Some days seem to be more meaningful than others. Yesterday was such a day, and I am very proud to have participated to the presentation of the global alliance against child abuse online at a meeting in Brussels. The idea about a global cooperation was born about a year ago when I met the Attorney General of the US, Eric Holder, and we together came up with the idea of a global mobilisation to fight the hideous networks that are exploiting children sexually and spreading films and pictures on the Internet.
A year later, 48 countries*, thus not only the EU and the US, are standing behind this initiative and more countries have the possibility to join. Representatives from the 48 countries have, during the day yesterday, discussed how we can intensify the cooperation in order to identify and save more children, put the perpetrators on trial, and diminish the availability of child pornography on the Internet. These discussions continued during the evening’s ministerial dinner.
More than one million pictures of children being subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation are currently estimated to be online. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 500 000 new pictures of child sexual abuse are uploaded each year. Behind every image of child abuse, there is a child who has been abused, a helpless and exploited victim. When these pictures are spread on the Internet they can be around for an eternity. It is our common responsibility to protect children, wherever they live, and to get hold of these criminals, wherever they are.
The participating countries in the global alliance undertake to make political commitments and to reach a number of objectives, including:
- intensified efforts to identify victims and to make sure that they are given the help, assistance and protection they need;
- intensified efforts to investigate sexual abuse of children online and to identify and prosecute the perpetrators;
- raise children’s awareness of the risks online, for example when posting pictures of oneself, and about grooming methods that paedophiles use;
- reduce the availability of child pornography online, which repeatedly turns children into victims.
The idea is that the countries subsequently will select appropriate measures at national level in order to achieve these objectives, and that they regularly will report the results. In two years time we will gather again to see how far we have reached. Until then it is crucial to work intensively with existing networks, NGOs, industry, experts and so on. Yesterday morning there was an extremely interesting expert meeting with participants from all over the world.
Many things still remain to be done, but we will continue building on the kind of cooperation that works. Europol assists regularly with international police operations. In 2011, the Rescue operation lead to the identification of 779 suspects worldwide, 250 were arrested and 252 children were safeguarded. Often, investigations of child abuse online give vital clues that can be used to dismantle networks of paedophiles. The European Cybercrime Centre, opening in January 2013 at Europol in The Hague, will have child pornography online as a main focus.
*All countries here.