Declaration and Action Plan on Sexual Abuse of Children, Child Pornography and Paedophilia on the Internet

On 18-19 January 1999, some 300 specialists in child care and child protection, Internet specialists and service providers, media practitioners, law enforcement agencies and government representatives met at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris to consider ways of combating paedophilia and child pornography on the Internet. Taking account of work that has already been done, the experts’ meeting prepared an action plan and issued the adjoining declaration.


Declaration

The Internet provides a new world for curious children. It offers entertainment, opportunities for education, information and communication. The Internet is a tool that opens a window of opportunities, but it is available only to a tiny minority of the world’s children. Today only five percent of children have access to the Internet and most of these live in the developed regions of the world. This information gap between have and have not countries must be closed.

    As Internet use grows, so do the risks of children being exposed to inappropriate material, in particular, criminal activity by paedophiles and child pornographers. While the benefits of the Internet far outweigh its potential drawbacks, these dangers cannot be ignored. If left unanswered they pose a threat to children and will become the object of resistance to future Internet use.

    We believe that future use of the Internet will be determined by the next generation who have been born into a digital society and are beginning to think, work, play and learn in fundamentally different ways from their parents. In this current period of transition, however, the use and development of digital technologies must take account of current social, cultural and democratic values.

    Above all, we need to know more about what is available, its accessibility, the content, how many and which people consume it. To date, not enough is known about the scale or extent of paedophile activities on the net, their consequences and impact on young people.

    Child protection on the Internet is not a matter of censorship. Creating a safe environment for children online must preserve and enhance fundamental liberties, such as freedom of expression, freedom of information and the right to privacy, while ensuring their right to protection from harmful and illegal material.

    The fight against paedophilia and child pornography on the Internet requires a coalition of forces involving children, industry, policy makers, educators and parents to ensure that users are aware of the potential dangers and have available to them the necessary means to combat these threats.

    Action against illegal content needs industry co-operation in restricting circulation and a fully functioning system of self-regulation aiming at a high level of protection, which must go hand in hand with effective law enforcement. Harmful content needs to be treated differently from that which is clearly illegal.

    In this spirit, we have identified concrete measures which are needed in order to encourage an environment favourable to the development a child-friendly Internet. The following Action Plan requires strategic approach which is both global and inclusive, and carries with it the commitment of all the actors, in particular governments, to ensure a framework of coordination, financial resources and political support. We request the Director-General to bring this text and Action Plan to the attention of the Member States of UNESCO, the National Commissions and the General Conference.

Paris, 19 January 1999

Action Plan

Introduction
While the Action Plan is addressed primarily to UNESCO, it contains elements which must be taken up by all actors in the fight against paedophilia on the Internet. Governments, international agencies, NGOs, industry, educators, parents, law enforcement agencies and media all have a role to play but special effort should be made to ensure that the voice of children is also heard in the elaboration of strategies to make the Internet safe. UNESCO’s role in this joint effort should be primarily that of a catalyst.

Within its field of competence, UNESCO has a specific role and responsibility for action. In particular, a clearing house should be established for the exchange of information and to promote cooperation among groups concerned with child rights.
    UNESCO educational, cultural and communication programmes should take up the issues raised at this meeting and in particular should:

  • Sponsor and develop initiatives for the use of technical means to combat harmful materials, particularly through the use of filters and self rating systems;

  • Promote existing screening tools which make children and adults aware of how to protect themselves; and

  • Sponsor information campaigns which raise public awareness of the harm suffered by children who have been sexually abused and identify such abuse as an abuse of power.

In addition UNESCO should:

  • Design and support research programmes systematically in partnership with research institutions, to obtain a clearer, comprehensive and more up-to-date understanding of the problem of paedophilia on the Internet;

  • Disseminate information among researchers, and promote exchange of information with child care and child protection organizations, ISPs, web masters, police and judicial institutions, media practitioners, citizens’ and civic groups and other client groups;

  • Commission the preparation of a comprehensive glossary of terms concerning the Internet and its operations so that users and specialists can arrive at a common understanding of this valuable informational and networking facility;

  • Support and encourage national “hotlines” and the creation of networks of hotlines or an international “electronic watchtower” which provide the immediate possibility for children to get help;

  • Develop media and Internet education, information and awareness strategies to sensitize children, parents, teachers, educational institutions, social workers, media and politicians;

  • Involve mothers/parents associations in this communication strategy and create a world network of strategic citizens and personalities, institutions and industry against paedophilia on Internet;

  • Develop a common long-term strategy where a child-friendly cultural climate is created and the idea of a virtual civil society is promoted.

Law and regulation
UNESCO’s role regarding law and regulations should be developed according to the following framework:

1. Targeted regulation to be used by those who are against child pornography including support for anti-child pornography laws covering possession.
2. Self-regulation to be taken as an industry response and ethical guidelines to encourage the industry’s broader participation.
3. Co-regulation, which implies that regulation with the backing of governments, NGOs, industry and civil society should also be possible.

UNESCO in co-operation with others should set up a Task Force or Experts Committee bringing together experiences from all sectors concerned by sexual abuse and pornography to protect children on the Internet. This action oriented body should consider the following issues:

Prevention

Collecting information:

  • Collect legal information of all kinds related to child pornography online including in the information glossary industry and legal definitions and terminology on children rights, child pornography and sexual abuses on children.

Disseminating information:

  • Widely disseminate and publicise throughout the Internet the information collected on legal issues related to child pornography online, making use of international observatories or clearing houses.

Analysis:

  • Conduct studies on legal issues related to child pornography online.

Self-regulation:

  • Study the efficiency of self-regulation.

  • Promote industry and private sector initiatives to develop codes of ethics on child pornography online working in parallel with judiciary experts worldwide.

  • Promote dialogue among all actors concerned, governments and ISPs to balance soft-law efforts.

Law-making:

  • Promote legal harmonisation, as well as international co-operation between the legal profession and the police.

  • Study the relevance and feasibility of an international legal framework to protect children online under the auspices of UNESCO, among other legal issues.

International co-operation and law enforcement:

  • Promote appropriate standards for law enforcement and international co-operation, in co-ordination with ISPs.

  • Establishment of some international principles or standards.

Paris, 19 January 1999

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