Regional Consultation: Budapest
The Europe and Central Asia Regional Consultation for the Second World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children was held in Budapest from 19 to 21 November 2001.
The Consultation, a conference organized by the Council of Europe in cooperation with UNICEF and the Hungarian National Institute of Criminology, brought together participants from Europe and Central Asia to review progress made in the region following the First World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (Stockholm, 1996) and to develop a regional Plan of Action.
Participants recognized that child prostitution and trafficking of children has become a huge concern for Europe and Central Asia, increasingly related to organized crime and abuse of new information technologies. They called for increased cooperation among nations, including the harmonization of legislation to tackle cross-border issues.
The conference also called for the criminalization of all forms of sexual exploitation of children. Although some countries are committed to prosecuting exploiters and broadening criminal offences, it was agreed that more has to be done. Greater efforts are needed especially in the review of laws, policies and programmes and in strengthening networks of cooperation between law enforcement agencies.
Participants welcomed the new Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, which was launched for signature 23 November in Budapest, and part of which is devoted to combating child pornography on the Internet.
In recognition of the ongoing need for better research and information on trends, mechanisms, demand and exploitation, comprehensive mapping of the issue, at both national and regional levels, was also noted as urgent.
The conference urged the 43-nation Council of Europe to follow up on the regional Plan of Action drawn up at the Regional Consultation as well the Council of Europe's Recommendation 16 (October 2001) on the protection of children against sexual exploitation. This Recommendation guides Member States on how to better protect children against such exploitation.
The Recommendation also provides for the Council of Europe to assist Member States in their protection efforts, particularly efforts involving the sharing of information about experiences and model legislation and identifying problems such as resource needs.
"The Recommendation provides for effective and practical means to fight sexual exploitation of children," said Guy de Vel, Director General of Legal Affairs for the Council of Europe, in his speech to the Consultation, "and provides Member States with appropriate support and assistance. We will do everything possible to ensure that it leads to concrete action."
To better protect children, participants underscored the importance of considering sexual exploitation within a broader context encompassing the international sex trade, the sexualization of childhood through advertising and mass media, and the forces that drive demand for child sex.
In the spirit of 'zero tolerance' of sexual exploitation of children, participants called for urgent action and committed themselves to accord high priority and resources at national and regional levels to implementing the Plan of Action and relevant international instruments protecting children against all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation. To fulfil promises made at the 1996 Congress in Stockholm, they also made a commitment to develop national action plans and to assign national contact points in each country.
UNICEF Regional Director for Europe Stephen Woodhouse expressed his hope that the meeting would encourage more countries in the region to move immediately to develop national plans of action. He emphasized the importance of the regional contribution to the international meeting in Japan in December.
"I have no doubt that the contribution of this region to the work in Yokohama will be significant," he said, "but the Yokohama Congress will not be the end of the work, just another step forward. The commitments made in Budapest will underpin future work in this region to put an end the to sexual exploitation of children."
The Europe and Central Asia Commitment and Plan of Action can be found here.
Taking Stock: Progress in Europe and Central Asia since the first World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (Stockholm 1996), a preparation paper for the Budapest Regional Consultation can also be found online.