LYON/NEW YORK - INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock and UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell have signed an agreement of cooperation that will support national governments around the world to prevent and address online child sexual exploitation and abuse and other child protection issues.
Under the new agreement, the two organizations will cooperate in supporting national law enforcement agencies globally to improve their response to sexual exploitation and abuse crimes against children, including by:
- Supporting the establishment of specialist units or teams to investigate online child sexual exploitation and abuse, and strengthening the effectiveness of such teams where they already exist.
- Advancing training and systematic professional development so that law enforcement personnel have up-to-date knowledge and skills in victim and offender identification, digital forensics for online child sexual exploitation and abuse, child-friendly and survivor-centered interviewing, and use of the INTERPOL International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database.
- Promoting and facilitating better linkages between law enforcement and social services and other victim service providers to ensure that victims and survivors receive coordinated and multi-disciplinary support throughout the criminal justice process and beyond to support their holistic recovery.
“Every day, investigators around the world undertake painstaking and heroic work to identify victims and the perpetrators of online child sexual exploitation and abuse – but tackling this issue extends beyond law enforcement,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock. “This agreement is an acknowledgement that safeguarding children takes all of us. UNICEF plays a crucial role in child protection globally. Through closer cooperation, their knowledge and resources will help improve law enforcement activities on the ground.”
According to the latest available data from UNICEF, up to 20 per cent of internet-using children in 12 low- and middle-income countries said they have experienced online sexual exploitation or abuse in the previous year, while data from national hotlines and clearing houses suggest a proliferation of child sexual abuse content online in recent years.
While some countries have law enforcement units dedicated to child protection and victims, many lack the specialized staff, skills and resources needed to effectively investigate cases—especially those involving digital elements—conduct victim identification, and safeguard children. The new partnership aims to fill these critical capacity gaps and promote greater investment and coordinated action to ensure victims and survivors receive the support they require and perpetrators face justice.
“Child sexual abuse and exploitation is a global scourge. Collaboration across sectors and across borders is key to addressing this problem,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “Working with INTERPOL will help us bring law enforcement expertise to our country programs and strengthen protection measures for every child.”
The INTERPOL-UNICEF agreement seeks to leverage the global reach and specific strengths of each organization to protect and improve the lives of children threatened by online exploitation and other forms of violence. INTERPOL’s global law enforcement networks span 195 member countries, while UNICEF works in over 190 countries and territories, and through its child protection programmes, supports governments and partners to prevent and respond to all forms of violence against children, including in digital environments.
INTERPOL’s Crimes Against Children unit works to identify and rescue young victims of sexual abuse, block access to child sexual abuse material, and prevent sex offenders from travelling abroad to abuse children or escape justice. INTERPOL’s International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database helps investigators make connections between victims, abusers and places. To date, more than 34,000 victims in the ICSE database have been identified by law enforcement around the world. Many more unidentified victims are documented in the database as part of the ongoing global effort to locate them and their criminal abusers.
This agreement is the latest of many that INTERPOL has signed with UN entities in its longstanding cooperation with the United Nations.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.