Seventeen years ago, in partnership with UNICEF and the NGO Group for the Rights of the Child (now known as Child Rights Connect), ECPAT co-organised the First World Congress against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Stockholm, Sweden. The congress was hosted by the Government of Sweden, which also played a major role in attracting support and participation from 122 concerned governments.
Queen Silvia of Sweden granted her royal patronage to the Congress and was present at both the opening and closing ceremonies. Her Majesty said in her Closing Address to the Congress, “We owe this to the children who have been abused, tortured and even killed by sex offenders and to the children who are at risk of becoming victims.”
The First World Congress brought together, for the first time, governments, inter-governmental organisations and NGOs. There were 718 government officials representing 122 countries, 105 representatives from the United Nations and inter governmental organisations, 471 NGO representatives and a delegation of 47 young people participating in this week-long event.
At the time, ECPAT was operating as a three-year campaign focusing on ending the commercial aspect of sexual exploitation of children in Asia. Because of the global support for the Congress, and commitment by all present to protect children, ECPAT ceased to be a regional campaign and became a global non-governmental organisation (NGO) and network. The First World Congress was a pivotal moment for children’s rights around the world, the effects of which still echo today. You can read more about how ECPAT International has recently been recognised for its pioneering role in working towards a world where no children are victims of commercial sexual exploitation here.