ASEAN and partners meet to accelerate action on child online protection

Government representatives, UN, NGOs, young people and partners come together to explore ways to protect children online

25 February 2020
Students checking their smartphones after class, taking selfies together
Joshua Estey
Students at St. Francis of Assisi School, check their smart phones after classes in the Central Visayas city of Cebu, Philippines. Social media is a huge influence in children’s lives and being constantly connected to the Internet also comes with many risks, including online sexual exploitation of children and adolescents.

Bangkok, 25 February 2020: Multisectoral government delegations from countries across ASEAN will come together today in Bangkok, Thailand for the first ASEAN Regional Conference on Child Online Protection. Joined by UN agencies, non-governmental organisations, academic experts, young people and the private sector, delegations will look at good practices, identify solutions and look at ways to accelerate action on protecting children online.

“The online world has no borders and therefore no single sector, no single organisation, nor country can effectively tackle online abuse and the exploitation of children alone,” said Marcoluigi Corsi, Deputy Regional Director, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific. “Cooperation and collaboration between sectors, government, the private sector and between countries is essential if we are to make sure every child is safe from abuse online.”

According to UNICEF’s annual flagship publication, State of the World’s Children 2017: Children in a Digital World, one in three Internet users is a child and more than 175,000 children go online for the first time every day. While the internet and social media provide children and adolescents with unparalleled opportunities to connect, to access and share information, and to access entertainment, it inevitably exposes them to risks of abuse and exploitation and these risks are growing exponentially.

It is estimated that approximately 750,00 individuals are online at any one time looking to connect with children for sexual purposes. And the majority of sexual abuse materials involving children contain images of under-13s.*

“This meeting provides an excellent opportunity for ASEAN Member states, experts and the private sector to share and learn about protecting children online and stamping out online abuse,” said Porametee Vimolsiri, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Royal Government of Thailand. “This meeting is the start of an important conversation and platform of collaboration for tackling this important issue.”   

This ASEAN meeting builds on the Declaration on the Protection of Children from all forms of Online Abuse and Exploitation, adopted by Heads of ASEAN Member States at the 35th ASEAN Summit last year. The meeting will strengthen knowledge around the Declaration and facilitate exchanges between global thought-leaders on best practices of online protection across different sectors.

According to available studies, it has been estimated that about 720,000 child sexual abuse materials are uploaded across the Internet each day and the number is increasing. With every second that child sexual abuse materials are available online, children’s dignity and fundamental rights are being violated.

“Online child sexual exploitation is an extreme form of violence, which can leave horrendous physical and mental scars that last a lifetime,” said Jeremy Douglas, United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Representative. “National laws need to be aligned with international standards and it is essential to have a regional forum for information sharing to address operational challenges.”

According to the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) Measuring digital development: Facts and figures 2019, ICTs can enhance education, reduce youth unemployment and promote social and economic development. However, for youth to benefit from this transformative power of ICTs, they must be equipped with a range of digital skills, including safety. 

“Multi-stakeholder efforts including cooperation among governments, Telecoms industry and other ICT related actors as well as children and youth is crucial to protect children online. The Regional Conference on Child Online Protection is a great effort to show the evolution of technology, by exploring how advanced technologies can help to build a safer cyberspace for children.”  said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director, ITU Development Sector.

In addition to telecommunications, social welfare, justice, and education sectors are critical to preventing and responding to abuse, violence and exploitation.

“Technologies and communication platforms are constantly evolving, and we must ensure that sectors are ready to give children the protection they need online and offline,” said Assistant Secretary Glenda Relova, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Government of the Philippines. “We require future-proof legal, policy, educational and technological responses that can quickly adapt to this ever-changing environment, and help young people reap the benefits of the online world without fear of abuse and exploitation.”

This meeting is being convened by the Senior Officials Meeting on Social Welfare and Development (SOMSWD) Thailand and the Thailand Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, SOMSWD Philippines and the Philippines Department of Social Welfare and Development, together UNICEF, UNODC, and the ITU.

Media Contacts

Shima Islam
Regional Communication Specialist
UNICEF East Asia and the Pacific
Tel: +66 (0)23569407

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF East Asia & Pacific and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/eap

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