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Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse

North American travel industry joins UNICEF in the fight against child exploitation

© UNICEF/HQ04-0201/Markisz
Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden gives a keynote address at the North American launch of the Code of Conduct.

North American travel industry joins UNICEF in the fight against child exploitation

Her Majesty, Queen Sylvia of Sweden, reaffirmed her commitment to the fight to protect children from sexual predators today during a conference on how to protect children from sexual exploitation organized by UNICEF. The conference marked the launch of a “Code of Conduct” for the North American travel industry, which was signed by Carlson Company Inc’s Chairman Marilyn Carlson Nelson.

Queen Sylvia called the sexual exploitation of children a “serious and unacceptable crime against humanity.”

The code is designed to protect children from commercial sexual exploitation, a multi-billion dollar industry in which as many as 2 million children are sexually exploited each year.

A high-level panel of experts spoke at a panel at UNICEF headquarters during the conference, including:

  • Dawid de Villiers of the World Tourism Organization (WTO);
  • John Miller from the U.S. State Department;
  • Carol Smolenski from ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) USA;
  • and UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy.

“The travel industry is critical in the fight against commercial sexual exploitation,” said Ms. Bellamy. “We can no longer look the other way while members of our own communities are abusing children in the most unthinkable ways. These are perpetrators of the worst kind. They not only display a callous disregard for human dignity, they do so with total impunity."

© UNICEF/HQ04-0202/Markisz
(Left-right) WTO Deputy Secretary-General Dawid de Villiers, ECPAT-USA Executive Director Carol Smolenski, Carlson Companies, Inc. Chair and Chief Executive Officer Marilyn Carlson Nelson, US State Department Senior Advisor John Miller and UNICEF Executiv

The Code of Conduct protects children everywhere

UNICEF joined the World Tourism Organization and the international advocacy group ECPAT in launching the Code of Conduct.

Queen Sylvia hosted the first World Congress on Commercial Exploitation of Children in 1996 in Stockholm, Sweden. The Code of Conduct was initiated in April 1998 by ECPAT Sweden in cooperation with the Scandinavian Tourism Industry and the World Tourism Organization.

The Code is a voluntary procedure, currently implemented in 45 countries around the world. By signing the Code, the hotel and travel industry (including travel agents, airlines, hotel workers, etc) commit themselves to halting the sexual exploitation of children by various means, including:

  • Establishing an ethical corporate policy against commercial sexual exploitation of children;
  • training personnel in the country where children are sexually exploited;
  • introducing clauses in contracts with suppliers, stating a common repudiation of sexual exploitation of children;
  • and providing information on the sexual exploitation of children to travellers.

Combating commercial sex tourism

The launch of the North American “Code of Conduct” is a necessary tool for the travel industry to combat the sinister and often hidden world of commercial sex tourism involving sex with minors (according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, any boy or girl under the age of eighteen is considered a minor). 

“ It is everyone’s responsibility to protect children from commercial sexual exploitation,” said Carol Smolenski, Director of ECPAT USA. “The code is a perfect example of how the travel industry can do its part in building a protective environment for children.”

According to UNICEF, at the end of 2000, as many as 325,000 children were at risk of commercial sexual exploitation in the United States alone. According to ECPAT USA, an estimated 25 per cent of sex tourists outside the United States are American.

To combat this growing problem, laws are being passed in many countries, including the United States, which make it illegal to travel overseas to engage in sexual acts with a minor.

After signing the code, Ms. Carlson Nelson urged her competitors in the travel industry to get involved in the fight to protect children from sex tourists.



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