2008-09-08

H.M. Drottningens tal vid Worldhotels Leadership Forum, Stockholm den 8 september 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
I am very pleased to have this opportunity to talk to you, who represent the hotel and travel business, about my concern and my work to prevent the abuse and sexual exploitation of children.  For a long time I have in different ways been engaged in this battle for the most vulnerable children. In 1996 I was the patron for the first World Congress against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children held in Stockholm and I was very involved in the preparation for the second World Congress in Yokohama 2001, where I was the key note speaker. In the same way I have followed the work of ECPAT in the development of the Code of Conduct for the travel and tourist industry.
 
But my strong commitment and concern for the fate of the many disadvantaged and vulnerable children is also part of my personal background. My mother was Brazilian and I spent my childhood in Brazil and I stay in close contact with relatives and friends. Seeing all the challenges of the Brazilian children and the children from around the world certainly inspired me when I almost ten years ago founded World Childhood Foundation.
 
Childhood wants to ensure that children will be able to remain children. That they are given the childhood that every child is entitled to. To do so we need to highlight the problems also on a very local level. We need to make sure that the children, as they grow into adulthood, see that there are alternatives to the grim future they think they have been destined. We need to give them hope and build their trust. We need to give them the self-confidence to raise above their own circumstances and achieve what they thought was not possible. Simply, we need to give them back their lives.
This is why Childhood focuses on preventive programs. At first sight, you might not think that a day-centre for girls is a long-term preventive measure. But for Tanja in Russia, the day-centre gave her three hours away from her drug addictive and abusive father. Three hours where she could talk to a professional counsellor, maybe learn some English or ventilate her problems with other girls in the same situation. Three hours where the responsibility of her family was lifted from her shoulders and she could be just what she is — a teenage girl. Three hours when she had time to think and find more constructive ways out of her situation — that there are other solutions than drug, alcohol and prostitution. Tanja never became a product on the trafficking market nor did she turn to prostitution as a way of making a living.
 
For Alexander the story was different. Left without parents Alexander was placed in a large orphanage. Here all his material needs were taken care of. He received food four times a day. He received his basic education. He had a roof over his head and clothes on his back. However, his emotional gap was large. No one hugged Alexander when he went to bed. No one told Alexander what to expect after he left the orphanage. And most important of all — no one saw to Alexander´s needs once he walked out of the orphanage doors at the age of 18. Alexander left the orphanage and the security without any preparation for real life. He did not know how to cook a meal, how to pay the bills, how to seek a job. He was also emotionally thirsty. Alexander met a nice man who promised to take care of him and help him in this new world. He would arrange for a well paid job and make sure that he was fed every day. All Alexander needed to do was to trust him — which he did. Alexander became a victim of abuse and eventually a product on the trafficking market. We can never know what happened to Alexander, because Alexander had no parents or relatives who missed him when he was gone. No one to report him missing.

To avoid destinies like Alexander´s, Childhood supports programmes in institutions. Programmes which will teach the children how to cook, how to pay a bill, or how to apply for jobs. We also make sure that these children are aware of their rights and obligations. That they learn how and who to trust. And most importantly - that they become aware of their own worth as human beings and know how to build solid and long-term relationships.
 
For almost ten years Childhood has worked to prevent, among other things the sexual exploitation of children. We have focused on a few target groups which we see as particularly vulnerable: Children in institutions, street children, young mothers, sexually abused children or any other children who are considered exceptionally marginalized. In all of these target groups, we have a special focus on girls.
 
Childhood does not implement any programmes or projects, but form close partnerships with NGOs who have been carefully selected to implement well working models and methods which may be replicated and spread as best practices. We have a small administration ensuring that all donations are exclusively directed to those children.
 
All of the excellent work carried out throughout the 14 countries where we are active would of course not be possible if not for the many generous donations especially from our co-founders and major partners.  Only through our projects dealing with sexually abused children we have managed to reach several thousand children. Noteworthy in this field is the truck drivers project in Brazil. Our office in Sao Paolo has developed a training manual enabling trucking corporations to train their drivers so as not to sexually abuse children along their route. In addition, they are also being trained to report any suspect activities. 

 
Another important area is the developing internet arena where children are being sexually exploited in a way we would not think possible. Our support to programmes working to prevent sexually abused children on the internet is increasing, and we hope that through corporate and NGO cooperation the number of children made aware and prevented from being abused will decrease.

 
People wanting to exploit children will always find new avenues to sidestep laws, regulations and preventive efforts. It is everyone´s responsibility to make sure that we do everything in our power to always be one step ahead of the predators. 

 
For the past ten years we have come a long way in making the public aware of the problems regarding sexual exploitation of children. The tour operating business has taken its responsibility by adopting and implementing a Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism, to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. The development of the Code of Conduct was made in 1997-98 by ECPAT Sweden, the Swedish national office of the ECPAT network today represented in 80 countries. Just a couple of years older than Childhood; established in 1990, the ECPAT network is focusing on putting Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children on the political agenda. The Code of Conduct is a very practical tool and is today widely implemented. The next speaker here today, MsHelena Karlén , Secretary General of ECPAT Sweden and the creator of the Code of Conduct, will evolve more on this topic.
 
The travel industry has from the start been one of the most important partners for ECPAT. This was also manifested in August of 1996 when a major international event took place; the first World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. Representatives of 122 Governments, many non-governmental organisations as well as law enforcement, the travel and tourism industry and others gathered in Stockholm. As the Patron of the World Congress I have ever since actively followed the developments of the commercial sexual exploitation of children as well as initiatives to combat it. I am glad to say that in November this year the government of Brazil will host the 3rd World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation in Rio de Janeiro. Representatives of the travel and tourism industry, civil society and 190 Governments are expected to participate and will continue to develop multi-sectoral approaches in order to guarantee children´s right to be protected from sexual exploitation. Child Sex Tourism and Corporate Social Responsibility will be two of the five main themes.

The Declaration and Agenda for Action of the Stockholm World Congress specifically call for involvement of the travel and tourism industry to contribute to put an end to child sex tourism. As I believe you all know, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies the protection of minors below the age of 18 , and also, that sexual abuse of a child is a criminal act regardless of where in the world the offence is committed.
 
Child exploitation in tourism involves people who travel from their own countries to another and sexually abuse children. It is part of the global phenomenon of commercial sexual exploitation of children. The consequences may include long-lasting physical and psychological trauma, disease (including HIV/AIDS), drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy, malnutrition and even death. Tourists engaging in child sex tourism often travel to developing countries looking for anonymity and the availability of vulnerable children. The crime is typically fuelled by weak law enforcement, corruption, the Internet, ease of travel and poverty. Previous cases of child sex tourism have included pediatricians, university professors, priests, company directors, government employees, etc. It is not written in the forehead of individuals whether they are offenders or potential offenders. What is clear, however, is that the offenders are represented in all professional and age categories and among all social groups in society. Destinations of child sex tourists also appear to be changing. As prevention and protection efforts are stepped up in one country, child sex tourists may choose a neighbouring country as their destination. Child pornography is frequently involved in these cases; drugs also may be used to solicit or control the minors. The victims of child sex trade see little of life before they see the very worst of life.
 
Tourism is not the cause of child sexual exploitation; however, exploiters make use of the facilities offered by the tourism industry (hotels, bars, nightclubs, etc.). In turn, the tourism industry may help to create a demand by promoting a locations' exotic image. So much can be learned from what the hotel industry has already done as preventive measures in fighting the Child Sex Tourism.
 
In a report from ECPAT UK dated August 2008, some of the child sex tourist cases in the United Kingdom from the past 2 years are described. What many of the reported cases have in common is that the arrests of the child sex tourists took place in hotels. The collaboration of management and staff of the hotels with the police were conclusive in making these arrests, and later on convictions, possible. Experience shows that, even if dealing with very sensitive issues, the satisfaction from the staff to assist the police is often enormous.
 
I remember the 9th tourism conference in Berlin in 2005 where Mr. Laepple then President of the European Tourist Organisation, signed the Code of Conduct.
 
Now, all over the world the CEOs of hotel chains are making the decision to take an active stand against the child sex tourists that are using their facilities. Training materials have been developed on the Rights of the Child and on what the staff can do when they suspect that crimes against children are being committed.

 
In spite of many excellent initiatives taken since the World Congress in 1996, there is sadly, increasing evidence that the horrifying commercial sexual exploitation of innocent and unprotected children around the world is growing in size and in the many forms in which it appears. We must all have the courage to acknowledge the problems and to recognize the undisputable rights of each child to full protection according to the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. I am personally convinced that one of the greatest obstacles in combating child sex tourism is our reluctance sometimes to see and acknowledge the problem fully. It is painful to face this reality but let us not forget that the suffering of the victims is far more painful!

Helena Karlén will now talk to you more specifically about the Code of Conduct and how important you are to all the children of the world.
 
Thank you!