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At a glance: France

Queens and First Ladies call for mobilization against child exploitation

© UNICEF/2007/Harle
From left: First Lady of Egypt Suzanne Mubarak, Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, First Lady of France Bernadette Chirac, Her Majesty Queen Paola of the Belgians and First Lady of Russia Lyudmila Putina at the Board of Honour meeting in Paris.

By Mélusine Harlé

PARIS, France, 18 January 2007 – Queens and First Ladies from around the world called for an international mobilization against child exploitation at a one-day conference held yesterday at the presidential Élysée Palace.

The first meeting of the Board of Honour of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children was hosted by French First Lady Bernadette Chirac and attended by her husband French President Jacques Chirac and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Elie Wiesel, among others.

“It is our duty to call for a massive mobilization of governments, NGOs, companies and citizens worldwide so that childhood remains the age of innocence and promises for the future, not a time of suffering and sadness,” said Ms. Chirac at the start of the meeting.

The French First Lady was also joined by Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, Her Majesty Queen Paola of the Belgians, First Lady of Egypt Suzanne Mubarak, First Lady of the United States Laura Bush, First Lady of Russia Lyudmila Putina and the wife of the European Commission President, Maria Margarita Souza Uva Barroso.

Finding missing children

Some 2 million children are trafficked worldwide each year. At the meeting, the Board of Honour spoke about what can be done to protect children from abduction.

“It is time for a change,” Ms. Chirac said as she announced the creation of a hotline number for missing children that will be effective throughout Europe by next summer.

The French Government has recently started the implementation of a French version of ‘AMBER Alert’, an early warning system developed by US police and media to help find abducted children.

A unified legal framework

More than 100,000 websites use pornographic pictures or videos of children. Interpol currently has a database of more than 500,000 children whose images have been illegally posted on the Internet.

“It is not just websites, but also chats and blogs where paedophiles can reach children,” explained European Commissioner on the Information Society Viviane Reding. “More than 60 per cent of young chatters receive invitations to meet with strangers; 40 per cent go to the rendezvous.”

The Queen of the Belgians offered four proposals for all member countries in Europe to implement, including creating a specialized police force for child protection and asking Internet providers to report child pornography to the police.

A European forum on child rights, in which children will participate, is to be held in March  at which point a European Coordinator for Child Rights will be nominated.

Ms. Barroso supported the creation of a unified legal framework throughout Europe to deal with child exploitation. “We need to be able to go over to the children’s side,” she said.



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