In this section we will delve into ECPAT’s strides over the past year. From expanding our global reach with new members to recalibrating our governance structures and from embracing innovative strategies to navigating challenges, we remain united in our commitment to safeguard children across the globe. Join us as we share the highlights of our collective journey in 2023.
In March 2023, ECPAT’s 9th International Assembly convened, marking the third time the event was conducted virtually. We witnessed an impressive turnout with 196 registrations from 104 member organisations, spanning 91 countries and 19 time zones. This assembly provided an opportunity for our three main Board Committees (Finance, Governance, and Credentials) to share their visionary roadmaps for the forthcoming year.
We celebrated the addition of six new members to our network since the last Assembly, expanding our influence and reach. These include organisations from diverse regions: Sustain from Cameroon, DCI from Zambia, Keoogo from Burkina Faso, Children’s Voices from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Communauté Abel from Côte d’Ivoire, and ACRIDES from the Republic of Cabo Verde.
To foster a unified approach to child protection, the Credentials Committee introduced the proposal for establishing Minimum Quality Standards. Leading with ‘Child Safeguarding’ as a priority, these standards aim to enhance the professionalism, safety, and impact of our collective work. An initial mapping exercise of the safeguarding standards among our members has been conducted, with a focus on providing robust support where needed.
A keen emphasis was also laid on refining ECPAT’s governance model to make it more adaptive and in compliance with legal requirements for foundations registered in the Netherlands. This endeavour is reinforced by expert counsel specialising in Dutch Foundation law. Alongside, a new Network Development strategy is in the works, aiming to support ECPAT’s new Theory of Change and foster enhanced collaborative initiatives for our collective mission.
ECPAT stands at a crucial juncture, embracing a wave of transformation and innovation. Our collective reflection and active discourse help us evolve, remain pertinent, and enhance our efficiency in the dynamic child protection landscape. However, recent geopolitical factors have presented challenges, with some members facing operational constraints. In response, ECPAT remains proactive, forging pivotal partnerships and engaging in critical dialogues to facilitate the continuation of essential work in child protection. Our upcoming Network Development strategy will further address these challenges and explore safe collaboration avenues.
Considering the evolving landscape, we also note the generational shift in leadership across many member organisations. While transitions pose challenges, they also bring fresh perspectives and renewed vigour. ECPAT is committed to harnessing this dynamism, ensuring the legacy of our members remains strong, and our collective mission continues to flourish.
As we move forward, our dedication to the cause remains unwavering. With resilience and unity, we aim to create a world where children live free from exploitation.
The completion of Phase 1 of the “Disrupting Harm (DH)” project marked a significant milestone, successfully covering 13 nations across Africa and Southeast Asia by September 2022. The momentum continues as we embark on Phase 2, reaching into 11 additional countries spanning Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.
In Latin America, ECPAT’s advocacy efforts achieved notable success. Our recent election as the co-chair of the working group on violence against children for the ‘Global Movement for Children’ in Latin America and the Caribbean demonstrates our leadership role. We are enthusiastically driving synchronisation among major international organisations, intensifying focus not just on traditional travel but also emerging trends such as ‘voluntourism.’
Our involvement in the European Union remains robust. From spearheading efforts to influence EU’s draft law on child abuse to hosting crucial consultations in Brussels, our commitment remains unwavering. Efforts have been made to foster collaboration, stimulate national initiatives, and maintain the momentum of ECPAT’s campaign throughout the EU.
Central Asia, a region particularly affected in recent times, witnessed a renewed commitment from ECPAT, as we orchestrated virtual regional consultations and in-person meetings in Toshkent. The emphasis was on reinforcing child safeguarding and launching a unique Access to Justice project tailored for Central Asia.
Our engagement in Central and Eastern Europe was extensive and multifaceted. From strategising regional priorities to backing members like La Strada Moldova in enacting significant legal provisions and advocating for child-centric reforms, our impact is evident.
The collaboration with ECPAT Luxembourg birthed a transformative 4-year project in South Asia. With a focus on assessing support services for child trafficking survivors, we are ensuring that their voices are at the heart of our interventions.
In Southeast Asia, our strategic partnership with the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Commission has seen us initiating projects centred around knowledge-driven advocacy for preventing child sexual abuse and exploitation.
Our efforts in the MENA region have been dynamic. From training local researchers for data-driven advocacy in Northern Iraq to organising consultations with ECPAT Turkey, we are making strides. In March 2023, a Regional Consultation in Amman set the stage for evaluating child safeguarding processes across the region.
In Africa, our footprint expanded with projects spanning West Africa to Uganda, bringing forth actionable insights from our research and direct engagements with local communities.
As we chart the way forward, the Caribbean and the Pacific are on our horizon, where we aim to address intricate challenges surrounding child exploitation.
While the post-pandemic era allowed us to re-establish in-person interactions, fostering a renewed spirit of collaboration, the research findings from the DH project amplified our reach, equipping members globally to address online child exploitation.
A hallmark of our achievements in 2023 was the event in Nairobi, Kenya. This gathering signified a paradigm shift, leveraging local expertise over international consultants, thus enriching research quality and bolstering local action against child exploitation. The emphasis was on proactive solutions, from policy reforms to capacity building. This model, centred on empowerment and actionable insights, sets the tone for our future global engagements, and we are thrilled at the increasing interest from international entities to participate in such transformative exercises.
Through strategic collaborations, data-driven research, and leveraging the strengths of our vast network, we have been able to amplify our impact across diverse regions. Notably, our shift towards engaging local actors has not only enhanced the quality of our research but also empowered communities, reinforcing our belief in a collaborative approach. As we move forward, the successes and learnings from this year set a promising trajectory for our future endeavours. With the continued support of our stakeholders, board, donors, and our vibrant community of practice, we are optimistic about creating an even greater impact in our pursuit to safeguard children globally.
“Being a survivor is about learning to cope. I’m a survivor because I’m still here. It is hard to be a survivor. I put so much effort into it and people. You need to have some sort of passion in life. I have a passion to live.”
– Ally, survivor