The movement against the commercial sexual exploitation of children, which the World Congress embodies, is characterised by the broad base of actors working around the world at all levels to protect children from sexual exploitation: government, through its structures and institutions, civil society, NGOs, children, academia and the private sector.
The successful collaborative structure that characterised the earlier Congresses with partnership across sectors and between different actors is reflected in the organisation of World Congress III: as Governments -UN agencies and NGOs work together to encourage and support worldwide participation in the Congress processes.
Enrollment in World Congress III against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents has begun. The event will have the participation of 3,000 invitees, including 300 protagonist adolescents. Participants will be invited by partner organizations only (for a list of partner organizations, click here).
The participants will be representatives of organizations/institutions appointed by partner governmental and non-governmental entities. This means that only invited organizations will be able to participate. This measure was necessary because of the restricted number of vacancies available.
Invitations have already started to be distributed to selected institutions, including instructions on how to proceed with and successfully complete the enrollment process of their representatives. It also informs the login and password that will enable access to the enrollment form of the Congress, in which participants will be able to choose in which dialogs or workshops they will participate. The deadline for submitting enrollment forms is October 15, 2008. Further information is available on the official WCIII website.
As hosts of the World Congresses held in 1996 and 2001, the Governments of Sweden and Japan respectively, with the Government of Brazil, are responsible for inviting other governments to strategise, plan and promote global action against the sexual exploitation of children. Government participation in the World Congresses has been central to the incremental achievement of goals. Government participation is therefore of paramount importance in shaping global action agendas against the sexual exploitation of children but more importantly for insuring the commitment necessary to implement the legal, social policy, programmatic and economic measures emerging from the Congress.
Seven-hundred and eighteen representatives of 122 governments attended the 1996 Stockholm World Congress, and delegates from 136 Governments, (including 35 states which did not participate in the First World Congress) participated in the 2001Yokohama Congress. More than 1,000 government delegates from an estimated 130 countries are expected at the World Congress in Brazil.
The hosting government extends the formal invitations to governments. The invitation calls on governments to designate Ministerial level representation from the relevant organs of government responsible for children and their protection from sexual exploitation. Government delegations are usually composed of one to five persons from ministries such as: Justice, Social Affairs, (Minister for Family and Children, Minister for Women and Children), Health, Labour, Foreign Affairs etc: Ambassador; President of Parliamentary Commission for Children, Human Rights Advisor, etc.
Governments are requested to report on action taken since the last Congress at the national level, to combat the sexual exploitation of children. Information is organised under the main headings of the Agenda for Action – prevention, protection, recovery and rehabilitation, repatriation, child and youth participation and international cooperation. Such reports form part of the official documents of the Congress.
Process of Participation
A Government representative, usually the highest ranking representative attending the Congress, presents a report that highlights aspects of work or challenges which are deemed important in the context of efforts to combat CSEC within a particular country. The aim is to have concise presentations (lasting no more than 10 minutes) that share key aspects, issues or analyses arising from country experiences, with other nations and ECPAT member states.
NGOs and other civil society actors have worked directly in communities and with children to see that their efforts, which led to the first World Congress, are reflected, sustained and, hopefully, further developed in World Congress III.
NGOs and other civil society delegates from a wide range of organisations involved in direct work with children working on sexual exploitation issues will participate in the Congress. These include specialised research units, groups and organisations providing emergency and support to child victims; drop in centres and shelters; legal advocacy centers, hotlines, community organisations, pediatric HIV/AIDS units, documentation and resource centres, etc. As many of the groups and organisations represented in the Congress work at local level in a myriad of situations and settings their direct experience and knowledge is invaluable in setting the agenda as this will also guide the outcome document, the deliberations of the Congress and most importantly, support and ensure follow up.
Process for Participation
NGO and civil society groups can participate in the processes of the Congress in various ways. In advance of the Congress they can encourage and engage in mobilising processes through a variety of forums at national level to review progress in protecting children against sexual exploitation and abuse. . Many have organised consultations among specialised children’s organisations and groups as well as consultations with children in their programmes. Outcomes from these processes will feed into the regional preparatory processes and, depending on the structures in each country, may also be used for government reports to international bodies as well as the report for the Congress.
1- Serve as a source of information regarding previous World Congresses, Mid-Term Review Meetings and the history of the movement that the “Congress” represents.
2- Coordinate with the relevant ministries that will lead the country delegation. Often the delegations include officials who are not directly involved in CSEC-related work in their country. NGOs can assist representatives to participate fully and meaningfully by providing them with up-to-date, reliable information.
3- Convene meetings to discuss the Congress with relevant ministries, NGOs, UN and other agencies working on the issue of commercial sexual exploitation of children in the country, children and young people and the private sector. Meetings with such important stakeholders will foster sharing and broad participation in activities for the Congress at the country and regional level. They will also stimulate delegations’ thinking on important elements to influence public policy directions that are then brought to the Congress for shaping global action.
4- Encourage and assist efforts by government, NGOs and children in preparing the official report for the Congress and in planning active participation in other forums of the Congress.
5- Support quality participation of children in the processes of the Congress, for example by preparing child friendly documents around the Congress themes, holding meetings for children to prepare for national and regional consultations and the World Congress itself, arranging for children to participate and travel with accompanying adults where necessary, seeking their support in holding special meetings on thematic areas of the Congress, contributing as experts in regional meetings, working for meaningful child and youth participation, etc.
Roles at the Congress
NGOs and other civil society groups may be part of the official delegations of government or participate independently. Opportunities for NGOs, other civil society groups, children and private sector representatives to participate are open and all are encouraged to play an active role as expert panelists in thematic roundtables, working groups, drafting committee, workshops and panels media contacts etc.
Nature of Delegation
The First World Congress in Stockholm in 1996 set a precedent in inviting young people to work with the highest level of representation from the governments, civil society organisations and technical experts. As a result of that highly successful collaborative effort, “children’s participation” became one of the main pillars of the Agenda for Action and remains a key strategy in fighting the sexual exploitation of children.
The Second World Congress reached out to wider groups of children and youth by offering regional/global mechanisms to take into account their recommendations and solutions for combating CSEC. This is reflected in the “Yokohama Youth Appeal.” Since then, there has been greater commitment and follow-up from governments and civil society organisations in promoting children’s participation against sexual exploitation with, for example, policies and plans addressing CSEC such as National Plans of Action (NPA), programmes and projects that involve children and young people in roles as peer supporters and peer counselors among others.
Building on these experiences and accomplishment, the World Congress III is preparing for children and youth participation in a significant way. A greater number of children and young people will participate as ‘experts’, bringing their knowledge of the subject and examples of how to promote the participation of children in the fight against sexual exploitation. They will also put forward concrete recommendations for improving structures, mechanisms and allocation of resources within governments and civil society organisations to promote more active participation of children and young people.
The Government of Brazil has set up a special Commission to oversee the participation of children and young people at World Congress III. National and regional processes are already in place with children actively organising events to feed into the World Congress III. Approximately 300 youth delegates are expected at the Congress (150 international delegates and 150 from Brazil), who will also participate.
Process of Participation
Children and youth in some regions are already organising events to raise awareness about sexual exploitation and to promote World Congress III. Within many countries, governments and civil society organisations are working to organise national consultations on the issue of sexual exploitation and to select children to attend the regional preparatory meetings which will also serve as a platform for the selection of children and adolescents participating in the World Congress III. Many of the regional preparatory consultations will incorporate preparatory forums for the participating children to prepare them in the best way possible for their involvement in Regional Thematic discussions and outcomes.
During these processes emphasis will be given to:
• Linking up with existing children and youth initiatives in a region to ensure meaningful participation within the Congress itself as well as better possibilities for follow up after the Congress.
• Greater representation and substantive participation of a core group of children and youth who are either at-risk or survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and directly involved in advocacy work. Priority will be given to children and young people who are already actively involved in various projects and programmes to combat commercial sexual exploitation of children and trafficking.
• Giving young people a mandate to discuss and present their experiences and perspectives on the topic of sexual exploitation, but focusing on solutions rather than personal experiences of abuse and exploitation
• Clearly defining objectives and the process by which children, adolescent and young people take part in this Congress, including a strong child protection framework to promote their safe and meaningful participation; one that upholds ethical issues (such as confidentiality issues, etc.) related to their participation.
Roles at the Congress
Children and youth will be invited to actively participate in thematic sessions, workshops, roundtable discussions, media interactions and other events such as exhibits and cultural programmes.