48 countries worldwide join forces to fight child sexual abuse online
On 5 December, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström together with US Attorney General Eric Holder will launch a Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Online. The initiative aims to unite decision-makers all around the world to better identify and assist victims and to prosecute the perpetrators. Participants at the launch include Ministers and high-level officials from 27 EU Member States, who are also joined by 21 countries outside the EU (Albania, Australia, Cambodia, Croatia, Georgia, Ghana, Japan, Moldova, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, the Philippines, Serbia, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United States of America, and Vietnam).
The countries of the alliance are committing themselves to a number of policy targets and goals. Thanks to increased international cooperation, the fight against child sexual abuse online will therefore be more effective.
“Behind every child abuse image is an abused child, an exploited and helpless victim. When these images are circulated online, they can live on forever. Our responsibility is to protect children wherever they live and to bring criminals to justice wherever they operate. The only way to achieve this is to team up for more intensive and better coordinated action worldwide”, said Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström.
“This international initiative will strengthen our mutual resources to bring more perpetrators to justice, identify more victims of child sexual abuse, and ensure that they receive our help and support,” said Attorney General Holder. “Through this global alliance we can build on the success of previous cross-border police operations that have dismantled international pedophile networks and safeguard more of the world’s children.”
It is estimated that more than one million images of children subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation are currently online. According to UNODC 50, 000 new child abuse images are added each year.
No country can fight this horrible phenomenon alone, as the criminal networks behind it know no boundaries and exploit the lack of information exchange and the legal loopholes that exist within and between countries. This is why international cooperation is crucial to effectively investigate cases of child sexual abuse online and to better identify and prosecute offenders.
Global Alliance: Greater commitments for better results
At the conference, the participating countries will make political commitments to pursue a number of goals, notably:
- Enhancing efforts to identify victims and ensuring that they receive the necessary assistance, support and protection;
- Enhancing efforts to investigate cases of child sexual abuse online and to identify and prosecute offenders;
- Increasing children’s awareness of online risks, including the self-production of images and ‘grooming’ methods used by paedophiles
- Reducing the availability of child abuse material online and the re-victimization of children.
Countries would then choose the appropriate action to take at national level to achieve them, and would report regularly.
The EU has made progress on a variety of fronts, not least through ambitious legislation to combat trafficking in Human beings (Directive 2011/36/EU) and the sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of children and child pornography (Directive 2011/93/EU). These laws cover the prosecution of offenders, protection of victims and crime prevention.
Europol regularly supports international police operations. In 2011, operation Rescue led to the identification of 779 suspects across the world, 250 were arrested and 252 children safeguarded. Often, investigation of online child abuse is a key lead for dismantling networks of child-abuse perpetrators. The European Cyber Crime Centre (EC3), opening in January 2013 at Europol in The Hague, will have child abuse material online as a main focus. The Commission also supports INHOPE, a network of NGO-run hotlines in EU States that collects reports on child abuse websites so that they could be removed and investigated (Safer Internet Programme).
Yet much more needs to be done, and it has to be done globally. The Global Alliance will keep the fight against child sexual abuse online high on national agendas. This in turn is likely to improve resources dedicated to combating these crimes, legislation and cooperation of national forces worldwide. 48 countries are joining forces now, and more may come once the Global Alliance has been formally launched.
The conference will take place in Brussels on 5 December under the High Patronage of H.M. Queen Paola of Belgium. Experts and practitioners from participating governments, as well as representatives from international organisations and academics will examine the state of the problem and discuss the different policy targets of the Global Alliance. Attending ministers from the participating countries (see MEMO/12/937) will express their endorsement of the Alliance, in the form of a declaration.
Media presence is allowed upon registration. To register, please contact the spokesperson’s office (details below). A press point with Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and US Attorney General Eric Holder will be held Wednesday 5 December from 11:00-11:30 and broadcast on the European Commission Audiovisual Service.