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Latin America and Caribbean unite to prevent sexual exploitation of children and adolescents

SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA, 20 May 2004 - The Follow-Up Meeting of the II World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents, concluded with an agreement among the 24 countries present to join efforts to prevent and to reduce the causes of child and adolescent vulnerability, to promote change in cultural patterns, to reform legislation and penalize perpetrators, to implement migratory measures, and to improve mechanisms to prosecute and condemn nationally and internationally those who exploit children. UNICEF calculates that on a yearly basis, 2 million children and adolescents are victims of these crimes around the world.

The president of Costa Rica, Dr. Abel Pacheco, requested the creation of an inter-american legal instrument to provide the Organization of American States -OAS- a mechanism and structure to monitor that these declarations against commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents are transformed into efficient actions. "Paedophilia demands zero tolerance in the world, not only in these countries fighting this battle. National efforts are very important but not enough". President Pacheco said.

UNICEF emphasized that it is essential that Heads of State and finance ministers assure the necessary government resources to comply with these commitments and to fight against organized networks. As a first step, commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents should be categorized as a crime, with rehabilitation (not criminalization) assured for the children involved, with the police and the judicial power assigned sufficient funds to prosecute the pimps and perpetrators. UNICEF emphasized the need to work with families, to modify cultural patterns which promote a tolerance of abuse and sexual exploitation and to promote participation of children and adolescents in creating safe environments.

Three years after the Yokohama Summit where countries recognised commercial sexual exploitation as a problem, all countries have incorporated the issue into their political agendas and almost all of them have established national plans of action. Many have made advances amending national legislation and recognition is given to an enhanced role of the tourist sector which is now engaged in addressing the problem. However, despite these advances trustworthy quantitative information still is not readily available, due to the clandestine and illegal character of this form of violation of human rights, and a renewed commitment to fully implement the Yokohama declaration, including to fund coordinated operations against the criminal networks is needed.

Delegates from 24 countries signed an appeal which will be delivered to Heads of State, who will meet in the XIV Latin American Summit in November in San José, Costa Rica. The appeal urges countries to support the effective implementation of National Plans against commercial sexual exploitation, to strengthen programs and campaigns to decrease demand, and increase the inter-institutional coordination and cooperation between countries, as well as the improvement and follow-up of monitoring systems with the allocation of necessary funds.

In order to evaluate the level of implementation of the commitments in each country a regional monitoring system will be established. It will register and disseminate updates regarding advances and deficiencies in legal reform, prevention, attention and protection.

The Meeting was hosted by the Costa Rican government, UNICEF, ILO - IPEC, the National Welfare Child Institute (PANI), and National Commission against Sexual Commercial Exploitation (CONACOES), the Inter-American Children’s Institute, and ECPAT International.

For more information:
Xinia Miranda, 
UNICEF Costa Rica.
Tlf. 00 506 296 20 34, email: xmiranda@unicef.org

María Blanco,
Tlf. 00 507 315 74 85, email: mblanco@unicef.org





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