Gathered in Brazil, a United Nations-backed forum to combat the sexual exploitation of children called this Friday, November 28, for a comprehensive strategy comprising laws, policies, regulations and services across all social sectors as well as a shift in social attitudes and practices, such as child marriage.
"There is no single intervention that protects children from sexual exploitation," UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Nils Kastberg said at the end of World Congress III Against the Sexual Exploitation of Children in Rio de Janeiro.
"Building and strengthening child protection systems is critical and requires action from all actors to provide children with the protection they deserve."
Representatives of 137 governments, meeting with children, international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private sector companies, conceded that ending the scourge is a long and difficult battle, but the Congress organizers said countries are in a better position now to win the fight as a result of days of work in developing a blueprint for action.
The Rio Declaration and Action Plan to Prevent and Stop the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents calls on governments to enact laws that protect all children in their jurisdiction, including undocumented migrants or those who have been trafficked so that every child is provided protection under the law. Governments are also asked to pass laws that do not criminalize children for crimes they have committed as a result of their sexual exploitation.
On prevention, the Rio Action Plan stresses the need for a comprehensive strategy and the involvement of all social sectors, especially social welfare, education, health, security and justice, to support prevention and respond to risks.
Unlike previous World Congresses, where the recommendations of young participants were prepared separately, in Rio de Janeiro the young people participated fully in the drafting of the action plan.
Studies indicate an increase in the sexual exploitation of the young and UNICEF noted that predators continue to use new tools to target children, including cyberspace and new generation mobile phone technologies, with adults preying on children in chat rooms and using the Internet to post or download pornography.
The gathering was co-sponsored by UNICEF, the Brazilian Government, ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography, and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes), a global non-profit network of organizations and individuals set up in 1991, and the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Seven years after the last World Congress in Yokohama, Japan, which focused exclusively on commercial sexual exploitation of children, the current Congress also discussed strategies for combating non-commercial forms of child sexual exploitation, including the sexual exploitation of children in their homes, by religious leaders, teachers, peacekeepers and armed groups in war zones.
The First World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children took place in Stockholm in 1996, resulting in the 'Stockholm Declaration and Agenda for Action,' which was adopted by 122 countries. This committed countries to develop strategies and plans of action with agreed-upon guidelines and 161 countries have now signed on.