71 UN member states have signed a call to action statement aimed at proactively removing and combating child sexual exploitation and abuse material online.
This comes at a time when online child sexual exploitation and abuse continue to rise at exponential rates across the world and increasingly involve younger children.
In the Internet Watch Foundation Annual Report for 2022, published data shows a 13 percent increase in the number of 7 to 10-year-old children depicted in the child abuse material.
The statement calls for the urgent need for action by governments, internet service providers and access providers, and other actors, to protect children from online sexual exploitation and abuse, and to facilitate a dialogue between the different entities and sectors required for an effective response.
Further, it calls for the need for common data sets, for or among competent authorities, of known child sexual abuse materials, such as the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) International Child Sexual Exploitation database, for the purpose of detecting, reporting and removing materials, including images and videos of child sexual exploitation and abuse.
It emphasizes the need to increase public awareness of the serious nature of child sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse materials, and how such materials constitute sexual offenses against children.
In addition awareness of how the production, distribution, and consumption of such materials put more children at risk of sexual exploitation and abuse, including by normalizing the conduct depicted in such materials and fuelling the demand for such materials.
Research has shown that children who are victims of online child sexual abuse have long-term psychological traumas. They include shame and stigma and the risks of revictimization and retraumatization, including from the repeated circulation of material online.
The call to action is informed by two- days of expert discussions hosted by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), supported by the UK government. These discussions brought together a wide range of experts and activists, including from child protection charities, the public sector, the private sector and the legal and finance sectors.
The countries that have signed this first-of-its-kind Call to Action Statement include Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Armenia, Argentina, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Iceland, India, Japan, Kenya.
Others include Liechtenstein, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Sudan, Switzerland, Thailand, Türkiye, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Vietnam, Yemen.
Lastly , the European Union and its 27 member states (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden,