|© UNICEF video|
|UNICEF's Innocenti Research Centre is looking for child-friendly responses to the issue of human trafficking.|
By Guy Degen
FLORENCE, Italy, 22 April 2008 – International experts on child rights, along with government representatives and other participants, gathered here yesterday for a three-day conference to examine global issues involving the trafficking and exploitation of children.
Hosted by UNICEF's Innocenti Research Centre (IRC), the conference is an opportunity to share child-friendly responses to the issue of human trafficking. It is taking place ahead of the third World Congress against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents, which will be held in Brazil in November.
IRC research into the trafficking of children confirms that insufficient data make the global magnitude of the problem difficult to accurately assess. In its latest findings, IRC points to an absence of ways to collect, analyse and disseminate data about child trafficking.
The issue of child trafficking is often viewed in connection with sexual exploitation or prostitution. However, the IRC's researchers add that children are also trafficked for labour, criminal activities, armed conflict, exchange of debts, or adoption.
A human rights-based approach
One of the central IRC recommendations is for countries to pay attention to the needs of trafficked children. IRC Director Marta Santos Pais says the solutions for adults who are trafficked do not necessarily apply automatically to children.
|© UNICEF Italy/2008|
|At the Florence conference on trafficking (from left): UN Child Rights Committee member Nevena Vučković Šahović, IRC Director Marta Santos Pais and Council of Europe expert Athanassia Sykiotou.|
“By adopting an overall approach to protection from human trafficking, we have failed to understand who are the children at great risk, where they lived, who are the families affected by the plight and how we could prevent the risk of being seduced and taken into trafficking routes,” Ms. Santos Pais said.
Protecting children’s rights
Highlighting the need to use clear definitions around child exploitation, a member of the UN Child Rights Committee, Nevena Vučković Šahović, warned that legal protection for trafficked children caught up in criminal activities is still lagging behind in many countries.
“Quite often, you hear the government representatives having attitudes that, ‘OK, it's normal for that group of people. This is what they do and this is how they live,’” Dr. Šahović said. “It's acceptance of an offensive attitude.”
Council of Europe expert Dr. Athanassia Sykiotou stressed the need for a multinational approach. Law enforcement officers, she said, need training to be able identify how trafficking occurs, protect victims and conduct effective investigations and prosecutions.
World Congress in Brazil
The delegates were also briefed on Brazil's preparations for the third World Congress against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents.
A member of the World Congress organizing committee, Carmen de Oliveira, said the agenda will focus on a more systemic approach to addressing child exploitation, as well as working with new partners.
“We want to push forward with new, stronger international cooperation to fight trans-national crimes such trafficking, sexual exploitation within tourism and travel, and also crimes on the Internet,” Ms. de Oliveira said.