Sexual exploitation in travel and tourism has a child’s face! No country is untouched by this phenomenon and no child is immune. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development presents a unique opportunity to reverse this pattern and make all forms of violence against children part of our distant past. – Marta Santos Pais, UN SRSG on Violence Against Children (Madrid, June 2017).
The Global Study on Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism (2016) was the first ever consolidated effort to understand its global nature and scope. This series of studies is the most comprehensive picture to date of this crime and includes input from 67 partners around the world, as well as contributions from experts and children themselves. It has subsequently led to detailed studies of the situation in every region and an ever-expanding list of countries.
The High-Level Task Force on Child Protection in Travel and Tourism (HLTF) guided the development of the Global Study on the Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism (SECTT). Its current mandate is the elimination of SECTT through the implementation of the recommendations of the Global Study and the Call for Action from the first International Summit on Child Protection. See here for the full list of the current HLTF members.
The Global Study on SECTT brought this gross violation of children’s rights into the light and set out recommendations that require concerted action from the international and regional intergovernmental bodies, national governments, non-governmental organisations, and the private sector including travel, tourism and transportation sector, ICT industry and companies whose staff members travel for business. The Global Study recommendations provide a “roadmap” to protect children and their implementation contributes to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals targets 8.9 and 12b, which call for sustainable tourism development, and targets 5.2, 8.7, and 16.2, which aim to end child sexual exploitation. See here for the full list of recommendations.
The launch of the Global Study in May 2016 was followed by concrete actions at the global, regional and national level and led to concrete commitments by a wide range of the stakeholders. In July 2017, a Transition Meeting was convened at the UNWTO headquarters in Madrid to move forward in implementing the recommendations of the Global Study. The meeting concluded with a series of commitments and integrated multi-sectoral action plans that resulted in prioritizing child protection in the travel and tourism sector. See here for the report.
In September 2017, to mark the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development and its message – Travel, enjoy, respect – the UN World Tourism Organization approved the transformation the Code of Ethics for Tourism into an international convention, known as the UNWTO Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics in order to increase commitment of all stakeholders to its principles.
2017 also marked legislative progress in both Australia and the United States, where laws were passed in relation to the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism. The U.S State Department began a policy of revoking passports of convicted child sex offenders, and Australia now restricts some convicted child sex offenders from traveling overseas. Ireland looks set to be the first European country to follow these examples with similar measures. The Australian government also included orphanage tourism or “voluntourism” in its definition of modern slavery.
Regional entities South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and GARA the Latin American Grupo de Acción Regional de las Américas committed to developing regional action plans for protecting children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism. ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) implemented a project-based initiative on strengthening legal framework to protect children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism and developed a legal check-list on key legal interventions to protect children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism.
The issue of sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism has been also increasingly recognised and monitored as part of the scope of action of the international and regional intergovernmental bodies. Civil society organisations are doing their part to implement key recommendations of the Global Study.
A growing commitment has been observed on the part of the private sector. Major hotel and travel companies that have been standard bearers in the application of child protection policies have been joined by other non-traditional service companies. Hotels, airlines and travel companies successfully prevented cases of sexual exploitation of children. The importance of training and awareness raising has been cited in several incidents where hotel employees, flight attendants or taxi drivers were able to spot children in danger and report suspicious cases to the police. The Code is one of the tools that support the private sector in implementing child protection policies. See here for the full list of members.
In June 2018, the Colombian Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism in cooperation with the Tourism Authority of the Capital District of Bogota (IDT), the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Colombian Child Protection Authority (ICBF) and ECPAT Colombia – Fundación Renacer and with the participation of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) organized the first International Summit on Child Protection in Travel and Tourism. The co-organisers of the Summit included the High-Level Task Force on Child Protection in Travel and Tourism (HLTF), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and ECPAT International. The Summit brought together over 500 participants and resulted in a strong commitment to ensure the protection of children in travel and tourism and to end impunity of travelling child sex offenders. See here for the Declaration and the Call for Action.
The Call for Action from the Summit built strategic and synergistic alliances as part of an ongoing process of promoting and ensuring child protection in travel and tourism. It called upon all key stakeholders to adopt a comprehensive, child rights-centered and multi-stakeholder framework where all actors actively work together to end impunity of the travelling child sex offenders through:
• Strong and sustainable evidence-based awareness
• Proactive, comprehensive, context-specific and sustainable prevention
• Strong and effective legal frameworks
• Access to child and gender-sensitive justice, protection, comprehensive care, and full recovery.
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