118 members, from 102 countries registered 232 participants to discuss and decide upon the future direction of ECPAT

Every 3 years, the ECPAT International secretariat invites all of its network members to  collectively decide the path forward  to ending the sexual exploitation of children. Beyond being an opportunity to convene all of ECPAT’s global membership, the ECPAT International Assembly is an opportunity to jointly assess the impact of the ECPAT Network,  the effectiveness of our efforts, and to reaffirm our goal of  creating a safer world for children across the globe. Due to the ongoing threats of the COVID-19 pandemic, and worldwide travel restrictions, this year, for the first time in ECPAT’s 31 year history, the Assembly was held  entirely online. The event brought together participants spanning almost 20 time zones, and was conducted in English, with simultaneous interpretation provided for  Spanish, French and Russian—the main ECPAT languages.  

Looking back at key achievements 

The event  kicked off by looking back and celebrating the key moments and milestones since our last gathering, in Bogota, in June 2018. Key points that were mentioned include:

  • The ECPAT Network’s 30th anniversary, which happened in early May 2020. Click here to view the key moments of our Network’s 30-year history.
  • The official launch of the OPSC Guidelines in September 2019 with the Committee on the Rights of the Child. ECPAT provided technical support as well as an Explanatory Report and advocacy initiatives to make the guidelines more accessible.. 
  • The launch of the project ‘Disrupting Harm’, in June 2019. This project in collaboration with INTERPOL and the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti,  aims to assess the context, threat, and include children’s perspectives of online child sexual exploitation and abuse in 14 countries across  Southeast Asia and Eastern and Southern Africa. 
  • The Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics was adopted by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) in September 2019. This was in line with the first recommendation of ECPAT’s Global Study on Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism. Following this, we are supporting ECPAT members by developing advocacy points to follow up with national level actions and to promote the Convention. 
  • The Guidelines for Ethical Research on Sexual Exploitation involving Children, which were released in late 2019. The Guidelines have begun to be used to frame research by the ECPAT Network and we have begun to see references to the guidelines in the wider academic and practice community focused on sexual exploitation of children. 
  • In October 2020, an external evaluation on the global impact of ECPAT showed a very positive outcome, confirming ECPAT’s key role as the leading global civil society network to address the sexual exploitation of children. 

The strength of our Network during the pandemic

The Assembly followed on with a member panel discussion on the implications of Covid-19 on our work. The panel, which was chaired by ECPAT Austria and featured panelists from APLE in Cambodia, MAIS in the Dominican Republic, SAWA in Palestine, and UYDEL in Uganda, gave a their  insight into various aspects of the pandemic and how it has and continues to change our work. We learned about new issues that have arisen  due to the pandemic and we heard encouraging examples of how our members, despite the current logistical limitations, increased safety measures, and restrictions imposed by governments, are continuing the fight against the sexual exploitation of children. Read what they shared here.

The pandemic has drastically changed the world, and sadly this has led to offenders taking advantage of the situation or finding new ways to sexually exploit children. If our work was important before COVID, it’s even more important today.

– Robbert Van den Berg, ECPAT International ED

Welcoming our new members

Since the last Assembly in June 2018, in Bogota, we have welcomed 19 new members into our network. Meet our new members here:  

You can visit our members’ websites to learn more about their work.

APLE Cambodia | Emmanuel Development Association Ethiopia | MODS Serbia | KAACR Kenya | ECPAT Portugal | CHIDDO South Sudan | Jelly Beanz South Africa | Stepping Stones Botswana | People Serving Girls at Risk Malawi | C-SEMA Tanzania | ChildSafeNet Nepal | Iraqi Al-Amal Iraq | Sana Sezim Kazakhstan | Lifeline Childline Namibia | ACESEM Mali | TAWEA Tanzania | Hintalovon Hungary | Monde des Enfants Guinea | ARC Maldives

A new ECPAT Strategy for the next 5 years

Children are at risk every day, so there is no time for complacency. We need to become stronger, bolder and more united to prevent this crime. Our new strategy outlines how we will do this.

Robbert Van den Berg, ECPAT International ED

The Assembly was closed off with ECPAT’s first ever virtual vote. This included member  representatives from across the ECPAT membership to approve ECPAT’s latest strategic direction for 2021-2025. Our new strategic framework reimagines our role in the efforts against the sexual exploitation of children right from the community level to the global level and helps us plan out the best way we can work towards the change we want to see.  

We are proud to have seamlessly organised ECPAT’s biggest International Assembly so far and are excited about the the strong engagement, commitment, contributions and the strong bond amongst the ECPAT membership.