Partnership between governments, the tech industry and children is key to strengthening child online protection

Bangkok, 28 February 2020 - SRSG Maalla M'jid speaking at the close of the first ASEAN Regional Conference on Child Online Protection stressed that an enhanced partnership between governments, the tech industry and children themselves was key to tackling the growing problem of online abuse and exploitation in cyberspace. 

"Children must be empowered to take a leading role in online protection through an ethical, inclusive and meaningful participation. All action to enhance protection must be informed and shaped by children’s views and concerns, with a particular attention to the most invisible and vulnerable ", highlighted SRSG Najat Maalla M'jid.

At the same time, she stressed, governments and the tech industry must play their part: “When it comes to the role of governments and the tech industry, we know that robust legislation and regulation protecting children from all forms of violence, take time to implement. But risks to children in the digital world emerge quickly and spread rapidly. As a result, industry has a special responsibility. The tech industry is uniquely placed to mitigate the negative impact digital technologies can have on children. They too must put children first and build the rights of children to safety and protection into their business models”, she said. 

The SRSG was speaking at the close of the first ASEAN Regional Conference on Child Online Protection held in Bangkok, 25-28 February. The event brought together over 200 participants from governments in the ASEAN region, private sector representatives, United Nations agencies, as well as young people and civil society partners. The ASEAN Conference was jointly hosted by the Governments of the Philippines and Thailand, and supported by the ITU, UNICEF and UNODC. It was aimed at accelerating action on the protection of children from violence online, as well as finding solutions and identifying key actions that need be taken by governments, the tech industry, and children and their caregivers. 

According to UNICEF's annual flagship publication, State of the World's Children 2017: Children in a Digital World, one in three Internet users is a child and more than 175,000 children go online for the first time every day. While the internet and social media provide children and adolescents with unparalleled opportunities to connect, to access and share information, and to access entertainment, it inevitably exposes them to risks of abuse and exploitation and these risks are growing exponentially. It is estimated that approximately 75,000 individuals are online at any one time looking to connect with children for sexual purposes.

Recalling that 2020 marks the start of the Decade of Action to accelerate progress towards reaching the Sustainable Development Goals targets related to ending all forms for violence against children, the SRSG urged that the solutions and approaches identified at the Conference must be speedily adopted at national level.

“We need a comprehensive approach, building child protection online and offline together as a continuum. Implementation of the recently adopted ASEAN Declaration on the Protection of Children from all Forms of Online Exploitation and Abuse through action at the national level needs to embed this holistic approach. We need to act better and faster, and most importantly with children as key actors, if we are to realize the vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of a world free from violence both online and offline”.