Nearly 400 leaders and representatives from the United Nations, 67 countries, civil society organizations, the private sector and youth gathered in Stockholm last month to champion effective programs and initiatives, build political will, and increase knowledge on how to prevent, detect and address all forms of violence against children – a global priority set forth in the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
I was invited to participate as a board member of the WePROTECT Global Alliance, which along with the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children and the government of Sweden, sponsored the summit. The event marked the second major, global conference that WePROTECT has been a part of in the last four months, the other being the historic World Congress on Child Dignity in the Digital World, sponsored by the Pontifical Gregorian University last October.
“Never before have we seen so many senior leaders come together to prevent and respond to violence against children,” said Susan Bissell, founding director of the Global Partnership and a WePROTECT board member. “This is no longer a forgotten issue. The summit began a bold and transformative change that will deliver the Sustainable Development Goal to end all forms of violence against children, including WePROTECT’s focus: sexual exploitation and abuse.”
The summit spotlighted efforts to end violence against children from the program’s 17 so-called “pathfinder” countries – nations committed to accelerated action in various settings, including the home, school and within the broader community. At the summit, Japan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) pledged to become additional pathfinder countries. The UAE sponsored the second WePROTECT Summit in 2015, and promised to host a follow-up meeting to the World Congress for faith-based leaders later this year.
In conjunction with the summit, the WePROTECT Global Alliance released a report detailing the evolving threat landscape concerning child sexual exploitation and abuse. It also issued survey results from member countries, summarizing their efforts to implement and leverage the consortium’s signature contribution to date: the Model National Response to child sexual exploitation and abuse. Released by the WePROTECT consortium at the Abu Dhabi summit, the Model National Response outlines the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders needed to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse within a country, including the national government, law enforcement and the judiciary, non-governmental organizations, victims’ rights and advocacy groups, the technology industry and the media.
In a separate summit workshop led by members of the WePROTECT board, summit participants discussed ways to encourage member countries to leverage the Model National Response, offered their reactions to the latest threat assessment and suggested additional steps WePROTECT could take to continue to support the fight against online child sexual exploitation and abuse.
From the creation of our PhotoDNA technology, which helps to identify and remove illegal images of child sexual abuse, to ongoing awareness-raising and educational efforts, and varied collaborations with others in industry, academia and civil society, Microsoft’s efforts to stamp out child sexual abuse imagery online goes back more two decades. We are honored to be a member of the WePROTECT Global Alliance and will continue to work with the consortium and other individuals and groups to rid our services and the public internet of this vile imagery.
You can read more about Microsoft’s efforts to stop the online circulation of child sexual abuse material here. To learn how you can help protect children from online grooming, see this resource, and for more about online safety generally, visit our website at: www.microsoft.com/saferonline.