Mongolia moves to promote and protect children’s rights online

Promoting and protecting children’s rights online

Mungunkhishig Batbaatar
Mr. Alex Heikens during the opening of the consultation
28 September 2019

ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia - Every half a second, a child goes online for the first time – tapping into all the great opportunities the Internet has to offer, along with its grave threats. Protecting children online is a challenge for every country. In Mongolia, children and young people are the most active and enthusiastic users of social media. The country stands on top in the region with around 94 percent of the pupils in Mongolia actively using Facebook. Statistics show that there are over 2 million users of Facebook in Mongolia.

“The number of Internet users has been growing rapidly. Safety of kids and teens on social media in our country is under threat. We recently detained a man who managed to get naked or half-naked photos of over 100 girls and women. He used those to blackmail for sex or money’’ says Mr Budzaan Davaasambuu, Head of the National Police Division to Protect Children from Crime. It is evident from the national child helpline which received over 250 calls related to online sexual abuse and violence last year alone.  

UNICEF has been supporting the Government of Mongolia in addressing the issue for the last few years. Significant progress has been made towards bringing together relevant sectors and partners, improving their knowledge and understanding, raising awareness among public and facilitating international dialogues.  

Only last week, UNICEF organized a national consultation on “National multi-sectoral responses to prevent and tackle online child sexual abuse and exploitation” to call the attention of relevant parties both locally and internationally, and to strengthen multi-sectoral cooperation. 

The two-day consultation was attended by representatives from local government partners such as Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, National Police Agency, Authority for Family, Child and Youth Development, Communication Regulatory Committee, Communication and Information Technology Agency, and business sectors. International experts from International Telecommunication Union (ITU), INTERPOL, and Child Helpline International also joined the consultation to share their expertise and explore Mongolia-specific strategies to tackle the issues.

“Although, we emphasize online child sexual abuse and exploitation, we cannot forget about the opportunities that the Internet has to offer”

Mr. Alex Heikens, UNICEF Representative in Mongolia
Participants of the two-day national consultation.
Participants of the two-day national consultation.

“UNICEF is pleased to be a partner in preventing and protecting children from online risks of abuse and exploitation and support the Government’s ongoing efforts. Even though, we will be talking about the risks that our children face in the digital world and discuss the ways to address those, let us not forget that the Internet comes with certain risks, but it also provides our children with profound benefits” explained Mr. Alex Heikens, UNICEF Mongolia Representative.

“To bring about a safer internet for every child, the ICT industry has a key role to play, alongside the government, parents, caregivers, teachers, community leaders, civil society and where possible, children themselves.”

Together with ITU, INTERPOL and Child Helpline International, UNICEF, through research, policy and programme work, communication and advocacy, promotes all children’s rights to access and to be empowered to use ICTs, while being protected from harm. Evidence shows that efforts to build a protective online/offline environment for children must be integrated into larger child and social protection efforts in progress.

Way forward: Bridging gaps and strengthening capacity  

As a result of the first-time consultation among international and national organizations, government agencies, civil society and the ICT industry, participants all agreed that the knowledge and policy gaps are among the top priorities which need to be addressed. UNICEF is committed to supporting the government in strengthening their capacity as well as awareness-raising campaigns to leverage public support, while the other international experts also expressed their keen interest in working with local agencies at a wider scale than before.

As part of WePROTECT, a global alliance to stop the crime of online child sexual abuse and exploitation, the Model National response has emerged as an important framework to guide the country-level efforts. It calls on industry and governments to implement takedown procedures, so that child sexual abuse material is removed promptly when a company confirms its presence on their service. It also highlights the importance of reporting services and usage of the latest technology available to combat the spread of child sexual abuse materials online.

Mr. Apichart Hattasin, from Interpol presents best practices in Asia and reiterates that Interpol is ready to work with local partners on a broader scale.
Mr. Apichart Hattasin, from Interpol presents best practices in Asia and reiterates that Interpol is ready to work with local partners on a broader scale.

Whilst these initiatives are focused on response to online child sexual exploitation, the participants also acknowledged that this cannot be addressed in isolation and a wider set of capabilities to prevent and tackle child sexual exploitation and abuse are required to be in place to ensure a complete national response for children in Mongolia.