Writes Demeter and Althea, LUDCI.eu Editorial team
Child trafficking or modern-day slavery is a dark underground activity that is difficult to address and is ‘a weed that grows on every soil’ (Edmund Burke).
It is not only a heinous crime but one that expressly violates the human rights of all victims. Traffickers turn children into property; selling them for ‘profits’, restricting movement, denying basic necessities, and “challenging their very humanity” (Nelson Mandela, South African human rights activist).
Child trafficking denies children their fundamental rights, including the right to education, health, and protection from exploitation and abuse.
In 1948, the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which articulates fundamental rights and freedom for all, including children.
The Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking, 2002, encourages all States and anti-human trafficking entities to place human rights at the centre of all efforts to prevent and combat trafficking and to protect, assist and provide redress to victims.
It is against this background that we will present the efforts of some of the Non-governmental organisations working tirelessly to save children from crime syndicates globally. The current list is not exhaustive. As we move along, additional articles will be devoted to present the work of other NGOs in this direction.
The International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia is a private, non-governmental, non-profit global organisation with regional representation in Brazil and Singapore that combats sexual exploitation, child pornography, and child abduction.
Established in 1999, the organisation has since become a leader in identifying gaps in the global community’s ability to protect children and expertly assembling the people, resources, and tools needed to fill those gaps.
This, it does, through research, partnerships, training, and collaboration with key stakeholders under its umbrella initiatives: The Koons Family Institute On International Law and Policy; the Financial Coalition Against Child Sexual Exploitation, the Global Missing Children’s Network and the Global Initiative for Child Health and Well-being.
The Koons Family Institute on International Law and Policy
The Koons Family Institute on International Law and Policy was founded in 2007 by American artist Jeff Koons and his wife Justine. This is the ICMEC’s research arm.
The entity was started based on Jeff’s personal story concerning child abduction, according to several articles, including one written by Melanie Grayce West for the Wall Street Journal.
In 1994, Jeff’s ex-wife broke a court order and fled with their toddler son to Italy. Although he was awarded custody in the United States, it was not enforced in Italy. Jeff spent five unsuccessful years fighting in Italian courts. This loss for Jeff led him to establish the Institute and contribute over $4.3 million to the ICMEC’s work.
ICMEC’s ground-breaking report, Child Pornography: Model Legislation and Global Review was first released in April 2006 and is now in its 9th Edition. In its first research into the child pornography legislation then in place in 196 countries, the Institute returned shocking results:
- Only 27 had legislation sufficient to combat child pornography offenses.
- 95 countries had no legislation at all that specifically addressed child pornography.
Today, with the extensive work of the Koons Institute, the 9th edition reveals that 118 countries have in place legislation deemed sufficient to combat child pornography. While this is indeed a success, the organization recognizes the need for an even greater thrust in efforts as 16 countries still do not have legislation that deals specifically with anti-child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Of the 62 countries that do have some legislation in place, 51 of them do not define CSAM specifically; 25 do not deal with technology-based offenses, and 38 do not criminalise possession without regard to intent to distribute.
In June 2009, the Koons Family Institute partnered with The Protection Project at Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies to create the Child Protection Project. The objectives outlined are:
- Research existing child protection laws in the member states of the United Nations
- Convene a series of regional expert working group meetings to establish a common definition for child protection
- Create a database of national legislation and case law on child protection issues from around the world and ;
- Draft, publish, and globally disseminate model child protection legislation.
The Child Protection Model Law is currently published in Arabic, English, Farsi, Russian, and Spanish. Topics range from sexual and economic exploitation to protecting children in the justice system. The partners have also compiled 100 Best Practices In Child Protection to serve as a guide and it highlights successful initiatives concerning child protection from around the world.
The Financial Coalitions Against Child Sexual Exploitation
This arm of ICMEC brings together leaders in the financial industry to disrupt the economics of the child sexual abuse material business. It is made up of two main entities – the US Financial Coalition Against Child Sexual Exploitation launched in 2006. and the Asia-Pacific Financial Coalition Against Child Sexual Exploitation (APFC), launched in 2009.
The mission of the Coalition is to broaden the fight against the online sales and dissemination of child sexual exploitation materials and live on-demand sexual abuse of children on video platforms. Members include banks, credit card companies, electronic payments networks, online third-party payment systems, internet companies, technology companies, social networking platforms, industry associations, law enforcement agencies, and NGOs.
The Coalition has been very successful since its inception. According to its report, “websites offering child sexual abuse material now frequently direct buyers away from traditional payment methods such as credit cards, having to recommend more complicated alternatives that may dissuade some potential purchasers. As a result of its efforts, the use of credit cards to purchase child sexual abuse content online has been virtually eliminated globally”.
The Global Missing Children’s Network (GMCN)
Launched in 1998, this arm of the ICMEC brings together 30 member countries on 4 continents to help recover missing and abducted children. Countries represented in the GMCN are:
Albania, Argentina, Australia. Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Lithuania, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan (Province of China), United Kingdon and the United States
The GMNC members assist each other with developing, improving, implementing, and adopting best practices such as the Rapid Emergency Child Alert System.
The genesis of this type of system was the AMBER Alert, born out of the tragedy experienced by 9-year-old Amber Hagerman who was abducted from her hometown in Arlington, USA, and later found dead. To date, Amber Alerts have led to 957 recoveries of missing children in the United States. The success of AMBER Alert in the United States has inspired the creation of similar programs around the world. The GMNC has also partnered with Facebook to spread AMBER Alerts on its social media platform.
Global Initiative for Child Health and Well-Being
In an attempt to broaden the scope of sexual abuse and exploitation of children, the ICMEC has been working assiduously to corral global effort in understanding the problem of Child trafficking as a public health crisis and to address it as such.
The Declaration of Rome was presented at the 2011 Rome Forum where participants adopted it, leading to the establishment of the Global Initiative for Child Health and Well-Being. The members include leading pharmaceuticals, hospitals, and other healthcare leaders.
Global Training Academy
Law enforcement personnel need the support and right tools and technology to combat the exploitation of children. In 2003, the ICMEC began training police officers, investigators, prosecutors, and other specialists. To date, the entity has trained more than 16,000 individuals from 128 countries.
Save The Children
The Save The Children Fund was established in 1919 and has its headquarters in the United Kingdom. Its mission is to improve the lives of children through better education, healthcare, and economic opportunities.
According to the organisation, 1 in 4 victims of modern slavery is a child, while 8 million adolescent girls aged 15-19 years have experienced sexual abuse.
The report further states that out of 20,500 victims who were registered in the EU in 2015-16, 56 percent of cases were related to sexual exploitation and 26 percent to labour exploitation.
How does the Save The Children Fund help?
Protection teams from the organisation work to keep children safe around the world. They focus on children at heightened risk, including girls who are forced into child marriages or young boys and girls who are forced into dangerous working conditions or recruited as child soldiers.
The International Labour Organisation reports that 152 million girls and boys are engaged in child labour that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous.
Save The Children:
- Ensures that victims of Child-Trafficking receive the care, rehabilitation, and psychosocial therapy they need to be children again.
- Works with families and communities to promote positive social norms and behaviors to help prevent violence against children.
- Works with governments and international institutions around the world to help strengthen their child protection systems and train social workers.
In 2019, 3.4 million children were helped through the Fund. One such is Sali. Read Sali’s story here.
Amnesty International is a non-governmental organisation with its headquarters in the United Kingdom and focuses on human rights. It is described as a movement of more than 7 million people who take justice personally in over 150 countries with over 60 member organisations.
The organisation has regional offices in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Central, and Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East.
Founded in 1961 by British lawyer Peter Benenson, Amnesty International has since evolved from seeking the release of political prisoners to upholding the whole spectrum of human rights.
Its mission is to secure throughout the world, the observance of the provisions of the Universal Declaration of human rights by undertaking research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of these rights.
Through detailed research, the use of technology like the Panic Button app and determined campaigning, the organisation brings torturers to justice, change oppressive laws and help to free people jailed like Nelson Mandela, for voicing their opinion.
Amnesty International also works to curb human trafficking through the International Modern Slavery Act Transparency Statement which covers the complexity of today’s global supply chain and how consumers can unknowingly support trafficking via purchases.
The organisation set to bring about transparency in supply chain provisions under the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015.
The Act requires that organisations doing business in the UK with a turnover of £36m or more, report on the steps they take to ensure that human trafficking is not taking place in their global supply chains.
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is a private, non-profit corporation whose mission is to help find missing children, reduce child sexual exploitation, and prevent child victimization.
Founded in 1984 by John and Revé Walsh and other child advocates, the Center works with families, victims, private industry, law enforcement, and the public to assist with preventing child abductions, recovering missing children, and providing services to deter and combat child sexual exploitation.
NCMEC has regional offices located in California, Florida, New York, and Texas.
When a child is reported missing to law enforcement, federal law requires that child be entered into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, also known as NCIC.
According to the FBI, in 2019 there were 421,394 NCIC entries for missing children.
During the last 36 years, NCMEC’s national toll-free hotline, has received more than 5 million calls. The Center has circulated billions of photos of missing children, assisted law enforcement in the recovery of more than 327,000 missing children, and facilitated training for more than 367,000 law enforcement, criminal/juvenile justice, and healthcare professionals. NCMEC’s Team HOPE volunteers have provided resources and emotional support to more than 74,000 families of missing and exploited children.
Further, NCMEC’s forensic artists have age-progressed more than 6,900 images of long-term missing children and created more than 575 facial reconstructions for unidentified deceased children. NCMEC is currently assisting with more than 691 cases of unidentified children’s remains, and so far has assisted in 154 identifications.
In 2019, The NCMEC partnered with Ring, a company owned by Amazon which manufactures home security products that incorporate outdoor motion-detecting cameras, including Ring Video Doorbell, to publish missing child posts directly in the company’s app, Neighbors by Ring. The app is free and used for online social sharing of captured footage among users.
Prior to the announcement, the Neighbours app had been installed 7 million times in the U.S. and more than 10 million Ring doorbells had been installed worldwide.
NCMEC, which already shares information about missing kids through AMBER Alerts and social media is hopeful that this new and ever-increasing market will be another source of information. 985 children have been successfully recovered as a result of the AMBER Alert program, including 66 recoveries credited to the wireless emergency alert program.
The NCMEC missing kids’ posters are shown to all users whose neighbourhoods fall within the area of interest. The posts will also prompt users to contact the authorities if they have information that they think is helpful.
Free A Girl
Every year, approximately 12,000 girls are being trafficked from Nepal to India. Here they are raped in brothels daily. Their life is a living hell. In the Brazilian slums, children grow up among violence, crime and sexual exploitation. In Asia, the more money one has to pay, the younger the child you can have sex with.
These are horror stories from the Free A Girl movement – one that has as its mission to combat the sexual exploitation of children.
The girls they rescue have been raped, tortured, drugged, and humiliated. Their childhood is forever striped away.
Since its inception in 2008, The Free A Girl Movement has rescued over 4500 girls in seven countries. In addition to rescues, Free A Girl focuses on prevention, tackling impunity, lobbying, advocacy, rehabilitation, and reintegrating the girls. They work with 14 partner organisations in Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Iraq, Laos, Nepal, the Netherlands, and Thailand.
Free A Girl’s role in fighting human trafficking
Liberation: Free A Girl supports organizations in various countries that free girls from prostitution. These organizations investigate where girls are held and together with law enforcement, kick down doors to get the girls.
Rehabilitation: Undoubtedly, all girls rescued from human traffickers are traumatised. Many contract diseases such as HIV. Free A Girl provides medical care, counselling, and enrolment in school. For those who are of the legal working age, finding and keeping a job is most times a major problem. Free A Girl offers vocational training and internships where the girls learn to work in a business environment and can save toward their independence.
Prevention: Many children born in a brothel or a brothel district are at high risk of sexual exploitation. The children live with their mothers, who are prostitutes, in small, one-bedroom dwellings. Most times, they are told to stay on the streets or under the bed that their mother uses for ‘work’, several times a day.
Free A Girl provides crisis shelters in brothel districts where children as young as 2 years are taken care of, fed, and educated so they don’t end up taking the same path as their mothers.
Address Impunity: More than 12,000 Nepalese girls are trafficked to India each year. While Free A Girl partners successfully with law enforcement to free as many girls as it can, perpetrators are hardly brought to justice. To tackle impunity, the organisation launched the School for Justice program in India in 2017.
Two years later, two schools were opened in India and Nepal. Within their walls, victims, and daughters of victims of human trafficking are given the support and education to become lawyers, paralegals, police officers, social workers, sociologists, and journalists to become a voice against human trafficking.
Girls enroll in the School for Justice Program while in high school. They are given the necessary support and tuition fees to meet the requirements of a university degree. Free A Girl and its partner organisations provide a safe home and bear all costs for the girls while they study.
Established in 2011, Destiny Rescue is an internationally recognised Christian non-profit organisation dedicating to rescuing children trapped in exploitation and the sex trade.
The organisation strongly believes that it has been tasked by God to set those enslaved, free. With operations in seven countries and offices in 3 donor nations, Destiny Rescue has successfully rescued 5000 children from hellish existences. Rescue agents risk their lives searching for underaged children in brothels, red-light districts, and sexually abusive situations.
Rescued children are empowered to remain free and reintegrate into society through education, counseling, vocational training, and spiritual and emotional support.
Additionally, Destiny Rescue seeks to identify the root cause within victims’ villages that resulted in them being trafficked. The organization then provides training for the entire village with education focusing on Human Trafficking, Child Rights Laws, and Christian studies. Poor families are further assisted with micro-loans to help them become self-sufficient.
Child trafficking is the monster under the bed that keeps the world’s most vulnerable children awake at night. Reach out and pledge your support to our work and join forces to help our mutual efforts towards winning the war against trafficking. One rescued child at a time means a million of children rescued per year.
The work of Non-governmental organisations is critical. Their motive is to provide services to the vulnerable sections of society and uplift them to fight against the various kinds of exploitation they face. NGOs fighting against modern-day slavery have successfully rescued, rehabilitated, and reintegrated many survivors of human trafficking.
They, despite limited funding, have contributed significantly to combating human trafficking and can really compliment the role played by intergovernmental organisations. Still, in order to work as effectively as they do, NGOs rely heavily on funding from several sources, including grants from international and national governments, foundations, individuals, and corporations.
While IGOs such as the European Commission has been a major donor for NGOs fighting human trafficking, it has not been easy for NGOs to obtain grants. The fundraising expertise and staff to successfully apply for a grant are not resources that most NGOs sufficiently possess. The required staff for preparing and writing applications must be paid from other sources. Furthermore, there is often co-funding needed from the organisation, which makes these grants less accessible for smaller NGOs that do not have the capital. While grants from IGOs largely assist NGOs in carrying out their functions, they do not directly cover the costs of operations, such as providing regular social assistance, shelter, medical and legal assistance for trafficked persons.
Moreover, donors use IGOs to channel funding which means much of it goes to management and co-ordination costs instead of to local communities and victims of human trafficking. Although foreign donors can fund civil society in several countries, they cannot donate money directly to NGOs. Rather, their funding must go through government channels, which then distributes them to domestic NGOs. This has made NGOs more dependent on support from and cooperation with governmental bodies.
NGOs need our support – a collective effort of civil society and IGOs to fund the crucial work they carry out globally. It is crucial that IGOs make grant funding easier to access and allocate resources to NGOs responsibly and effectively administered. Each of these organisations needs our support and this why we are even here. We accept financial donations and encourage you to do so directly in their pages. We would also encourage other ways for you to participate, such as spreading the word about our work and theirs. You may also volunteer your services to most, if not all of them.
There is no more time for thinking. It is now time to act!