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Today, May 18, within the 30th session of the Commission for the Prevention of Crime and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ), ASTRA, United Kingdom Mission to the UN and the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) organized a side-event PREVENTING VULNERABILITY AND STRENGTHENING POLICY RESPONSES FOR COMMERCIAL SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN, as a part of accompanying program.

On this occasion, an assessment of commercial sexual exploitation of children and child protection responses in the Western Balkans region was presented, emphasizing the vulnerability of children to this type of exploitation. Special attention is paid to the sexual exploitation of children on the Internet and the risk of sexual exploitation of children in certain areas, such as the travel and tourism sectors, in marginalized communities and during migration. In addition, the study analyzes the child protection system and the ability of the authorities to tackle this problem.

The key findings of the study were presented by GI-TOC representatives Livia Wagner, Kristina Amerhause. On this occasion, they pointed out that the research covered six countries of the Western Balkans and that the findings are similar to global trends. The development of technologies increases the vulnerability of children in the online space because access to children is facilitated. Also, the risk of access is reduced due to the increased possibility of anonymous online access to children. They pointed out that 750.000 predators are present worldwide at any given time. In 2018 alone, 45 million images and videos of sexually exploited children were in circulation, and according to the European Commission, sexual abuse of children for commercial purposes quadrupled in the period 2019 – 2020.

You can download the assessment from the following LINK.

Marija Andjelković, the director of ASTRA, was the next to address the audience, talking about the role of the civil sector and the protection of children from sexual abuse for commercial purposes. On this occasion, she highlighted the role of the civil sector, which was the first to draw attention to the problem of sexual abuse of children and child trafficking. CSO’s in the regions mainly operates in prevention and awareness-raising. However, many organizations in the region provide assistance and services to the victims of trafficking in human beings and children victims of sexual abuse (medical, legal and psychological support, running shelters and SOS lines, which are often available 24/7). Although these organizations often provide services licensed by their states, they never receive support from state funds for their functioning, making it difficult for key actors in the victim support system to function.

On the other hand, there are also positive changes, stated Andjelkovic, which concern systemic changes and adjustment of the legal framework. However, all countries that entered this survey have problems with applying the law and the treatment of victims, including the protection of child victims, in the system is not adequate.

Andjelkovic also pointed out the main systemic shortcomings and gave recommendations for improving the role and position of CSO’s. This will indirectly affect the improvement of the position of victims and better protection of child victims in the state system.

You can find the full speech HERE!

The recording of the side-event is already online and available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Wiu_iXtZNI.

Among other speakers we had a chance to hear: Michael Davidson, First Secretary, United Kingdom Mission to the UN (introductory speech); Court Expert for digital evidence, Tomislav Ramljak (Importance of Technical Evidence) and Virginia Kiddle from the UK National Crime Agency, who spoke about the role of law enforcement and international best practices.

The 30th session will be held online from May 17 to 21. The rest of the session program can be found HERE!

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