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UNICEF in support of:
Second World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
Statement at the Closing Press Conference, 20 December 2001, by Mehr Khan, UNICEF Regional Director, East Asia and the Pacific

On behalf of UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy, let me first extend sincere thanks to the Government of Japan for hosting this 2nd Congress against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. We are very grateful to the Japan for the hospitality and hard work that has helped to focus world attention once again on this very important issue.

We also fully recognize the outstanding contributions of other co-organizers: ECPAT International and the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The NGOs have played a key role in drawing attention to the exploitation of children and have been working dedicatedly to change that. At this conference they have shared their experience and their commitment.

More than 3,000 people from 134 countries came together in Yokohama. We were privileged to have with us Her Majesty Queen Sylvia of Sweden and Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado, who inspired us with their opening statements and who stayed for a large part of the meeting.

The struggle against the sexual exploitation of children will not progress without the full participation of all actors, governments, inter-governmental organizations, NGOs and the private sector all of whom participated in this Congress.

A special feature of the Congress was the very active participation of children and young people. They were among our hardest working participants, working late into the night, sometimes sleeping on the floor of their meeting room. Their energy and dedication gives us hope that they will build societies that will not tolerate the sexual exploitation and abuse of their children.

The First Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children held five years ago in Stockholm was a pioneering effort. It broke the silence, it created networks and it galvanized action.

Much progress has been made since then. Our understanding of the scale of the problem and the complexity of the issues has improved and advocacy efforts have been stepped up. New laws are being enacted, officials trained, and programmes developed to deal with the problem, from prevention to law enforcement to reintegration of victims into their communities. Cross-border cooperation is being initiated and more resources allocated. New international instruments have been created to address these issues and these and have been ratified by many states. A lot of experience has been gained since Stockholm and widely shared here in Yokohama over these four days.

The Yokohama Global Commitment reaffirms the commitment made in Stockholm but it also takes us a major step forward in defining this multi-faceted issue. In Stockholm we dealt with the commercial sexual exploitation of children and young people. And we focused largely on sex tourism. In Yokohama we discussed child trafficking and all forms of sexual exploitation, not just commercial sexual exploitation. In Stockholm, we largely understood the commercial sexual exploitation of children as a problem of developing countries. Here we recognized that it exists all over the world and that much more international cooperation is needed to deal with it.

We also now know that it often stems from abuse at home, that the commercial aspects of it are underpinned by big business and that new technologies are fuelling the growth of organized national and international networks. The flow of information used for criminal purposes has increased sharply. Wars, displacement and HIV/AIDS have made many more children vulnerable.

In Yokohama it became clear that we have not done enough. Despite the efforts made, commercial sexual exploitation of children is on the rise. Only 50 countries have developed National Plans of Action, appointed focal points or gathered data as agreed upon in Stockholm. The very useful regional consultations around the world that preceded Yokohama have now set new targets for actions. We must now live up to the commitments we have made.

For its part, UNICEF is giving increasing priority to child protection, including the issue of violence against children and their sexual exploitation. It is one of the five key priorities in our new plan of work. We will address it through many inter-linked avenues, the most important of which is prevention through education, especially girls education. The issue which will be specifically addressed at the United Nations Special Session on Children in New York in May next year.

The main message that we need to take back from here is that the task is urgent. Much greater political will and resources are needed. Partnerships and networks must be enlarged and children fully involved in the effort.

As Carol Bellamy stated in her opening address, "the wanton destruction of young lives and futures must not be tolerated for another year, another day, another hour." Each of us has a responsibility to work to end it.