|© UNICEF video|
|More than 3,000 people, including representatives from 137 different governments, attended the four-day World Congress Against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents in Brazil.|
By Thomas Nybo
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, 2 December 2008 – The 2008 World Congress Against Sexual Exploitation of Children has concluded in Rio de Janeiro, with a blueprint for fighting the sexual abuse and exploitation of young people.
More than 3,000 people, including representatives from 137 different governments, attended the international gathering of governments, children, the private sector and various organizations. Participants left saying they're in a better position to win the fight after creating the 'Rio Declaration and Action Plan to Prevent and Stop the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents'. The plan lays out new strategies to counter evolving forms of sexual exploitation, such as pornography and child trafficking around the world.
Punishing perpetrators and not victims
At a press conference, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman stressed the importance of bringing the perpetrators of the crimes to justice.
She noted that we should address the issue and the attitude of impunity in so many countries that surrounds these issues because too often, these crimes go unpunished.
She said that one of the greatest challenges is the transformation of attitudes. Ms. Veneman also warned against complacency once the proper laws protecting children are in place.
Children have suffered
Seated next to Veneman at the press conference was Christopher Gamboa, a 12-year-old boy from Costa Rica. He emerged as one of the strongest voices for children. He said adults need to listen and respond when children talk of abuse.
"There are quite a few children out there who have suffered a lot and still have the memories of their suffering in their minds and hearts. Very often, they tell it to their parents and their parents will not believe them," said Christopher.
Children like Christopher played a major role at the Congress. They spoke on a number of panels, received media training and interviewed other children for radio and television broadcasts. They also had plenty of time to share stories and strategies from their home countries.
One of the key planks of the Rio Action Plan is taking a comprehensive approach to prevention. It's not enough to just take a stand against exploitation and abuse; all of the various players must work together to build and strengthen systems that protect children, wherever they live.
Veneman also said that media plays a critical role, not only in raising awareness but in looking at the ways issues are presented in informing the public and challenging people to take action.
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