Safeguarding Podcast – Amy, Vicky, Andy and OCSE too with Thomas Mueller, Deputy Executive Director ECPAT

In this Safeguarding Podcast with Thomas Mueller Deputy Executive Director of ECPAT, we discuss the international aspects of online child abuse, the impact of the Vietnam war on child abuse, the travel & tourism industry’s involvement and what it can do, the impact of end-to-end encryption, child trafficking, compensation for victims and ECPAT’s Summary Paper on Online Child Sexual Exploitation.

There’s a lightly edited for legibility transcript below for those that can’t use podcasts, or for those that simply prefer to read.

Welcome to another edition of the SafeToNet Foundation’s safeguarding podcast with Neil Fairbrother exploring the law culture and technology of safeguarding children, online

Neil Fairbrother

Online child sexual exploitation, trafficking, and sex tourism are international problems which need an international approach to solve them. One organization that has been advocating internationally for 30 years is ECPAT and to guide us through their work, I’m joined by Deputy Executive Director Thomas Muller. Welcome to the podcast, Thomas.

Thomas Mueller, ECPAT

It’s a pleasure, thank you Neil.

Neil Fairbrother

Thomas, could you give us a brief resume so that our audience from around the world has an appreciation of your experience, perhaps?

Thomas Mueller, ECPAT

Yeah. Sure. So thank you for having me. I know you won’t be able to hear it from my flawless and posh English accent, but I’m actually from Munich in Germany. And I studied social work back in the day in the beautiful little medieval German student town called Bamberg and full of timbered houses and cobblestone roads. And then it was famous the university for social sciences and social studies and during my studies, I specialized on child protection and children’s rights and then kind of developed the studies into that direction which then led me to start working with a company who bid for contracts with the German government and with municipal offices on child protection and providing social services to children and families. Those were often neglected children where abuse was part of the story, but parental drug and alcohol abuse was quite common, and money was always an issue and so on and so forth.

So that was before every child had a mobile phone and none of those issues that we probably talk about today was a problem there, but it was quite interesting for me to see in a relatively well-developed country, how deep the issues really are, with children and child protection.

I always had an interest also in other parts of the world. And so I applied with the German government, with the development corporation specifically, and moved to East Africa and moved into Uganda where we supported a child rights and NGO network. They wanted to start a child health plan, something similar to Childline UK or other child line services. And around about that time, it was kind of possible for some African countries to start a service like that because mobile phones were more available, networks were developed.

And so we brought in Uganda Telecom, which was one of the first projects that involved the private sector. Deutsche Telekom had a share in Uganda telecom. So we pushed through that angle and Uganda Telecom did provide the funding to set up a help line and a call centre. So we established that call centre, children started calling, it was really exciting. It was a really groundbreaking project for a country like Uganda.

And with that helpline, we became members of another international network called Child Helpline International. And so from the national context in Uganda, I took on a role there. One of the first things I did there was writing an application for a harmonized free-phone number for child helplines in Europe. The number 1, 1, 6, 1, 1, 1, so that every child in Europe could dial that number and reach their local helpline free of cost. And so that was approved by the Commission and that was enrolled across Europe.

And then we went to the International Telecommunications Union, the UN agency for telecommunications, and they adopted it, which made that number available across the world. One of the organizations that we worked closely with was ECPAT International and after 10 years, with Child Helpline International, in 2016, I moved over here and joined ECPAT.

Neil Fairbrother

You’re based in, you’re based in Thailand, I believe with ECPAT?

Thomas Mueller, ECPAT

Bangkok, Thailand, exactly.

Neil Fairbrother

And what is ECPAT?

Thomas Mueller, ECPAT

Okay. It’s a global movement founded in the nineties, in 1990 to be precise, of organizations that address the sexual exploitation of children in the context of travel and tourism. Right? So there was a very you know, obvious problem in Thailand and parts of Southeast Asia, where as a result of the Vietnam war, a rather big sex industry had established. Soldiers that were deployed in Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia, they came over here to entertain themselves and around that time this industry had started. And after the war ended, the industry was established in state and gradually tourists came in from around the world and with their hard currency had opportunities over here that were unthinkable for them back home.

So they took advantage of it and this industry then more and more developed towards the travel and tourism sector and that became so obvious in the late eighties, early nineties, that a number of organizations started addressing it. And they came together, also supported by quite a number of organizations in Europe at that time, but all civil society organizations that founded ECPAT in 1990.

ECPAT in those days, stood for End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism. That was the acronym. Ever since the organization has grown into all parts of the world. We are now 122 organizations in 104 countries. We’re still with the Secretariat here in Bangkok, but also the issue of sexual exploitation of children has quite evolved over the years and it has gone well beyond the travel and tourism sector. And it’s now dealing also with trafficking of children for sexual purposes, child early-enforced marriage, the online environment and sexual exploitation in that context and prostitution.

And so those areas are now kind of the main areas that we broke the bigger topic of sexual exploitation of children down to, and that we concern ourselves with, even though the experiences of children are more complex. They are always kind of entailing one or more of those manifestations as we call it. And they would never identify themselves as a victim of trafficking or a victim of child early-enforced marriage and so on. So that’s really kind of categories that we put in place.

And last sentence for that. ECPAT is an organization that starts usually with a piece of research. We’re trying to provide knowledge, trying to provide new data, new understanding on the issue. And we take that knowledge to our network membership, to those civil society organizations in those different countries. In many cases, we develop this knowledge together with them, and then we mainstream this knowledge across the different countries. And then we try to promote and initiate a collective global advocacy campaigning effort to raise awareness and to change laws and policies and advocate on behalf of children.

Neil Fairbrother

Okay. Thank you for that Thomas. Now last year was ECPAT’s 30th anniversary, so congratulations for that, and to mark the occasion you produced some what you call Summary Papers, which focused on the five areas you mentioned, trafficking, sexual exploitation, prostitution, online harms and online abuse, child and early and forced marriages, and also travel and tourism. And unfortunately, we simply don’t have time to go through all five of those papers, but before we focus on the online child sexual exploitation paper, or “Oxy” (OCSE) as you call it I’d like just to spend a bit of time on the Sale and Trafficking of Children paper as there are strong links between the two areas. What is the definition of trafficking because that term trafficking has certain connotations, I think.What do you mean by trafficking? How do you define it?

Thomas Mueller, ECPAT

That is a really good question and I think a question that not all organizations that are working on this issue have come around to a common definition either. So we certainly always refer to the Palermo Protocol and actually there are three Palermo protocols, but the Palermo Protocols were adopted as a supplement to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Crime, I think in the year 2000.

And one of those protocols is called Protocol to Prevent Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children. And this focus on children is of course very important, that’s where our interest is. And we often refer to trafficking of children for sexual purposes to be precise.

Now, according to the protocol, trafficking is comprised of three distinct elements. They need to have an element of Act, Means and Purpose. Act as relating to everything that deals with the recruitment, the transportation, the transfer, harboring, and receipt of persons. The means refer to the power imbalance that is at play, the threat or use of force, deception, and so on, that manipulation. And then the Purpose is that you do all that with the interest to exploit through prostitution or through other forms of exploitation, forced labour, slavery. And I think it even includes the removal of organs and so on.

So it is a rather wide definition and that’s why I say the NGO community and definitely the governments also didn’t come around to a common definition and because it also overlaps with Modern Day Slavery, which has its own definition. And so when it comes to legal frameworks, it is rather complex but that’s the definition that we promote and that we go by.

Neil Fairbrother

Okay, thank you for that. Let’s focus now on the Summary Paper on Online Child Sexual Exploitation, because there’s a lot in there and to help give us some focus, your paper has got five priority actions and the first of these five priority actions, which I think are recommendations for different organizations and perhaps governments around the world, the first one is to “…create specific and comprehensive legal frameworks”. Now in the UK, this is quite a topical topic because we’ve recently had the draft of the Online Safety Bill published. Is that the kind of thing that you mean?

Thomas Mueller, ECPAT

If you look at the legal frameworks in different countries then you would see the countries are more or less aware, more or less prepared for those issues. That terminology of those laws is not appropriate very often. And really in the case of online, we also dealing with very outdated laws that are kind of going a long way back, and they’ve never really fully incorporated some of those areas.

Laws need to be in place. There’s a great deal of lobbying and advocacy that we do in terms of pushing for legal frameworks. And we publish ECOs, as we call them, ECPAT Country Overviews, which look really into the situation of every country and do a comprehensive desk review of existing laws and how they’re applied in different countries.

And so then we look into those laws and policies, obviously that relate to sexual exploitation of children. And yeah, so these laws are outdated, like I said, in many ways. And then often they are also not really enforced. So law enforcement agencies or resources within the country are not allocated appropriately to enforce those laws. Often, they touch upon cultural perceptions that we have it written in our law, but we don’t really believe in it.

And so there’s a variety of issues with the laws, but it’s always a starting point. It’s always, as long as you believe in the rule of law, I think you need to push for laws and for policies. That’s a good starting point for any country and often what we do, to start discussing these issues with countries is to pick out one or the other law that gives us an entry point into a more national and more comprehensive discussion on issues related to sexual exploitation of children.

Neil Fairbrother

When you start a conversation like that with a particular government who may not, for example, have a definition of CSAM, child sexual abuse material, how do you start such a conversation? And what’s the reaction that you get?

Thomas Mueller, ECPAT

Here in Asia, we worked quite a bit with ASEAN, a regional organization with 11 member states from Southeast Asia. And we wanted to have a general discussion about issues related to sexual exploitation of children, and obviously also discussion in regards to those online elements of it, to a definition of CSAM, grooming, these kind of things. But at that point in time, there was no real entry point for us to have such a discussion.

What the countries though came around to be able to speak about was issues related to travel and tourism, and to foreigners that come into the region, a common problem that they all share. There’s no finger-pointing because that’s very political. Also these organizations, there’s no finger pointing that one country is better than the other, but there’s a common foreign enemy that comes into the region and abuses the kids of the region and then say, oh, yeah, okay, we can talk about that.

And when we started talking about that and developed the working group and different initiatives that involved certain working groups within ASEAN, then one thing led to another. We did a legal checklist of laws that exist at the moment in the member states. And then obviously it wasn’t only related to travel and tourism, but also to online, also to trafficking, because we just talked about it, those issues overlap.

And then all of a sudden, we had a discussion with them about all these online issues. And that led at the end of the day to us developing together with ASEAN a declaration that was signed by the Heads of States. All Heads of States of ASEAN member states during that 2019 summit, they meet every five years on Heads of State level and in 2019, all the Heads of States came together and adopted a declaration that said, we need to do better on addressing online sexual exploitation and now we’re developing and reviewing legal frameworks in a much better and more comprehensive way. And with more momentum, obviously.

Neil Fairbrother

Okay. Now I think the figures you gave in your report were that 18 out of the 184 Interpol member countries have no legislation in place to define CSAM offenses. I understand the work you’re doing in country to help address that with local laws, but what can the travel and tourism industries do, for example, in developed countries that do have such laws? Can they do something to prevent the travel or to help identify people who are traveling from say the UK to a country that has none of these laws in place? Should they be involved?

Thomas Mueller, ECPAT

Well, it’s both. It’s the industry that needs to do better and it’s countries that need to do better. So an issue that we are talking about, for example, with a number of countries are offender registries, so that someone who offends in one country should not be able to go to a neighboring country or another country and do the same thing all over again, just because he hasn’t yet offended in that other country.

So, you know, there’s legal loopholes amongst countries. You mentioned CSAM definitions. It’s obvious if you have someone who is interested in sharing child sexual abuse material, which is obviously CSAM as we speak about it, they will have a very good look at the legal situation in every country and they will probably store material in one country, host it, share it in another country and play with those loopholes where possession is illegal or legal. That’s why we’re working on countries to harmonize those laws.

And once you have information about perpetrators and you know that they’re probably just about to go on an airplane and travel from one country to another, then yes, the airlines should probably be aware of that. But again, it should be law enforcement in my eyes who should alert and send a notice, to prevent that person from traveling.

So Australia had an interesting regulation that they actually took away passports of registered offenders. But also before that, they very often alerted authorities in the Philippines. So this kind of collaboration is very much important. It requires a lot of training and collaboration amongst countries, a lot of cross training, raising awareness, raising capacity, building goodwill. It requires resources, obviously. So many countries now have extra-territorial legislation where they can actually go after their citizens, even if they offend outside their countries in other countries.

But then how it works in practice often is then the country, the government of the UK probably wants to investigate a UK citizen that’s over here in Thailand. And all of the other countries, Sweden, Germany, the US, that’s the same. And they all come to the local law enforcement agency and they say, thank you for bringing us all your cases. You also need to come with some resources. And some of the practicalities of it require a lot of things beyond the will to collaborate.

And the industry, obviously they need to set their own standards. They can help a lot with awareness raising. So if you traveled into a country and your in-flight magazine points out some of those problems in those countries, raises this awareness, the hotel industry, of who’s checking into the hotel, into the establishment. Is that really father and daughter? If it looks strange often it is strange.

Staff needs to be aware and we do a great deal of training in the travel and tourism industry through a program that we call the Code. It’s about a best practice code for the industry. And that’s again, implemented through our network in different countries where different member organizations go to different hotel chains, travel agencies, tour operators and raise their awareness and train their staff. And there was hundreds of thousands of staff trained over the years, but all in all the industry needs to also step up and make a much greater effort.

Neil Fairbrother

Okay. Now the second priority action is a “…rapid and effective international cooporation and law enforcement resources”. And to some extent, you’ve alluded to some of that already. But you do make the point that “…robust legal frameworks aren’t sufficient by themselves to solve the problem of OCSE and specific expertise in ICT and digital forensics are also needed”. And “…out of 60 countries that are covered by the “Out of the Shadows” report, just 35 have the dedicated law enforcement agency, but only eight have a dedicated budget for online cases”. That seems like a shockingly low number.

Thomas Mueller, ECPAT

It is shocking for you and for me, but it’s not shocking enough to really ramp it up and give it more priority unfortunately. Law enforcement is often the first institution that meets with victims and the families, and “often” is probably an understatement, I think that’s just the nature of police work, is like their focus is on the offender. They want to get the offender off the road and get to the offender. If they have the offender, then their work is done and done successfully. Yet the victims are often a stepping-stone towards the offender.

It needs more soft skills amongst police, and it needs a better understanding of how to deal with children. It needs better processes so that the children and victims are not repeatedly and repeatedly interviewed and have to tell their own story of abuse. Some of them go through 40 or 50 different interviews with different people, not only law enforcement, but that’s where it’s often started and where this awareness is important. A dedicated law enforcement unit is a first step into that direction that you build those skills, those requirements, within the force and then mainstream it across the law enforcement.

Then it becomes an internal advocacy unit, because once they are successful in their work, they will point out all those shortcomings and that will gradually develop systemic change within the police force. But also law enforcement, like I mentioned, needs to collaborate. Now in the online environment it’s not only that you go after victims of your own communities, but victims might be on the other side of the world.

Police work by its nature is kind of national, even local, because that’s where the funding comes from. A lot of local and national tax money that goes to supporting the police force and it’s dedicated to keep their community safe. And now with these problems and with these issues and the involvement of the internet, that community is a global community. And that’s a mindset question. That’s something that police needs to get out of. There’s already a reluctance amongst police forces across the world in their national territories to collaborate. So there’s the local police and the national police and there’s competition about different funding and different responsibilities and it doesn’t come naturally to them really to collaborate. And now we require this global collaboration.

Neil Fairbrother

Yes. The great thing about the internet is that it is the same the world over but that also means that the online harms are the same the world over. What’s different here, it seems to me, is that the quality of relevant laws and law keeping are not the same which is leading to inequality of fairness for children, who are the most vulnerable.

Now the third privacy action that you have is “…strategic private sector commitment”, which I think is an intriguing phrase. By “private sector”, do you mean social media service providers? And if you do, one of the key technologies that they seem to be very keen on deploying is end-to-end encryption. How does end-to-end encryption impact the international aspect of online child sexual abuse?

Thomas Mueller, ECPAT

So to your first question, I think yes, social media platforms and providers are obviously in our focus, it’s also the travel and tourism industry, as I mentioned, it’s also increasingly the financial sector where payments are made to order for example, livestream of abuse. Manufacturers I think are really kind of getting too little focus.

So it’s across the board that industry needs to step up. Online is part of everyone’s life in all aspects and so there’s very few industries that don’t have to play a role here, but obviously social media service providers are some that get a key focus now.

Encryption, so I think there’s a general trend and the need in the world for more privacy. End-to-end encryption provides exactly that kind of privacy, and it makes it impossible for anyone except the sender and the recipient really to read messages that are sent online.

Now, anyone in that sense then also, and I’m talking more about Facebook because obviously because of their position in the market, right? So they own 70% to 80% of the social media market in the world through the different acquisitions that they made with Instagram and then WhatsApp and so all in all there’s little escape from Facebook or a Facebook related product. So when I say you can’t see what is shared because it’s encrypted that includes a company like Facebook, that they cannot see any more what is shared within a certain group. Right?

And what Facebook as a company want, is the data from us, because that’s how they make their money. But for the data they want to get, they don’t need to know exactly what is discussed in that group. There’s other metrics and other data that they’re collecting.

And so for them, it’s really kind of almost solving two problems. It’s like getting rid of monitoring the content, which they always said, like, we’re only the platform, we’re providing the platform and what people do there well, that’s beyond our control. But now they have an excuse for it because it’s encrypted, we can’t see it anyway.

And so now we have this situation as a child rights community, as a child protection organization, who think you know, a lot of the information we get about CSAM shared on the internet comes from social media companies and in particular from Facebook, because from NCMEC, the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, which is the national clearing house for CSAM in the US, they receive a huge number of reports every year about CSAM and the vast majority of those are coming from Facebook. And by encrypting their environments, by encrypting groups and Messenger, they basically close the window into that world, right?

So, we as a child rights community have an issue with that. We have nothing against privacy and we think we need privacy. We’re not advocating in the slightest against privacy and the right to have your data safe. And we all need that, especially as an NGO movement that is present in over a hundred countries where increasingly civic spaces are restricted, where NGOs need to be really careful in some countries, what they say. Even on an issue as straightforward and simple as child protection, it gets politicized. There’s a lot of fake news out there.

And so we know that many of our members wouldn’t be able to operate if it wasn’t for encrypted and safe environments, yet the point we’re making is it can’t be an either/or, it shouldn’t be an either/or. It is privacy, yes, but not at the expense of child protection. And I do think most of the people also look at it that way. There was an interesting study from the NSPCC not too long ago, I think through YouGov, that came out and said the acceptance amongst the general public of encryption will be at almost double if companies would be able to make a good, strong point that children are protected on their platforms. So it’s not an either/or, it must be possible to combine those things, privacy and child protection.

Neil Fairbrother

Okay. The fourth priority action is “…sustain the education, focusing on the digital culture change amongst youth and associated online risk.” Now, it seems to me that we’ve been educating and educating children for the last 20 to 25 years about online safety, but the problem seems to be getting worse and worse. One upshot from educating children about, for example, sharing intimate images that they themselves take, is that if a shared image is then forwarded on by the initial intended and trusted recipient, it’s not the forwarder that’s regarded as being at fault but the original sharer, and often it’s a she and she, the person who took and shared the initial image or video in the first place, gets the blame and indeed the shame. So, what’s gone wrong with this education program that we’ve been running for at least two decades?

Thomas Mueller, ECPAT

Well, I mean, it has to be an ongoing effort. It’s not like because we trained it once or twice it’s done. It’s also, I think in the nature of kids that they don’t to the most rational things at all times. I do think children are children and we need to take care of them more than other people, because you know, they deserve this extra protection because they can’t make certain decisions or shouldn’t make certain decisions. They certainly shouldn’t be held responsible for certain things as long as they’re children. So even giving your consent doesn’t mean that that should be considered a consent in a legal sense of the word.

Sharing images, well, you do something you shouldn’t be doing that, that’s for sure. And we need to educate children more often that what is out there is out there, what you share, you lost control over it. It is important because the devices are so much part of their daily lives and you know, that has a lower threshold, much lower than in earlier generations. So we, you and me, and even older people, have a much higher sense of these issues. We didn’t grow up with a device in our hand from the age of two were swiping around, that’s what happens nowadays and it’s just so much a part of that DNA and of their daily lives that there’s a less maybe sensitivity. And we need to pick that up.

Having said that they can never be held responsible for it. They shouldn’t be, it’s not right. And like I said, a child can never consent to their own exploitation or extortion, and it should never stand up in court as an excuse. “But she agreed to it” – that’s where we need to come in with laws and say, “No, you should have known”.

Neil Fairbrother

Teenagers are famous for being risk takers and if the message is couched in risk terms, that simply makes it more attractive to them. So that may not be the most effective way of educating children about this particular problem.

Thomas Mueller, ECPAT

I’d say it’s the same with drugs, isn’t it? I’ve lived for 10 years in the Netherlands and marijuana was always legal then, but every statistic they come up with, every research, shows that children and young people are not taking more drugs than other countries. It’s part of life there, it’s regulated and if children want to try it, at least they have safer ways of doing so. If it’s pushed underground, if you forbid it, you make it more interesting. You make it cooler. Make it more likely kids just do it to kind of annoy that parents or whoever they want to annoy.

Neil Fairbrother

Okay. The fifth and final priority action you put forward in your paper is “…that specialized and long-term support and improved access to justice for child victims and survivors should be provided”, and you say that “…children whose sexual exploitation has an online component, face unique barriers in accessing justice”. Why is that? What are these barriers?

Thomas Mueller, ECPAT

Well, so first of all, I think it’s important that there’s no use in making a difference in the experience of abuse online or offline. I don’t think that we should make a distinction there. It’s always subjective. It’s different from person to person, it is different from who they are, how old they were, and the type of abuse they were subjected to, how often it took place, et cetera, et cetera. And in any case, it’s safe to assume that it was a horrible, traumatizing, life-altering event for children. But now imagine all of this has also been filmed has been done to produce CSAM, this adds a whole other level of trauma obviously.

There not only is there chance that the victim keeps on seeing it as an adult or as a teenager growing up, what actually happened and continue to see it, but it’s also their friends, their families, their own children, their employers, their colleagues. So that’s a constant fear, a constant reminder, a constant worry. When you’re talking to law enforcement, they have seen it already. It’s all these kinds of elements that come on top of the actual trauma.

And so that extra level of complexity is also related to the situation from a legal point of view, different responsibilities, also in terms of compensation, obviously, who was involved in sharing what, when, and where was it stored? It becomes a very, very, complex thing that makes things much more difficult to solve, to get to the bottom of, more court cases and people who probably defend themselves and companies, whatever might come into. And then it’s certainly taking an additional task on your own psychology, on your private life.

So when does it really stop? Where does the healing start really for someone? And I’m not saying that even if you’ve been abused only once as a child, then you should move on at a certain point. As long as it hasn’t happened to you, you don’t know how you might be dealing with it. But certainly there are so many more barriers in the way and a constant reminder, and they every day that you sit there, you think it’s probably likely that this material has been shared somewhere, viewed by someone and so on. So where does the healing really start for these people? It gets incredibly complex.

Neil Fairbrother

In terms of the law, which you just mentioned, there is an interesting sounding Act, which I think is a US-based law, which is the Amy, Vicky and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act. What is that?

Thomas Mueller, ECPAT

Well, I’m not too much an expert on that Act, but I know it’s an Act in the US that really helps courts determine the amount of restitution that victims of child abuse should receive. And so certainly it is something that countries should consider. If you talk to the government over here, compensation is not really a discussion. You can’t really speak about it with the hope that that would be a situation that someone really gets compensated, if there’s not a really wealthy offender that you can take something from. But there’s no government program. Maybe you get some of your medical bills covered, something like that, a small little thing but nothing in terms of compensation.

So to talk about it, to think about a law, how a country should approach this, is certainly good advice for any country and Acts like this can serve as inspiration, you can learn from it, or can develop their own, with some guidance from those frameworks. I think it’s important and it’s incredibly discouraging for a victim to find no place in the law where they can discuss compensation.

Neil Fairbrother

Okay. We are sadly running out of time, so one final question, if I may. What are your conclusions, Thomas from this paper?

Thomas Mueller, ECPAT

The idea really was to summarize 30 years of research into something that you can work with, that helps us find common positions as a global network. To break it down into a useful document and work out the key points that you should all be pushing for and that we know from our research work, in order to bring about better child protection systems and more awareness and better results for children.

But for us as a global campaigning movement we need campaigning goals, and clear ones, that are door openers, that we can break down and understand from that research and really open the door for a national discussion on sexual exploitation of children. And so we will develop campaigning indicators that are clear, measurable, that say, does a country have a grooming law? Do you have a child protection unit that is specialized within law enforcement? Are you a country connected to the international child sexual exploitation database of Interpol that helps investigate those cases across countries and so on?

So we’re putting together a menu that will form the basis of our campaigning work going forward and that will give us something that we can measure because in the advocacy and campaigning business, it’s always very vague. It’s hard to demonstrate your impact and say, oh, now we’ve engaged in a grooming discussion in 20 countries, and we see five countries making a law. So you can put your finger better on it what you’re actually asking for and what you’re achieving.

And that’s important for a network that is not a rigid structure of country offices, where everywhere we can dictate what organizations should be doing. It’s a voluntary structure where people join and volunteer to try and form a global effort. And so it’s our role to provide that guidance and that leadership to make this thing work more effectively, and to demonstrate global impact. And that’s, I think what wrote in our strategy that was adopted just mid-May in our international assembly and for the next four years and so that’s what we are looking at.

Neil Fairbrother

Okay, Thomas, thank you so much, that was a really, really interesting insight into the international aspect of this global problem and good luck with everything. Let’s keep in touch. It will be interesting to review your Theory of Change perhaps in a year or so’s time.

Thomas Mueller, ECPAT

Absolutely. Thank you Neil.


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