LYON, France – International experts heard how the Kenya Police, with support from the UK National Crime Agency, launched a dedicated national Child Protection Unit uniting law enforcement and children’s services agencies to safeguard young people from sexual exploitation.
This initiative, which could serve as a model for other countries worldwide to help tackle the growing concern of child sexual abuse, was among the issues discussed this week by international child protection experts, who gathered to discuss the latest tools and techniques for preventing the spread of child sexual abuse material and identifying the young victims to protect them from further harm.
The four-day (14-17 November) INTERPOL Specialists Group on Crimes Against Children meeting provided an overview of global efforts and technical solutions for combating online child sexual abuse, identifying victims and their attackers, and disrupting criminal networks involved in producing and circulating abuse material.
More than 200 participants from some 60 countries, regional and international organizations, the private sector and academia also heard case studies of successful investigations – including on travelling sex offenders – in addition to addressing topics such as prevention strategies, abuse material analysis and the use of the Darknet.
The participants were also updated on the WePROTECT Global Alliance, an international multi-stakeholder initiative dedicated to national and global action to end the sexual exploitation of children online which brings together more than 70 countries, as well as international organizations, industry partners and civil society organizations.
Ernie Allen, Chairman of the WePROTECT Global Alliance, underscored the challenges faced by law enforcement globally in tackling child sexual abuse, including technological developments such as live streaming and social media, use of the Darknet to provide anonymity, travelling offenders, and underreporting of abuse cases.
“This is not a problem that any single country or institution can handle alone. It is a global crime which requires global cooperation.
“We need vision, innovation and leadership, which INTERPOL is providing. INTERPOL, and everyone around the world who has devoted their lives to combating crimes against children, should be proud of the extraordinary progress made so far, though there is much still to be done,” concluded Mr Allen.
Stressing the global aspect of crimes against children, INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services, Tim Morris highlighted the Organization’s efforts to provide dedicated support to member countries by deploying expert staff to INTERPOL offices in Asia and South America and training existing staff at the four INTERPOL Regional Bureaus in Africa to increase their knowledge on child sexual abuse issues.
“A child can be physically abused in one country, with the images easily distributed around the world, often in real time. We therefore need to bridge regions and cultures, raise awareness and build capacity to tackle these heinous crimes everywhere they might occur,” said Mr Morris.
During the conference, dedicated regional workshops allowed participants to focus on the unique challenges present in each part of the world.
INTERPOL’s Crimes Against Children team also presented an award to ECPAT, a network of civil society organizations in 93 countries, recognizing its work in preventing child sexual exploitation through programmes to confront trafficking for sexual purposes; the exploitation of children through prostitution and pornography; online child sexual exploitation; and the sexual exploitation of children in the travel and tourism sector.