Child protection: every child deserves a safe childhood

The International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to building a global community working together to create a world where children can grow up free from going missing, being abducted, sexually abused or exploited.

As we prepare to enter our 20th year, we look forward to continuing to be a leader in identifying gaps in the global community’s ability to protect children from abduction, sexual abuse and exploitation, and expertly assembling the child protection resources, tools and people needed to fill those gaps.

Our work is foundational, improving systems, policies, and procedures so that first responders are prepared and equipped to do their best for child protection. At ICMEC, we fight to protect children from abduction, sexual abuse and exploitation because one missing or abused child is one too many. To realise our vision, we:

  • Advocate for improved protections and better global, regional and national child protection laws. We research child protection laws around the world and draft model legislation to address gaps in the world’s ability to protect children.
  • Train those on the frontlines – police officers, teachers, doctors, judges, prosecutors, and healthcare professionals all over the world – to recognise and respond to child sexual abuse and exploitation. We partner with experts to deliver cutting-edge technology and create online resources for prevention and response to child harm.
  • Collaborate with strategic partners to find solutions for child protection. We work side-by-side with global partners and create networks of field experts to give all children a chance to experience a safe and healthy childhood.

Developing systems to bring children home

The problem:

A missing child is a vulnerable child in need of protection. The longer a child is missing, the more vulnerable he or she becomes to threats of exposure to high-risk activities such as substance misuse/abuse, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, prostitution, and even the risk of death. Missing children, and the associated implications, are global issues lacking a global response. Currently, there is no harmonised, international strategy aimed at adequately addressing missing children and child abduction. National strategies for child protection, where they do exist, vary from country to country making it difficult to know the full extent of the problem and to determine how to best protect children from going missing/being abducted.

Our response: Global Missing Children’s Centre

As soon as a child goes missing, the countdown to find them begins. Our Global Missing Children’s Centre (GMCC) provides resources for governments, law enforcement, NGOs, and families on prevention and recovery in the event that a child does go missing. The GMCC provides an international, multi-lingual, publicly accessible database that allows law enforcement to catalogue and search for missing children. Additional resources include tips on prevention and awareness as well as information on the dissemination of missing child photos and emergency alerts.

A key component of our strategy to bring missing children home is our investment in the collaborative work accomplished through the GMCC’s Global Missing Children’s Network (GMCN), a membership group uniting and mobilising an international community of law enforcement and NGOs to find missing children. Currently, there are 28 GMCN member countries.

Providing tools and training for the frontline

The problem:

When we talk about the frontlines of child protection, we are talking about a vast community of people who, with the proper training, have an opportunity to play a role in keeping children safe. Law enforcement, doctors, nurses, teachers, counsellors and school administrators are often the first to notice when a child is in trouble and yet not all have access to trustworthy and vetted training, tools, and resources.

Our response: Global Training Academy

Our goal is to prevent child sexual abuse and exploitation before it ever begins, and, in cases when this tragedy does occur, have a global community ready to quickly and effectively respond. Our Global Training Academy for child protection provides training all over the world to make sure those who interact with children know how to recognise and respond to a child at risk.

One of our longest running programmes in the Global Training Academy is the work we do with law enforcement, prosecutors and judges. We know that a society cannot protect its children without law enforcement professionals who are properly trained, resourced, and committed to this work. This is why we provide law enforcement with hands-on training and access to the latest industry technology.

While the work we do with law enforcement internationally is critical, we recognise that it is not a sufficient response to the issues and dangers of child sexual abuse and exploitation. The first line of defence for children at risk are the ones working with them consistently, if not every day. To ensure children are protected on all fronts, the Global Training Academy offers training crafted and led by industry experts for educators and healthcare professionals, so they are able to identify abuse and exploitation, and take action to support survivors and their families.

To date, we have trained over 13,000 professionals on the frontlines of child protection, from more than 120 countries.

Supporting teachers and school personnel

The problem:

Schools should be safe havens for children, but sadly there have been far too many reports of sexual abuse in schools, and several high-profile cases involving the international school community in particular. International schools face unique challenges, especially when it comes to: conducting background checks and vetting applicants for available positions; training culturally-diverse communities within the school on child protection best practices; and responding to emergencies/allegations of abuse in countries where laws on this subject vary widely or may be non-existent.

Our response: Education Portal & Training for Educators

Thanks to the partnership and support of the International Task Force on Child Protection, we created an internationally-accessible Education Portal stocked with tailored, multi-lingual resources and research for educators and schools about child protection best practices and abuse prevention. We work closely with industry specialists including physicians, forensic psychologists, and offender behaviour experts to ensure that the world’s educators are getting the best tools and information possible to protect children. Educating school leaders is so critical because it creates a profound multiplier effect. Information ripples through the country and wider region. The people we train thus become part of the larger effort to enhance skills and introduce best practices for making schools safer for children.

Addressing the health implications of abuse and exploitation

The problem:

Child sexual abuse and exploitation often leave survivors traumatised, in need, and at risk of developing mental and physical health problems. Despite several important achievements, there has been no comprehensive global effort to understand child sexual abuse and exploitation as a public health crisis or to address it as such.

Our response: Global Initiative for Child Health & Well-Being

In 2011 we launched a Global Health Coalition (GHC), bringing leading healthcare and pharmaceutical institutions together to address the impact that sexual abuse and exploitation have on a child’s physical and mental health. In recent years, the GHC has evolved into ICMEC’s Global Initiative for Child Health & Well-Being, through which ICMEC works to promote changes to international medical codes to include specific codes for sexual exploitation, improve survivor recognition and identification, develop and deploy child protection training for healthcare providers, and identify gaps in services for survivors of abuse. Our goal is to increase the number of healthcare professionals who understand the issue of child sexual abuse and exploitation and are prepared to intervene.

Advocating for enhanced law and policy

The problem:

Child protection laws vary around the world. Every country has its own individual laws, strategy, and terminology in place to keep children safe. The lack of global standardisation makes it difficult to fully grasp, track, and address issues of child protection.

Our solution: The Koons Family Institute on International Law & Policy

Our research is the cornerstone of our mission. The Koons Family Institute is dedicated to researching and reporting on the status of child protection laws around the world. We make all of our research available for free through our online library, giving law enforcement, governments, policymakers, and NGOs the ability to stay updated on the scope of the problem in their country and the steps that can be taken to improve their child protection efforts. Our research informs how we develop and approach the training programmes we provide and helps open up conversations about the needs of the most vulnerable among us.

To accompany our research and global reviews of child protection laws, we draft model legislation that is adaptable and accessible to any country or culture in the world. In 2006 we released the first edition of Child Pornography: Model Legislation & Global Review, a report analysing the strengths and shortcomings in anti-child sexual abuse material laws from 196 countries against five key criteria. Since this release and throughout eight subsequent editions, we have seen 127 countries improve legislation regarding this issue. The ninth edition of this report, renamed Child Sexual Abuse Materials: Model Legislation & Global Review, is scheduled to be released in late 2018 and adheres to Luxembourg Standard Guidelines, adapting language to reflect the nature of modern crime.

Most recently, in response to the growing number of online child grooming cases, we released our first Online Grooming of Children for Sexual Purposes: Model Legislation & Global Review. The report also analyses child protection legislation from 196 countries against five core criteria’s and provides essential information on definitions, sentencing and related laws. Our work in this area of growing concern reflects ICMEC’s unrelenting commitment to protect the world’s children from each new risk that arises.

We also have launched the Global Missing Children’s Research Initiative, a project specifically focused on analysing legislation, best practices, and policies in every country regarding missing children. We know that children who go missing are at a greater risk of being exposed to dangerous and threatening situations including sexual abuse and exploitation. This initiative identifies trends and common themes while highlighting gaps in policies, allowing us to better understand the problem and offer recommendations for addressing the solution.

Disrupting the economics of child sexual exploitation

The problem:

In the mid-2000s the world began to move online, and so did child predators. With this migration, the use of credit cards to purchase images and content of children being sexually abused took off online. The sharing and purchasing of images of child sexual abuse is not a victimless crime. Pictures and videos depicting child sexual abuse are crime scene images. They are photographic and video records of abuse. When these images reach cyberspace, they are irretrievable and can continue to circulate forever. The physical and psychological harm to children depicted in these images is incalculable, and the continual circulation of images harms children in a manner comparable to the actual production of the image itself.

Our response: Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography

To combat this issue, ICMEC partnered with leading banks and credit card companies in the U.S. to form the U.S. Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography (FCACP), with the intention of disrupting the economics of the online child sexual abuse material business. Following the U.S. efforts, the Asia-Pacific FCACP was launched to broaden the fight. The members of the Asia-Pacific FCACP implement anti-child sexual abuse material initiatives for specific countries and work tirelessly to keep up with the ever-changing methods of technology to identify and shut down online sexual exploitation of children.

ICMEC also participates in the Steering Group of the European Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation of Children Online, which brings together key child protection actors from law enforcement, the private sector, and civil society in Europe with the common goal of fighting the commercial sexual exploitation of children online.

Thanks to these efforts, it is virtually impossible to use a credit card anywhere in the world to purchase child sexual abuse materials and go undetected.

Safeguarding children around the world is a responsibility every one of us shares — creating a world that is safer for today’s children and safer still tomorrow. Please join us as we work to build a world that’s worth its children.

Ambassador Maura Harty

President & CEO

International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children

+1 170 383 76305

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