International Conference: Don’t Look Away!

The conference was organized on 14-15 December 2017 in The Hague by Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice and Defence for Children International-ECPAT The Netherlands.

The campaign main aim is to send out a strong, coordinated message against sexual exploitation of children in tourism and, at the same time, motivating travelers to report suspicious encountering and observations: www.reportchildsextourism.org.

The conference aim was to strengthen the framework for cooperation and joint actions for the campaign “Don’t Look Away!” and bring it to the international level. The meeting allowed to exchange good practices, strengthen the multi-stakeholder approach and increase knowledge on the phenomena and the traveling sex offenders. It brought together over 60 participants representing governments, law enforcement, private sector and civil society organisations.

The conference was opened by Ferd Grapperhaus, Minister of Justice and Security who underlined that the problem of sexual exploitation in travel and tourism concerns all the world and that we need more countries to join the campaign.

The keynote speech was delivered by Dorothy Rozga, who presented the follow-up to the recommendation of the Global Study, which concluded that “partners from across sectors should come together for a high-visibility global campaign to push for effective laws, strong enforcement, better protection of child victims and the end of impunity for offenders”. Dorothy emphasized, that the many successes of “Don’t look away!” campaign suggest that it can be the solid foundation for a global campaign. The campaign could support worldwide advocacy and the systematic prevention of sexual exploitation of children. It could contribute to new national reporting mechanisms, which may not be ideal, but that we cannot let what we cannot do keep us from doing what we can. Dorothy stressed, that it is the auspicious moment to act as the global mood is ready and in the view of the upcoming Global Summit on Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism, which will be hosted by the Government of Colombia on 6-7 June 2018 in Bogota.

Arjan Verhagen and Jesse Donkers from Dutch Police in their keynote speech presented cases of combatting travelling child sex offenders and explained the value of a dedicated liaison officers. They underlined difficulties in starting investigation, which require proactive approach to prevent SEC, especially in countries where there is an insufficient local network for operations and that small NGOs can be of great help in local cases.

Good practices were presented by ECPAT Germany, ECPAT Luxemburg and ECPAT Netherlands. Mechtild Maurer presented destination workshops based on multistakeholder cooperation. Franz Siebenaller talked about the pledge for collective request to the government to engage actively in preventing SECTT. Celine Verheijen, together with youth representatives, explained the way of engaging young people in preventive activities against SECTT.

The following session was dedicated to the research: Anneke Koning form the University of Leiden in her presentation “Motives and methods of travelling sex offenders – implications for research, policy and practice” drew attention to the risks of “recycling” facts in various research and agreed that “Don’t look away!” campaign while becoming global should involve academia. Kai Jonas from University of Maastricht discussed the social media approach behavior of potential abuse victims & informal work of young teenagers in individualized tourism contexts as abuse risk behavior and called for the need of education of youth and adults.

Parallel sessions included: “Ins and outs for social media campaigns”; “How current and future forms of tourism can foster child abuse”; “Travelling Sex Offenders – how to monitor them and initiate cross-border interventions”; “Evaluation of European Reporting Portal www.reportchildsextourism.org” ; “The use of storytelling in social media campaigns” and “Barrier model to stop travelling sex offenders”.

The next steps towards bringing the campaign to the global level will be planned in the view of the Global Summit on SECTT, which is going to be hosted by the Government of Colombia on 6-7 June 2018 in Bogota.