New York, 15 October 2015
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today I have the honour to present to you my second report to the General Assembly, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 69/157.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of my mandate, which has been the opportunity for a stocktaking exercise. Significant gains have been achieved as far as awareness raising is concerned on the plight of children victim of different forms of exploitation. The adoption of the OPSC in 2000 is particularly noteworthy and this last month its ratification by the Bahamas and Kiribati has brought the total number of State Parties to 171. I take this opportunity to call on the States which have still not ratified the OPSC to help us achieve universal ratification of the CRC and its Protocols.
Ratification alone is of course insufficient and looking back at the last quarter of a century, I am seriously concerned by the lack of implementation of the obligations and commitments made by States.
Yet, I warmly welcome the adoption of the SDGs and specifically of Goals 5, 8 and 16 which affect my mandate. The next 15 years are consequently of fundamental importance as we must translate all the existing frameworks and guidelines into concrete change for child victims of exploitation and those who are vulnerable to such crimes.
This year I also presented my first report to the Human Rights Council on the sale and sexual exploitation of children facilitated by ICTs. This was the occasion to update the research that had been undertaken by my predecessors and most importantly face up to the ever increasing technological advances which facilitate the exploitation of children.
Among the several recommendations I made at the end of my report, I wish to highlight the following. I believe that the ongoing initiatives and alliances need to ensure further coordination and cooperation amongst themselves. The international community would gain from the creation of a permanent multi-stakeholder consolidated structure which would capitalise on the joint expertise of the abovementioned initiatives and ensure the harmonisation of practices. It would offer its expertise to all the Governments who wish to develop effective national legislation, policies and strategies as well as transnational cooperation to combat online child sexual exploitation.
Next year, I will be undertaking a country visit to Georgia. I have also been in contact with the Government of Mozambique and hope that they will respond positively to my visit request.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the report I am presenting today, I focused on comprehensive care, recovery and reintegration programmes for child victims of sexual exploitation. The aim of this study is to provide States with practical guidelines to ensure that at the national level children have access to child rights based care systems. During the research for this report a questionnaire was sent out to different stakeholders including States and I invite you to consult the numerous responses that were received, on my website.
As has been endemic in the context of this mandate, there is a lack of data on the sexual exploitation of children or it is aggregated with statistics on trafficking. This is particularly glaring in the case of the quantification of the number of child victims of sexual exploitation, their registration and the follow-up of their cases. I must insist again, as has been consistently done by my predecessors, on the need to have segregated data which clearly measures every dimension of these phenomena and identifies the extent of child sexual exploitation and when relevant the related sale and trafficking which led to this abuse.
There is a specific gap, for instance, on child victims of sexual exploitation committed through ICTs. Their exact number is unknown and crucially the impact of the ordeal they have suffered requires further research.
At the onset of my report, I remind all States that receiving care and recovery services is a right enshrined in international instruments to which Governments must abide. There is a need to establish holistic child-sensitive support which offers integrated services ranging from immediate medical assistance and psychological support to legal aid and long term reintegration through inter alia education, vocational training and life skills. Currently in numerous States, barriers for reporting and victim identification subsist. Furthermore, existing child protection systems often lack the required safeguards to prevent system induced traumas which deepen the suffering of the victim.
Underlying deep rooted factors remain at the source of several failures in care and recovery programmes. Firstly, the child victim is still frequently blamed for the violation he or she has suffered. In the case of adolescents, confusions subsist around the notion of consent and law enforcement forces have dismissed cases on the grounds that the child victim was willing. It must be recalled that no child, under any circumstances, can consent to his or her exploitation. Secondly, gender discrimination has led to the marginalisation of certain child victims such as boys and children who identify as LGBT. The specific suffering of boys due to predetermined gender roles is commonly overlooked when complaints are lodged.
Throughout the research on this thematic, it became clear that even though there are numerous positive examples of first response services there is a significant gap in medium to long term care for child victims of sexual exploitation. The importance of appropriate and sustained funding and resourcing of care and recovery programmes cannot be overstated. Of particular interest is the development of life projects for child victims which ensure that they receive individualised plans adapted to their specific needs.
The model of individualised care and recovery programmes is also fundamental as it entails the empowerment of the child victim. Indeed, in order to be effective any rehabilitation must involve the child and foster his or her sense of agency. Children are incredibly resilient and cannot be solely considered as victims. As survivors of abhorrent crimes, these children must receive all the tools to be able to return actively to their family and community.
In addition, I have underlined how in parallel of such individualised plans it is of the upmost importance to involve the family, when it is possible, and the community at large in the recovery and rehabilitation of these child victims. A clear understanding of the suffering of these children is essential to prevent any discrimination from relatives and the community.
In order to effectively implement comprehensive care and recovery programmes selection, capacity building and training are of the essence. Consequently every professional, from law enforcement officers to magistrates and social workers, who comes into contact with child victims must have been appropriately selected and trained in order to ensure that child-sensitive procedures are provided. States must also develop and monitor minimum standards for organizations providing care. The extremely traumatic experience of the victim can lead to several challenging reactions and situations. Carers are nonetheless expected to never give up and constantly be creative in their responses. States should also provide adequate support and assistance for caregivers. What is more, regular monitoring and assessment are interlinked to maintaining the best interest of the child as a primary consideration.
The intrinsic conclusion from my report is that recovery and reintegration of child victims of sexual exploitation is a very long process which will vary from one individual to another. In one of the responses to the questionnaire a child underlined that “you can’t do anything straight away can you? It takes time but you need encouraging don’t you? You need to be pushed a little bit, a little bit more each time but not too hard though because people will leave.” All concerned stakeholders should take these words at heart. States have the duty to increase or develop medium to long term services for these child victims.
If these children have fallen victim to these unspeakable crimes it is often due to our failures. We cannot fail them twice by not providing them with the appropriate care they require.
I thank you for your attention.