Preventing child sexual exploitation and enhancing children's protection through information and communication technologies - top concern in Human Rights Council session

Geneva 7 March 2016 - SRSG Santos Pais moderated a highly participative debate on national, regional and international initiatives to empower children through information and communication technologies (ICTs). The panel was part of the Human Rights Council annual full day on the Rights of Child and provided an opportunity to discuss effective ways to enhance children’s protection from child sexual exploitation both online and offline.

“As young people often remind us, solutions need to go beyond simply trying to avoid online threats. Children need to develop their capacities as digital citizens and learn solid values and life skills, including a strong sense of responsibility, respect and concern for others. Rather than curtailing children’s natural curiosity and sense of innovation for fear of encountering risks online, we need to tap into children’s resourcefulness and enhance their resilience, while exploring the potential of the Internet.” said SRSG Santos Pais.

During the debate, Member States representatives from all regions unanimously emphasized the importance of guaranteeing safer and equal access for children to ICTs ensuring the introduction of appropriate legislation and effective policy responses and appropriate monitoring tools to address online child abuse and exploitation. 

SRSG Santos Pais allude to the findings and recommendations included in the report recently launched by her office on Releasing children’s potential and minimizing risks ICTs, the Internet and Violence against Children and stressed the importance of  investing in research to better understand how children are affected by online sexual violence, in particular in developing countries. 

Furthermore, SRSG Santos Pais promoted the consolidation of strategic partnerships with the private sector to protect children from violence.

“The world needs a safe, inclusive and empowering digital agenda for children. An agenda that strikes the appropriate balance between ensuring that children benefit from the potential offered by ICTs, and securing children’s safety and protection. To consolidate progress in this fast-changing area, strategic partnerships are indispensable.” added SRSG Santos Pais.

Håkon Høydal, a journalist with vast experience covering children’s rights issues in Norway, referred to his investigation on perpetrators and underlined the importance of providing services and treatment for those who wish to seek help. He also praised children victims of online abuse who “have the courage to speak-out” and take the control over their lives their back. 

Brittany Smith,  EU Policy Lead for Child Safety at Google Inc emphasized the effort placed by Google in identifying and block int child abuse material online and reminded that “computers are not intelligent and it is impossible to block all child-abusive content made available online; it is indeed challenging to sometimes differentiate it from other child-related content”. 

The discussion was enriched by the contribution of Mr. Andres Franco, Deputy Director, Private Sector Engagement, UNICEF, Mr. Michael Moran, Assistant Director Vulnerable Communities, INTERPOL and Ms. Gaby Reyes, Founder and Director of Asociación Crecer en Red, Peru. 

The many States participating in the debate reported on the initiatives at national level and stressed the importance of multi-stakeholder fora at both national and international level to address the important and always evolving challenges.

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