sustainable tourism. ECPAT provided support related to child protection, and the new GSTC Destination Criteria includes The Code as one of the measures to protect children from sexual exploitation.
This year, ECPAT branched into the world of podcasting and launched our very own series — the first-ever podcast solely dedicated to discussing the issue. So far, 13 episodes of ‘ENDING THE SILENCE on Child Sexual Exploitation’ have been produced. In each episode, we share with listeners how children are affected around the world and what is being done to tackle the problem. Check out our latest episode below:
ECPAT is what it is thanks to the strong and committed leadership of women and men thanks to whom children are being heard and protected. ECPAT always speaks up, analyses and offers solutions that are often ahead of the curve in identifying emerging manifestations of these abject crimes.
– Maud de Boer Buquicchio, Former Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children
5. Putting the Spotlight On A New Region
Gender norms, war and conflict, child marriages… The first Regional Overview on Child Sexual Exploitation in the Middle East and North Africa looked into some of these realities that children in 19 countries are facing. The study looked at publicly available data to give context on some of the issues affecting children in the region, but also serves as an advocacy tool, highlighting good government practices and opportunities for improvement. The report and social media campaigns saw over 35,000 visitors to our research site in the first month of the launch!
Not only did we gain followers on our social media, this year the Communications team was able to break into new and creative ways of sharing knowledge, making it more accessible and engaging. The campaigns promoting our Country Overview reports have helped raise more awareness of ECPAT’s work, and more broadly, the issue of child sexual exploitation in different countries, cultures and contexts.
Our important work has caught the attention of the press, and two features on our reports were published by the Independent UK this year. One article looked into information presented in our Country Overview report on Turkey, particularly on laws affecting child, early and forced marriage in the country. The second article covered facts from our Regional Overview report on the Middle East and North Africa, including how gender norms can impact the sexual exploitation of children in the region.
The lack of data about child sexual exploitation leads to ignorance about the scale of the problem from governments, which in turn compounds the risks faced by children.
– Mark Kavenagh, Head of Research
We strive to make children’s voices heard—especially child victims’ of sexual exploitation. Creating spaces for this to happen is a crucial part of our work. Working with our South Asian regional coordinator, we participated in the 2019 Asian Children’s Summit, where we were able to listen to the voices of children from 21 countries share their stories and provide recommendations for governments on how their rights can be realised.
It is always great to see children coming together, participating and bringing their issues in their own voice.
– Shrinkhala Thapa, Regional Coordinator for South Asia
This year, the General Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) for Southeast Asian Nations adopted a resolution on Eliminating All Forms of Violence and Exploitation of Children that encourages Member States to effectively implement a ‘Legal Checklist’, developed by AIPA in cooperation with ECPAT and partners.
Some of my fondest memories of ECPAT come from some workshops and meetings with our members. There is a great sense of spirit and positive vibes that come from this time, as well as a sense of solidarity and belonging to the ECPAT family. It’s an extremely rewarding feeling.
– Stana Buchowska, Regional Coordinator for Eastern Europe and Central Asia
We’ve had the opportunity to participate and speak at many conferences, giving us the platform to advocate ‘less talk, more action.’ Government and influential leaders have the responsibility to make moves and be the change that we need to see in order for children to be better protected. Speaking at many international conferences and high-level government meetings gave us the ability to continue to reinforce our message that action needs to be taken now in order for children to be protected.
Protecting Children Online, In Every Region
Our awareness and advocacy campaign against online child sexual exploitation in Africa has found success in regional discussions and high-level meetings. After accepting our invitation to attend a high-level summit on online child sexual exploitation in Ethiopia, child welfare ministers from a number of African countries expressed a greater interest in wanting to fight the issue, and signed a declaration committed to better protecting children online.
Ending the Sexual Exploitation of Children is Everybody’s Business
At the Vatican’s Promoting Digital Child Dignity Congress, we asked religious leaders to no longer just talk about the issue of child sexual exploitation, but to act. By preventing further exploitation and abuse, religious institutions can also position themselves as leaders and advocates for positive change for every child. ECPAT’s hope is to continue building upon the commitments made with religious leaders, and seeing them take action.
Improper terms used in research or the media can trivialise or desensitise the very serious crime of child sexual exploitation. During a celebration for the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ECPAT advocated the proper usage of terminology and promoted the use of a set of guidelines for navigating complicated terms that relate to sexual exploitation and abuse of children. We hope that following the terminology guidelines can lead to more effective protection of children from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.