UNICEF Urges Europe and Central Asia to Combat Trafficking of Children Into the Sex Trade
GENEVA, 13 November 2001 - The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, is calling on governments in Europe and Central Asia to ratify three international instruments that are vital to efforts to combat trafficking in children, a growing problem in the region: the 2000 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography; the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2000); and ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (1999).
UNICEF Regional Director for Europe, Stephen Woodhouse said today, "We must not underestimate the use of international conventions in our work to end the heinous trade in children for sexual purposes and exploitative labour. These are not just vague promises; they provide frameworks that, among other things, smooth out differences between national laws."
The call for ratification comes one week before the opening of the European and Central Asian preparatory conference to the 2nd World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (Yokohama, Japan, 17-20 December). This meeting, to be held in Budapest on 20 and 21 November, will bring together 52 countries of Europe and Central Asia to discuss progress since the first World Congress in Stockholm in 1996, to share experiences and lessons learned, and to develop a regional strategy for accelerated implementation of the Stockholm Agenda for Action.
It also comes at a time of growing concern about the number of women and children being moved across the borders of Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Baltic States (all loosely grouped as 'Europe and Central Asia' for the preparatory meeting). The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that 175,000 people are trafficked from Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS each year - roughly one quarter of the estimated 700,000 to 2 million people trafficked around the world annually.
Many of the countries in the region are in the throes of transition. Their proximity to societies perceived, particularly by young people, to offer more stable and prosperous lifestyles is an important factor in this movement. Increasingly open borders between Member States of the European Union facilitate movement into and through Western Europe.
In the region, too, there exist a number of factors that increase
the vulnerability of children to exploitation: in Western Europe, a
growth in the commercial sex sector and growing consumerism put pressure
on children to earn money in a situation of unmet demand for commercial
sex. Poverty and discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, disability
and citizenship status are all important vulnerability factors. In many
of the transition countries, high levels of unemployment, inadequate
skills and training for available employment opportunities, and poor
preparation of children and young people for work and social integration,
all increase pressures on children to seek alternative ways to earn
money for their family or their future. This may make them more vulnerable
to pimps and recruiters seeking to exploit them in commercial sex work
or encourage them - or indeed force them - to move within the country
or across borders where perceived returns are greater.
The Budapest meeting will hear that these disturbing challenges will nevertheless be met by some positive developments since the first World Congress in 1996:
For Yokohama press accreditation: http://www.focalpointngo.org/yokohama/pressinfo/accreditation.htm
To Broadcasters: A new B-roll videotape is available that highlights the commercial sexual exploitation of children and various programmes to prevent it. This 38-minute B-roll includes strong material filmed recently in Albania, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, India and Nicaragua. To preview scripts and sequences or to order a tape please visit: http://www.unicef.org/broadcast/brolls/csec/
Press releases on sexual exploitation: