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UNICEF in support of:
Second World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

UNICEF's role in the Yokohama Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

By Stacey Sullivan, UNICEF Communication Consultant

In the months running up to the Second Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, to be held in Yokohama, UNICEF organized regional consultations in Thailand, Morocco, Bangladesh, Uruguay, Hungary, and the United States. In each, UNICEF focussed on the region's specific problems, and brought together key people, organizations and youth to consider how best to address those problems.

The pre-Congress regional consultations explored what states have accomplished since the First World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children held in Stockholm, Sweden in 1996.

The Stockholm Congress called on governments to devise national plans of action to reduce the number of children who are sexually exploited each year. Five years later, only about 50 of the 122 participating countries have actually started working on these plans.

The consultations were not limited solely to the 'commercial' sexual exploitation of children, but incorporated the broader issue of sexual exploitation.

"There is a fine line between commercial and non-commercial sexual exploitation," says Karin Landgren, UNICEF's Chief of Child Protection. "Even if no money changes hands when a child is being sexually exploited, it's still a question of power. That's why we prefer to look at child sexual exploitation in a broad perspective."

"The word 'commercial' implies organized brothels, but the problem is much wider than that," adds Ingrid Leth, a Senior Adviser in UNICEF's Child Protection unit. She says that there are many non-commercial situations in which children are sexually exploited, citing homes and schools as examples.

Gopalan Balagopal, also a Senior Advisor in Child Protection at UNICEF, emphasizes that the Yokohama Congress is extremely useful because it provides an "entry point to start addressing the broader issues associated with the sexual exploitation of children".

The major themes that will be addressed at the Congress include child pornography; the prevention, protection and recovery of children; the role and involvement of the private sector; the diverse identities, attitudes and motivations of sex exploiters; the legal framework that addresses child sexual exploitation; and the trafficking of children.

The other principal organizers of the Yokohama Congress are the Japanese Government, the non-governmental organization (NGO) ECPAT, which began as a grassroots movement to end child prostitution and trafficking, and the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Japanese Government is responsible for logistics, and the NGOs for planning panel discussions, workshops and ensuring the participation of NGO and youth representatives.

Participants will also include representatives from governments, private sector organizations such as the airline industry and Internet service providers, as well as from international agencies such as the International Labour Organization, the World Health Organizationand the International Office of Migration.